Adding native plants to your yard can help wildlife thrive, improve lawn health, and protect lakes and rivers.
What plants are considered native?
Native plants are those that are local to Minnesota, those that were growing here when European immigrants first arrived. They are adapted to our climate and soils, are drought tolerant, and disease resistant. Most native plants do not require fertilizer or even water once established, and they tolerate our extreme Minnesota weather. As a result, they typically thrive with less care than non-native species.
Common native plants in Minnesota include red osier dogwood, purple coneflower, sensitive fern, compass plant, black eyed Susan, and butterfly milkweed. It is important to increase native plant populations to protect lakes and rivers, soil health, and wildlife.
How do native plants help water and wildlife?
Native plants help reduce water pollution. They have deep roots that allow rainwater to soak well into the ground. Rain that does not soak into the ground flows off lawns and pavement and into storm drains where it is carried away to nearby ponds, lakes, and streams. This rain runoff brings with it many pollutants such as bacteria, sediment and phosphorus. Native plants soak up that rainwater and filter pollutants leaving less runoff and less water pollution to cause problems. Have a soggy spot in the yard? Create a small native plant garden there. The plants will soak up and use the extra water.
Native plants improve soil health. The roots help decrease soil compaction, stabilize the soil, and reduce erosion.
Native plants are relatively maintenance free. Their long roots allow them to find their own water, even during droughts and they do not need mowing, fertilizers or pesticides.
Native plants provide nectar, berries, seeds and shelter that birds, pollinators and other wildlife rely on. Lots of grass or non-native plants in a landscape can create a “food desert” for Minnesota wildlife species that have evolved with and need native plants. For example, the common blue butterfly and many birds rely on the red osier dogwood. The monarch and many other butterflies need milkweeds including butterfly milkweed which is one of the few native bright orange flowers. Many pollinators rely on asters, such as New England aster, for late season food. Asters typically bloom August through October and can add a pop of color to your yard as other plants settle down for winter.
Wait, there’s more!
There are several programs that will provide funding to residents to put native plants in their lawn. Carver County hosts two programs that provide funds to install native plants, one focuses more on pollinator habitat and one on water quality improving projects. Visit www.co.carver.mn.us/water and click on “Get Involved” for information.
Lawns to Legumes is a state-funded program designed to get more pollinator habitat in residential areas. Eastern Carver County is located in a priority area for the program. You can find more information and apply at www.bluethumb.org.