Landscaping with Native Plants
Whether insect, disease or plant, invasive species are becoming a serious problem in North Carolina. An invasive plant is one that invades habitat beyond that in which it was planted. In the scientific world, the term invasive applies only to exotic (non-native) plants. Native plants that establish and spread quickly in the landscape are termed "aggressive", but are not considered invasive. It is also important to note that not all exotic species are invasive.
The biggest problem with using invasive species in the landscape is their ability to spread and out-compete native species in urban woodlands. The displacement of native plant species can have an impact on plant diversity as well as native wildlife populations, as they depend heavily on native woodlands for food sources, water and cover.
It’s best to retain as much native vegetation as possible during any land clearing and construction activity. It is also a good idea to consider re-planting your landscape with native plants if you have cleared vegetation from your home site during construction. The Going Native website has more information on the benefits of using native vegetation, a searchable database of native plants in North Carolina, and tips on proper landscape design features.
Each native plant species is adapted to a specific range of soil types, light conditions and moisture regimes. Collect soil samples from different areas on your property and have them analyzed to help determine what plants will grow best. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for more on how to proceed with your soil sample analysis.
When landscaping your property:
- Consider the moisture and light requirements of plants when including them in your plan.
- Make sure to provide adequate growing space for landscape trees. Avoid planting large-maturing trees where they will overgrow their space and interfere with overhead utilities or crowd homes and other structures.
- Consult a local expert or one of the many published guides for recommended planting procedures.
- Because of North Carolina's hot summers, fall planting works best for most native plant species.
- Remain patient. It generally takes 3-5 years before you can see the results of your landscaping efforts.
- Too much mulch can have negative effects on your tree’s establishment and growth. A layer of mulch 2 to 4 inches deep is sufficient. Keep the mulch about 3 inches away from the trunk of your tree.