Eco-Friendly Summer Gardening: The Benefits of Native Plants and Perennials

by James William
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Eco-friendly gardening focuses on creating landscapes that are sustainable, environmentally responsible, and beneficial to local ecosystems, states Tammy Sons at TN Nursery. By incorporating native plants and perennials into your summer garden, you can reduce your environmental footprint while enjoying a vibrant and resilient garden. Here are the key benefits of using native plants and perennials, along with tips for creating your own eco-friendly garden.

Benefits of Native Plants and Perennials

  1. Adaptation to Local Conditions
  • Climate Compatibility:Native plants are adapted to the local climate, including temperature fluctuations, precipitation patterns, and seasonal changes. This makes them more resilient and less reliant on additional resources like water and fertilizers.
  • Soil Suitability:Native plants thrive in the natural soil conditions of their region, reducing the need for soil amendments and improving overall soil health.
  1. Low Maintenance
  • Reduced Watering Needs:Native plants have evolved to survive on the natural rainfall of their region. Once established, they require less supplemental watering compared to non-native species.
  • Pest Resistance:Native plants have natural defenses against local pests and diseases, reducing the need for chemical pesticides and promoting a healthier garden ecosystem.
  1. Ecological Benefits
  • Support for Local Wildlife:Native plants provide essential habitat and food sources for local wildlife, including birds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. This helps maintain biodiversity and supports healthy ecosystems.
  • Erosion Control:Many native plants have deep root systems that help stabilize soil and prevent erosion, particularly on slopes and in areas prone to runoff.
  1. Sustainability
  • Resource Conservation:By using native plants, you can conserve water, reduce the need for chemical inputs, and minimize garden waste. This contributes to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly gardening practice.
  • Pollution Reduction:Native plants often require fewer chemical treatments, which reduces the potential for soil and water contamination.

Top Native Plants and Perennials for Eco-Friendly Summer Gardening

When selecting plants for your eco-friendly summer garden, choose species that are native to your region and well-suited to your garden conditions. Here are some excellent options:

Sun-Loving Perennials

  1. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
    • Description:Bright yellow petals with dark brown centers.
    • Bloom Time:Summer to early fall.
    • Benefits:Attracts pollinators; drought-tolerant.
  2. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
    • Description:Large, daisy-like flowers with purple petals and orange centers.
    • Bloom Time:Summer to early fall.
    • Benefits:Deer-resistant; attracts butterflies and bees.
  3. Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
    • Description:Clusters of bright orange flowers.
    • Bloom Time:Late spring to early summer.
    • Benefits:Essential for monarch butterflies; very drought-tolerant.
  4. Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)
    • Description:Tall spikes of purple flowers.
    • Bloom Time:Mid to late summer.
    • Benefits:Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds; drought-tolerant.
  5. Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.)
    • Description:Bright yellow, daisy-like flowers.
    • Bloom Time:Early summer to fall.
    • Benefits:Drought-tolerant; attracts pollinators.

Shade-Tolerant Perennials

  1. Eastern Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
    • Description:Red and yellow bell-shaped flowers.
    • Bloom Time:Spring to early summer.
    • Benefits:Attracts hummingbirds; deer-resistant.
  2. Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
    • Description:Heart-shaped leaves with small, maroon flowers at the base.
    • Bloom Time:
    • Benefits:Ground cover; attracts pollinators.
  3. Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata)
    • Description:Clusters of blue, purple, or white flowers.
    • Bloom Time:
    • Benefits:Attracts butterflies; excellent for woodland gardens.
  4. Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
    • Description:Evergreen fern with dark green fronds.
    • Bloom Time:Non-flowering.
    • Benefits:Year-round interest; low maintenance.
  5. Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
    • Description:Arching stems with bell-shaped, white flowers.
    • Bloom Time:Late spring.
    • Benefits:Provides architectural interest; deer-resistant.

Designing an Eco-Friendly Garden

Creating Plant Layers: Incorporate plants of varying heights and textures to create a layered effect. Taller plants like Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) can be placed at the back, medium-height plants like Purple Coneflower in the middle, and shorter ground covers like Wild Ginger at the front. This layering adds depth and visual interest.

Utilizing Companion Planting: Pair plants that complement each other’s growth habits and needs. For example, plant shade-loving ferns with perennials that thrive in partial to full shade, like Woodland Phlox and Wild Ginger. This ensures that plants receive the appropriate light and soil conditions.

Creating Wildlife Habitats: Design your garden to attract and support local wildlife. Include plants that provide nectar, seeds, and shelter for birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects. Adding features like birdbaths, insect hotels, and small ponds can further support wildlife.

Planting and Care Tips

Soil Preparation: Enhance your soil by adding organic matter such as compost to improve fertility and drainage. This provides a good foundation for your native plants and perennials to establish strong root systems.

Planting: Plant in the spring or fall when temperatures are cooler. Dig holes that are slightly larger than the plant’s root ball, place the plants, and backfill with soil. Water thoroughly to help establish the roots.

Watering: Native plants typically need less water once established, but they will require regular watering during their first growing season. Water deeply and less frequently to encourage deep root growth.

Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around your plants to retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Mulch also decomposes over time, enriching the soil.

Fertilizing: Native plants generally need little to no fertilizer. If necessary, use a slow-release, balanced fertilizer sparingly. Over-fertilizing can lead to excessive growth and reduced stress tolerance.

Pruning and Deadheading: Regularly prune and deadhead your plants to encourage new growth and prolong blooming. Removing spent flowers can also prevent self-seeding, allowing you to manage plant spread.

Seasonal Maintenance

Spring: Clean up any winter debris, refresh mulch, and check for emerging pests. Divide and transplant overcrowded perennials to maintain garden health and vigor.

Summer: Monitor for signs of drought stress and water as needed. Continue deadheading and pruning to keep your garden looking tidy and vibrant.

Fall: Prepare your garden for winter by cutting back perennials, if desired, or leaving seed heads for winter interest and wildlife food. Add a final layer of mulch to protect plant roots from freezing temperatures.


Creating an eco-friendly summer garden with native plants and perennials is a rewarding way to enjoy a vibrant, low-maintenance landscape that supports local ecosystems. By selecting plants that are well-suited to your garden’s conditions, you can reduce maintenance tasks and promote sustainability. Embrace the resilience and beauty of native plants, and watch your garden thrive throughout the warm season with minimal intervention.