Agri Leader

Native plants are perfect for Earth Day

Central Florida's Agri-Leader

Every year on April 22, people all over the world celebrate Earth Day. This day was designed to make everyone aware of ways to protect and enhance our environment.

One way to honor Earth Day in central Florida is to place native plants in our landscape settings. These plants are best adapted to our environment and will thrive with less frequent watering and fertilizer applications.

Using native plants will help preserve the natural beauty of Florida while creating a natural habitat for wildlife. You will also find it much easier to care for plants that are adapted to our tropical climate.

Many people like the idea of planting trees on Earth Day. In central Florida, we have a variety of native trees to choose from that will work in most landscape designs. The laurel oak is used in both commercial and residential landscapes. These trees thrive on wet or dry planting sites and grow fairly quickly.

If you want to bring native birds and animals into your yard or garden, consider planting a live oak. These oaks produce acorns that are an essential source of food for animals. The live oak is also the nesting site for the Florida scrub jay. Adding trees to key areas in your yard can also reduce your energy usage. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends homeowners place trees and vegetation around their homes to reduce air condition usage and decrease air pollutants.

Vines add interest and color to any outdoor area. Common greenbriar is a native evergreen vine that will climb on a wall, tree or trellis. This vine also produces attractive yellow-green flowers and tiny red berries year round in our growing area.

Virginia creeper is also an attractive native vine that works well in any landscape setting. Many people remove this vine from their yard by mistake because it looks similar to poison ivy, but Virginia creeper has five leaflets instead of three. Virginia creeper is especially lovely just before fall, when leaves turn red just before dropping.

Native Florida wildflowers can provide a smattering of color throughout your entire landscape setting. Tropical white morning glory is one of the fastest native growing flowers. These plants produce white funnel-shaped flowers that are as aromatic as they are attractive.

If you want a bit of blue and purple around your yard, consider native flowers such as Dixie iris, American bluehearts and Sky-blue lupine. Red and orange flowers really draw attention to your landscape. Firewheel, Scarlet milkweed and tropical sage are all drought tolerant and attractive to butterflies.

There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting plants and trees for your yard. Choose your trees first and plant them. Consider the size of the tree at maturity, the amount of available sunlight and the location of power lines before planting. After you have your trees in place, select herbaceous plants. Be sure to be aware of which plants are sun-loving and which thrive in partial shade.

If you want to design an outdoor setting that will attract wildlife, choose plants that provide food and shelter. Creating diversity is the key to bringing birds, butterflies and wildlife into your landscape. It is also important to consider plant toxicity, especially if you have children and pets. Before purchasing any plants for your yard, check to see if they are poisonous if eaten. Small children, kittens and puppies can be curious enough to nibble plants before you can stop them.

Adding some native plants to your yard or garden is a great way to improve our Florida environment. We can conserve water, reduce energy consumption and eliminate the use of dangerous pesticides and fertilizers.