Why Choose Native Plants?

As part of our continous quality improvement commitment to you, we will continue to update interesting, desirable, and approachable ideas to help you make native plant gardens a dream come true! 



Why Natives?

Written by Amanda Martin, Tarflower President (From March 2017 Tarpaper)

    Who, what, when, where, why and how are the basic starting points for any question. As Spring pushes new growth and the weather warms, more people are drawn to spend time outdoors. Pruning back dead branches from fall and clearing out winter annual weeds is the first step to cleaning up the landscape. Trimmed trees offer more light into lower beds and extra bed space begs the question, what will be planted next? Ground covers? Wildflowers? Shrubs? Understory trees? Canopy trees? Something that blooms? Something that stays green all year long? Does it grow fast or slow? Does it need a lot of water or just a little to get established? Most often I hear the parameters for selecting plant material defined as such; "I want something that doesn't take a lot of maintenance, doesn't need a lot of water, and looks good all year long."  The University of Florida has created a Florida-Friendly list of plants that aim to fit those requirements. While there are some Florida native plants on this list, many are exotic to Florida. The big question: why do Natives matter? 

     Being native indicates a historic relationship, tested and tried over time to yield very specific benefits among friends. These relationships cannot be rushed and in some instances they are very exclusive. For example, butterflies don't lay their eggs on just any plant. They have developed relationships with specific species, lay their eggs under these leaves, and the hatched larvae begin to eat the foliage of the plant as they grow. Each caterpillar has a strict diet and will not feed on just any plant. Check out this IFAS paper on specific larval/host relationships. As a native landscaper I often recommend larval host plants for my clients and assuredly, if you plant them, they will come. With widespread awareness of monarch habitat loss has come great demand for milkweed, of all ecological types. Planting nectar and pollen sources for butterflies has become a priority, but the historic relationship of the monarch and milkweed is what sustains the migrating populations.

    There are trees and shrubs available that create habitat for nesting and provide berries for food. Check out this FNPS link for such habitat providing plants. These plants are uniquely adapted to the soil and climate conditions of Florida. Nutrient poor, sandy, acidic soils combined with seasonal wet, hot summers and dry, cool winters need durable, tolerant plant-life. Native, endemic plants have been evolving under these unique conditions throughout history. Selecting native plants assists with selecting healthy and durable, slow growing plants that tend to be resistant to negative pests (remember, beneficial pollinators tend to eat foliage too). I find it interesting that several native shrubs offer berries throughout winter time. These berries are a valuable food source as many species of birds migrate through Florida as the weather warms. Florida being a peninsula and the first spot of land after flying over the gulf, resting habitat and nutritious food is a welcome sight. 

   So, why choose natives over other species cheaply and abundantly available at box stores and garden centers?

Because the relationships run deep. We all love a reliable community that we can depend on to be available when we need it.


Worried about natives in a deed-restricted neighborhood?

Click here to read an informative article on the FNPS Blog and join-in on the discussion!


This long, visual presentation by noted author and biologist Dr. Doug Tallamy almost sums it all!

  • Bird lover? Check out 7:20, 10:30, 19:30, 25:50, 26:37, 29:03, 34:50, 35:30, 37:05, 38:33, 39:02, and 46:15 in the video on why native plants for birds
  • Butterfly lover? Check out 14:20, 16:60, 17:30, 21:12, 22:19, 23:14, 28:03, 29:03, 46:54, 56:30, 58:59, and 59:10 in the video on why native plants for butterflies
  • Gardener? Check out 39:02, 40:20, 43:53, 47:31, 48:09, 52:16, 56:30, 58:09, 1:01:071:03:02, and 1:04:54 in the video on why native plants for your garden
  • Neighborhood lover? Check out 18:10, 34:30, 39:02, 41:18, 45:51, 47:31, 48:09, 51:46, 53:44, 54:54, 56:301:01:07, and 1:04:54 in the video on why native plants for surburbs
  • Landscape architect? Check out 56:30, and 1:04:54 in the video on why native plants for formal designs
  • Insect lover? Check out 4:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 15:50, 18:38, 19:58, 24:13, 29:03, 46:54,  56:30, and 58:59 in the video on why native plants for native insects
  • Wildlife lover? Check out 24:40, 29:03, 35:30, 37:05, 53:0954:54, and 1:03:02 in the video on why native plants for wildlife
  • Conservationist? Check out 16:48, 27:16, 28:47, 41:02, 42:50, 43:15, 47:31, 53:09, 54:54, and 1:04:54 in the video on why native plants for conservation
  • Health conscious? Check out 56:53 in the video on why native plants for health benefits.
  • Plant lover? Check out 12:50, 13:50, 21:45, 29:03, 31:31, 32:48, 35:30, 37:05, 39:02, 43:53, 54:5456:301:03:02, and 1:04:54 in the video on why native plants for your yard!


Need a visual crash course on what native plants look like? This helpful slideshow will do just that! Video by Al Lippman and Steve Turnipseed


Planting to attract butterflies and birds? This helpful slideshow was created by Tarflower members Mary Keim and Randy Snyder- all bird pictures were from their own yard!