Growing Native Plants
in Northern Michigan

Growing Native Plants
in Northern Michigan

What Is A Native Plant?

Native plants are just what they sound like – a plant that occurs naturally in any given area without the aid of human introduction. Non-native plants are all around us, adorning flower beds in suburbs and spreading far into areas that are largely uninhabited by humans. 

In the past, landscaping and flower gardens were built around non-native ornamental plants with the sole purpose of looking beautiful. Now, however, there is a movement to shift our gardens back to native plants that can look beautiful and improve the overall health of our ecosystem. Growing native plants in Northern Michigan is a fun and easy way to make your yard more eco-friendly. 

(Featured Image: Monarch on Butterflyweed by Mara Koenig:USFWS)

What Is A Native Plant?

Native plants are just what they sound like – a plant that occurs naturally in any given area without the aid of human introduction. Non-native plants are all around us, adorning flower beds in suburbs and spreading far into areas that are largely uninhabited by humans. 

In the past, landscaping and flower gardens were built around non-native ornamental plants with the sole purpose of looking beautiful. Now, however, there is a movement to shift our gardens back to native plants that can look beautiful and improve the overall health of our ecosystem.

(Featured Image: Monarch on Butterflyweed by Mara Koenig:USFWS)

Benefits Of Growing Native Plants

There are many reasons to plant native, but some may surprise you!
Native plants are helpful to their natural ecosystem, and can carry other benefits as well.

Native Plants Attract Insects:

Native plants attract the right insects! Humans have a love-hate relationship with ‘bugs’. However, when it’s the right kind of bug, they are actually very helpful to your garden.

Pollinators like bees and butterflies tend to be an obvious beneficial insect when it comes to native plants. However, insects like lady beetles and crab spiders can help control parasite populations as well, reducing the need for pesticides and other chemicals.

Native Plants Are Essential To Birds and Animals:

Providing both habitat and food, native plants are appreciated by a diverse crowd of birds and animals. Birds utilize native plants for both food and shelter, enjoying insects, berries and seeds from different plants.

Small mammals, such as squirrels and chipmunks, also enjoy berries and seeds from many native plants. Larger mammals, like foxes, have been known to dig out their dens from areas that are sheltered by dense native plants.

Native Plants Are Easy To Care For:

If you are looking for landscaping options that are easy to care for and are self-sustaining, then native plants are your solution! Native plants quite literally evolved to live here, which means they do not need much extra attention to grow.

Our rainfall, sunlight, and temperatures are already ideal for their needs. Native plants are also less susceptible to our natural parasites, fungus, and conditional variations, which enables them to live for a long time.

Native Plants Are Beautiful:

It is a common misconception that native plants don’t carry the same curb appeal as some of the more popular ornamental varieties, but this is certainly not the case! Northern Michigan is home to some beautiful varieties of native plants, shrubs, and trees.

Many native flower varieties are truly show-stoppers, especially when planted in groups or arrangements!

Monarch resting on the top of a black eye susan bloom in a meadow with other native flowers.

Photo by: Sayjack

Benefits Of Native Plants

There are many reasons to plant native, but some may surprise you!

Native plants are helpful to their natural ecosystem, and can carry other benefits as well.

Insects:

Native plants attract the right insects! Humans have a love-hate relationship with ‘bugs’. However, when it’s the right kind of bug, they are actually very helpful to your garden.

Pollinators like bees and butterflies tend to be an obvious beneficial insect when it comes to native plants. However, insects like lady beetles and crab spiders can help control parasite populations as well, reducing the need for pesticides and other chemicals.

Birds and Animals:

Providing both habitat and food, native plants are appreciated by a diverse crowd of birds and animals. Birds utilize native plants for both food and shelter, enjoying insects, berries and seeds from different plants.

Small mammals, such as squirrels and chipmunks, also enjoy berries and seeds from many native plants. Larger mammals, like foxes, have been known to dig out their dens from areas that are sheltered by dense native plants.

Longevity & Care of Plant:

If you are looking for landscaping options that are easy to care for and are self-sustaining, then native plants are your solution! Native plants quite literally evolved to live here, which means they do not need much extra attention to grow.

Our rainfall, sunlight, and temperatures are already ideal for their needs. Native plants are also less susceptible to our natural parasites, fungus, and conditional variations, which enables them to live for a long time.

Beauty:

It is a common misconception that native plants don’t carry the same curb appeal as some of the more popular ornamental varieties, but this is certainly not the case! Northern Michigan is home to some beautiful varieties of native plants, shrubs, and trees.

Many native flower varieties are truly show-stoppers, especially when planted in groups or arrangements!

Monarch resting on the top of a black eye susan bloom in a meadow with other native flowers.

Photo by: Sayjack

Replace Invasive Plants With Native Species

Some of the plants we’ve grown used to seeing along roadways, tucked away in the woods, or even in our own backyards are actually invasive species. Invasive species can be hazardous to our local ecosystems for a variety of reasons, but most commonly they out-compete plants that are native to our region.

