Misconceptions About Using Native Plants in the Landscape

Common misconceptions about using native plants in the landscape include:

Native plants have fewer insect and disease problems – Not always true

  • In nature, a native plant problem might go unnoticed, but the same plant in a traditional landscape may give a poor appearance

Native plants are adapted to the area and have superior growth – Not always true

  • Cold hardy native plants may have superior growth but may not be adapted to disturbed soil conditions often found in residential landscapes

Native plants are always more desirable than non-native plants – Not true

  • For example, poison ivy and poison sumac are native but are far from desirable to have as landscape plants

Using native plants in a landscape should look like a natural woodland or prairie – Not true

  • Native plants can be used in the same way as non-native ornamental plants in a landscape
  • Native plants can be incorporated into existing garden styles and even into formal designs
Grasses and yellow and purple flowers by a rock wall
Use of native prairie plants in a prairie garden landscape. Photo credit: eXtension.org: Gardens, Lawns, and Landscapes  Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Using native plants will create a messy yard – Not true

  • A natural meadow or forest look may be desired by some homeowners but other landscape styles are possible
  • Native plants can be functional by providing food, shelter, and reducing water requirements in most landscape designs

I can’t create a natural appearing landscape – Not always true

  • Many designers specialize in native/natural landscape design.
  • Observe and take notes or make sketches while hiking, camping, and in other natural settings for ideas
  • Notice forms and plant groupings in general
Orange and purple flowers
California Poppies and lupine. Photo credit: Isolino Ferrerira Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Once I plant a native, I won’t have to water it – Not true

  • Native plants require regular watering to become established
  • Not all natives are drought tolerant
  • Native riparian plants, or plants that naturally occur along water-ways have higher water requirements

It is important to remember that clear goals and a well researched plant list will produce a landscape that can reduce water use, lower maintenance, and be aesthetically pleasing.

Additional Resources:


Illinois – What Exactly are Native Plants?