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Go native with native plants

May 29, 2020
By Ann M. O’Phelan (Special to The Breeze) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

These days many Americans are spending more time out in their yards and for good reason. Working in the yard is a healthy pastime and a great hobby. Plus, it's therapeutic and helps alleviate boredom.

While outside you might realize that your front planter could use a few shrubs, the side of your house could use a little more color, and your backyard could use a shady tree. But before heading over to a local nursery, going to a big retail store or shopping online, remember to include native plants on your list.

Native plants are plants that are indigenous to a given geographical area. They include plants that grow naturally in the area or have existed in the area for many years. The benefit of planting native plants is that they are adapted to the area and so they are more drought-tolerant and hardier. They also use less water, thrive in the local soil types, and help support life and biodiversity-meaning they attract colorful birds and fluttering butterflies.

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So, what kinds of native plants might you consider? One popular shrub is a Buttonbush. They grow well in shade or part shade and most types grow up to 4 to 6 feet in height. They work well for borders, can be planted year-round and attract butterflies.

A colorful flower choice might be a purple coneflower, offering a dark purple center with a variety of colors on the outer flowers, such as pink and lavender. They grow about 1 to 2 feet in height, are drought-tolerant, prefer shade and part shade, and can be planted year-round. They do spread but the result can mean a surprisingly colorful touch to a drab area.

A larger-sized tree that tolerates sun or shade is the Southern Magnolia. This tree can grow about 60-80 feet tall and offers creamy white flowers with a light lemon scent that bloom in the spring and summer. They enjoy full sun to partial shade and are moderately drought-tolerant. Although plant container grown trees can be planted in the ground all year long, plant balled-and-burlapped trees are best planted from August through October.

Southern Magnolias are also good screen blockers if you have a large enough yard. Or, they can add a little color and shade as a centerpiece in your yard.

Numerous types of native plants can be found at most local nurseries throughout Southwest Florida, and on some online nurseries, such as Plant Real Florida: www.plantrealflorida.org/professionals/detail/online-store-or-mail-order/mail-order-natives. Some nurseries specialize in native plants, such as the All Native Garden Center & Plant in Fort Myers or the Natives of Corkscrew in Estero. Native plants can also be found at big-box retailers like Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart.

UF Extension offers a helpful link about the many varieties of native plants that work well in the area: gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/native-plants.html

So, if you're thinking about adding a border, putting up some privacy, creating a little shade, or adding a splash of color, consider planting natives. They are better for the environment and, since they thrive in the area, they do well for your pocketbook, too.

Keep Lee County Beautiful, Inc., an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire, educate, and engage the Lee County community in improving, beautifying, and protecting our environment. Since 1989, Keep Lee County Beautiful has formed partnerships with local governments, corporations, schools, and neighborhood organizations to engage individuals and provide opportunities to enhance the community through volunteer participation. To get involved, please call 239-334-3488 or visit klcb.org.

 
 
 

 

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