When an invasive species takes the place of a native plant, we lose all of the benefits that came from that native plant. The most important benefits we lose are:

  • Vital food sources for our regional birds, insects, and animals
  • Habitat for birds and insects
  • Deep root structures that prevent soil erosion

In Northern Michigan, we are already seeing noticeable habitat loss for many of our insect species. Test this out by taking a drive down a country lane in the summer. You may notice there are hardly any insects on your windshield. Without having a safe space to live and food to eat, the insect populations will continue to decline.

Popular Northern Michigan Native Plants

Northern Michigan is a diverse ecosystem that is home to thousands of native plant species. While each plant serves its own unique purpose in our region, there are a handful that standout as popular choices when looking at options for your home landscaping. Some of our top recommendations are:

    • Common ninebark (Physocarpos opulifolius): This shrub is known for its peeling bark layers that transform from brown to red depending on the season. If you’re looking for a hearty shrub that can provide year-round interest, the Common Ninebark is for you! Springtime brings fresh buds that develop into tight clusters of white flowers. The flowers give way to red, berry-like blisters and bright yellow leaves in the fall, followed by the classic red bark in the winter. 
    • Penstemon (Penstemon hirsutus): Penstemon, AKA ‘beardtongue’, is a common choice for yards that have less than ideal soil conditions. These tough perennials are able to grow in dry, rocky soil and have even been known to thrive in crevasses between boulders. These flowers feature a tall spike of cup-shaped petals that are a hit with the hummingbirds!
    • Nodding Wild Onion (Allium cernuum): The nodding wild onion is a close relative to your classic chive plant, and its leaves look very similar. This species of allium is defined by a ball of purple petals at the top that droops almost like a nodding head. These flowers are a unique addition to any flower bed!
    • Blue lobelia (Lobeila siphilitica): This one is a show stopper! Tall, upright plumes of bright blue blooms make the Blue Lobelia a gorgeous choice for the center of your landscaping. Get ready for a steady stream of pollinators to visit your yard, as Blue Lobelia is loved by bumblebees, hummingbirds, moths, and butterflies. 
    • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea): These popular flowers are defined by beautiful, upright blooms featuring a spiky brown cone in the middle. Purple coneflowers are loved by bees, butterflies, and moths. You will be treated by several months of blooms running from June-August.

Replace Invasive Species By Growing Native Plants In Northern Michigan

Some of the plants we’ve grown used to seeing along roadways, tucked away in the woods, or even in our own backyards are actually invasive species. Invasive species can be hazardous to our local ecosystems for a variety of reasons, but most commonly they out-compete plants that are native to our region.

When an invasive species takes the place of a native plant, we lose all of the benefits that came from that native plant. The most important benefits we lose are:

  • Vital food sources for our regional birds, insects, and animals
  • Habitat for birds and insects
  • Deep root structures that prevent soil erosion

In Northern Michigan, we are already seeing noticeable habitat loss for many of our insect species. Test this out by taking a drive down a country lane in the summer. You may notice there are hardly any insects on your windshield. Without having a safe space to live and food to eat, the insect populations will continue to decline.

Where To Buy Native Michigan Plants

If you’re looking to add native plants to your yard, look online for a plant nursery near you. Not all nurseries sell plants that are native to Northern Michigan, so it’s important to find a nursery that carries a good selection of native plants. 

It is also important to do some research before buying native plants. Not all species are created equal, and some nurseries may sell cultivars that are not native to that region. Reputable nurseries should have their plants clearly marked and easy to identify if it is native or not. 

Bright Lane Gardens is a go-to resource for all of your native plant needs. We are proud to offer a large selection of plants that are native to our region, and are grown for backyard beauty and health. Our staff is prepared to answer any questions you might have about growing native plants.

Learn More About The Importance Of Native Plants

Check out our blog for more detailed information on growing native plants. We write about everything from deer resistant options to replacing invasive species with native plants. We also offer detailed planting guides on some of our top selling native species. 

When doing research on native plants, it is important to seek out resources that are local to our region or state, as these will likely provide the most accurate information about what species are truly native to our region and what care is needed for our soil and climate.

A few of our commonly used resources include:

Where To Buy Native Plants In Northern Michigan

If you’re looking to add native plants to your yard, look online for a plant nursery near you. Not all nurseries sell plants that are native to Northern Michigan, so it’s important to find a nursery that carries a good selection of native plants. 

It is also important to do some research before buying native plants. Not all species are created equal, and some nurseries may sell cultivars that are not native to that region. Reputable nurseries should have their plants clearly marked and easy to identify if it is native or not. 

Bright Lane Gardens is a go-to resource for all of your native plant needs. We are proud to offer a large selection of plants that are native to our region, and are grown for backyard beauty and health. Our staff is prepared to answer any questions you might have about growing native plants.

Learn More About Growing Native Plants In Northern Michigan

Check out our blog for more detailed information on growing native plants. We write about everything from deer resistant options to replacing invasive species with native plants. We also offer detailed planting guides on some of our top selling native species. 

When doing research on native plants, it is important to seek out resources that are local to our region or state, as these will likely provide the most accurate information about what species are truly native to our region and what care is needed for our soil and climate.

A few of our commonly used resources include: