Debbie Clark

Have you ever heard someone talking about gardening and they mention they plant natives? Are you not sure what natives means?

Native plants are indigenous or local to the area that you live. These plants have existed for hundreds of years without the help of human intervention. Native plants are considered to be a species that occurred naturally over a very long time in an area. Native plants can be shrubs, flowers, grasses and trees. These types of plants can be found in woodlands, prairies, wetlands, woods edge, mountains and other areas.

Plants that are native grow better because they have adapted to the area they grow in. They have developed the ability to resist many of the problems of insects and diseases that other plants may have problems with. These plants have adapted to light, soil conditions and weather in the area they grow. Because they have adapted, they require less water, fertilizer and maintenance to thrive and that can provide a much healthier ecosystem for the environment they grow in. Native plants provide a relationship with animals, insects and other organisms that use them as a food source or shelter. Insects need native plants to survive and reproduce. Insects are important for being part of the lower food chain for many other insects or animals, example birds. Without native plants many insect could not survive effecting birds and other animals who depend on them for food for themselves and their young. If we do not have insects in the food chain many other animals could not survive.

Here is the mountains, we have many native plants, and many of them may already be growing in your garden or landscape. Here are some examples of natives for the North Carolina Mountain area.

Trees – Paw Paw, Sassafras, Tulip, Canadian Hemlock, Red Oak, Flowering Dogwood, Red Cedar, Sycamore, White Oak, American Holly, Beech, Yellow Buckeye, Sourwood, etc.

Shrubs -Smooth Sumac, Arrowwood, Coral Berry, Virginia Sweetspire, Hazelnut, Spicebush, Mountain Laurel, Flame Azalea, Sweet Azalea, Carolina Rhododendron, Elderberry, Swamp Rose, Shrubby St. John’s Wort, Carolina Rose, Snowhill Hydrangea, Large Fothergilla, and many more.

Flowers – Butterfly Weed, Jo-Pye Weed, Dwarf Crested Iris, Black-eyed Susan, Bloodroot, Oconee Bells, Solomon’s Seal, Foamflower, Blazing Star, Golden Aster, Bee Balm, Cardinal Flower, Jewelweed, Trout Lily, Shooting Star, Wild Columbine, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Wild Geranium, Ironweed and Wild Blue Phlox to name a few.

Ferns – Maidenhair Fern, Lady Fern, Sensitive Fern, Cinnamon Fern, Royal Fern, Christmas Fern and Hay-Scented Fern.

Native plants can be purchased from many commercial nurseries that specialize in natives. You should never remove native plants from the wilds. Removing native plants can change the environment for those animals and insects that depend on them for food and shelter. When planting your garden consider planting with some natives or all native plants. They will help with biodiversity, preserve our natural heritage and make your gardening much easier!


Joe-pye Weed prefers sun to part shade and moist soil to grow. Butterflies will flock to this plant as a nectar source.


There are many different types of ferns that are native and grow in North Carolina. They adapt well to the shade of the woods or the home landscape.

Bloodroot is a woodland plant that blooms in the spring. The red sap from this plant is poisonous and is used as a natural dye.



Black-eyed Susan is a perennial and is one of the most popular plants in the sun garden because it is drought tolerant, deer resistant and attracts birds for the seeds.



Debbie Clark is a NC Master Gardener, Garden Writer and Speaker. She is a Judge for the International Rose Trials at Biltmore Estate, a member of GWA – The Association for Garden Communicators and a member of the American Rose Society.

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