Thank you to everyone who joined us on March 21st for our webinar, Landscaping with Native Plants, Cost Savings and More to Dig! We had lots of great questions – check out some of the questions and responses from our team below.

We’d like to extend a special thank you to HEC supporter Liz Masur for answering many of these questions!

General Questions

Where can I purchase native plants? Where can I purchase native plant seeds for a larger area?

We have lots of sources listed under Native Plant, Tree & Seed Sources in our Native Plant Resource List!

Where can I learn more about native plants?

Indiana is lucky to have an excellent state-wide nonprofit organization called the Indiana Native Plant Society (INPS). No matter where you live in the state, there is a chapter near you! INPS members are passionate about native plants and are always happy to share what they know. Get involved with INPS, and you’ll be amazed at how much you learn in a short amount of time. Their website also contains a wealth of information available to the public.

If you’re on Facebook, join 60.5K members of the INPS public group and get all your native plant questions answered!

How do I know what plants are native to my area?

Use the Native Plant Finder Tool from the National Wildlife Federation to search native plants by your zip code.

I don’t own any real estate but think this is a critical issue. I would like to promote native plants in my community. How can I help?

Sign up for HEC emails to find out about an upcoming native plant webinar that will focus on advocating for change in your community and HOA’s. There are many good ideas on the INPS advocacy page.  Also, be sure to check out Doug Tallamy’s Homegrown National Park for inspiration.

Planting Strategies for Native Plants

Aren’t native plant gardens “messy?”

They certainly don’t need to be! You can follow these 7 Native Plant Maintenance Tips. You can hire someone who specializes in native plant design like Laura Essex of Favor Native. You can also encourage root competition which ensures fewer weeds and keeps tall flowers from flopping over. Read more about root competition from Indigenous Landscapes on Facebook.

What suggestions do you have for eliminating pesticides and herbicides?

Don’t worry about some of the “weeds” in your lawn, such as clover. Fifty years ago clover seeds were included with grass seed because clover has beneficial nitrogen, but then broad leaf chemicals were invented. To sell the broad leaf chemicals, the manufacturers brainwashed consumers into thinking that any clover amid a “pristine” expanse of green was disgraceful. So, be okay with having some clover in your lawn…don’t be manipulated by chemical manufacturers into thinking that the clovers must be eliminated.

Learn more about herbicide and pesticide-free lawns and landscapes.

My yard is [hilly/full sun/full shade/partially wet] and needs to be [kid-friendly/dog-friendly/able to support high traffic]. What do you recommend?

In addition to checking out the many resources on our Native Plant Resource List, be sure to sign up for HEC’s emails to find out about our upcoming native plant webinars that will focus on site-specific plant recommendations!

Native Plant Selection

What native plants are best for pollinators and other insects?

On page 107 of Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas Tallamy, he states that “About 90 percent of the insects that eat plants…can develop on only one or two plant lineages,” meaning that many native insects rely on specific plants for survival, and, if those plants disappear, they will, too. For example, monarch butterflies…no milkweed, means no food for monarch caterpillars. Research and figure out what native plants should live where you are, then plant them, and the native insects which are dependent on them will, we hope, find them. Things to consider are: the soil type, is the location sunny, shady, or both.

Here are some of the flowers and grasses planted to create a prairie-like area at Jenn Park in the City of Lawrence: 

  • Lavender hyssop
  • Nodding wild onion
  • Lead plant
  • Common milkweed
  • Butterfly weed
  • Partridge pea
  • White prairie clover
  • Rattlesnake master
  • Wild lupine
  • Wild bergamot
  • Hairy beard tongue
  • Little bluestem
  • Prairie dropseed
  • Cup plant
  • New England aster
  • Wingstem
  • Common spiderwort

Most of my lawn is shaded. What native plants do well in shade?

Search for your specific needs using the INPS Indiana Native Plant Finder. Here are just a few recommendations:

  • Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense-low growing
  • Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris
  • Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia-low growing
  • Striped Cram Violet, Viola striata-low growing
  • Heart-leaved Golden Ragwort, Packera aurea
  • Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis-rarely browsed by animals
  • Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum
  • Blue Mist Flower, Conoclinium coelestinum-deer resistant
  • Blue False Indigo, Baptisia Australia-deer resistant
  • Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis
  • Hollow Joe-Pye Weed, Eutrochium fistulosum

I live in a new subdivision and have terrible clay soil. What native plants will grow in clay soil?

Here is a list of 125 options of native Indiana plants for you that grow well in clay soils due to their superb root systems. (Note: be sure to filter your searches on the website by Indiana under “native range.”)

Native Plant Maintenance

Should you leave natives to overwinter or should you cut them annually and dispose in the trash? At what point do you cut back/clean up native plants in the spring to give pollinators and other insects enough time to survive?

First of all, please never dispose of native plant material in the trash if at all possible! By throwing away native plants, even when dead, you are also literally throwing away overwintering beneficial insects, including butterflies, moths, and other pollinators. The best practice is to leave this plant material in the garden, which is what occurs in nature. If you MUST ‘clean up’ your garden, wait until as late in spring as possible and loosely scatter the stems, etc. in an area where the insects that haven’t had a chance to emerge still can. Another option is to add the plant material to your compost or brush pile. Throwing away native plant material doesn’t allow the native plants to serve their final purpose, which is to provide shelter for native insects and ultimately be decomposed to then become living, healthy topsoil, which your future native plants will appreciate!

According to Leslie Nelson Inman of Pollinator Friendly Landscaping on Facebook, “70% of our native bees are under those leaves in the ground. Leave what you can permanently. The less you disturb the better. Gently disturb or ‘clean up’ what you must as late as possible in spring.” Many insects overwinter on the stems of native flowers/grasses. For example, the Gulf fritillary butterfly makes a chrysalis on the stems of coneflowers and other native plants. It is great camouflage, but it won’t survive if it is bagged up by someone tidying up their yard. The rule of thumb in Indiana is to wait to move or cut back any plant material until there have been at least 5 overnights over 50 degrees in a row. Also consider letting the new spring growth come up around stems, leaves, and twigs wherever possible. Another thing to consider is that if you leave your coneflowers-and other native plants that produce seeds-up through the winter, you are feeding the birds naturally. 

Check out these additional resources:

Aren’t lawns easier to care for than native plants?

No! See Lawns vs. Native Gardens—What’s easier?

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