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Proper Green: When Colorful Gardens Aren’t Green

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Proper Green explains why loading a yard with plants may not be an eco-boon. Think native plants, and your garden will surely be green. Here’s how!
Dear Proper Green,

I’m beginning to plan my garden for this year. I love how it looks when I mix exotic plants from all over the world right in my own yard, but I’ve been hearing that could be bad for the environment. I thought any and all plants were good. What’s bad about planting things that aren’t from my area?

-Diane F., York, PA



Dear Diane,

Native plants — those plants from your own area — have evolved over thousands of years to work best with the environment you live in. They are part of the big ecosystem that helps the native animals (think pleasant ones, like birds and butterflies!) thrive, too.

Non-native plants, on the other hand, essentially… well, don’t play nice with others. If you wind up with a particularly aggressive non-native plant, it could take over the native species, which means eventually the food sources for other natural beings is depleted, and they move on somewhere else and interfere with that ecosystem.

Native plants reap a ton of benefits! Among many, many other pros, native plants:
  • Attract butterflies, dragonflies, and songbirds, all of which help control the mosquito population.
  • Do not attract “pests” like raccoons (garbage does that!).
  • Require fewer pesticides, and no fertilizers.
  • Help reduce air pollution.
  • Use less water.

PlantNative has an easy-to-use list for finding plants native to whatever region you’re gardening in. If you decide to take your garden one step further, you may even consider xeriscaping, a type of gardening focused on reducing water use.

Is your yard full of native plants? Share your tips and ideas with us below!
About Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and the environment are still evolving) to providing easy ways to make your every day more sustainable, Proper Green aims to help smooth the way with answers to questions that are important to you!

Do you have a question for Proper Green? Send inquiries to propergreen@recyclebank.com. Please note: Questions may be edited for clarity and length.


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Proper Green
Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and... more