Hayes Jackson, an urban regional horticulture agent with Alabama Extension, says by choosing native plants and following a few simple lawn tips, homeowners can have an earth-friendly yard that lasts year-long.
First, native plants are easier for homeowners to grow and maintain because, “they are better adapted to the variability of Alabama’s climate. They are used to the heavy rains we get in the spring and our summer droughts,” said Jackson.
Native azaleas bloom late to avoid the occasional late frosts we get. In contrast, Asian species and hybrid azaleas can be tricked by the weather into blooming early, and they can end up getting damaged. Native plants are just more attuned to our climate,” explained Jackson.
Native plants are also resistance to Alabama insects, meaning homeowners can use fewer pesticides. In addition, native plants are tolerant of local soils, so there will be a decrease in needed fertilizer as well.
Jackson said a money-saving perk for homeowners when choosing native plants is a decrease in water bills. “Native plants require less watering because they are accustomed to our drought climate, especially during the dry spells in August and September.”
Here are some examples of of native Alabama plants for homeowners:
- Native Azaleas–various species of Rhododendron
- Wax Myrtle–Morella cerifera
- Alabama Croton–Croton alabamensis
- Alabama Snow-wreath–Neviusia alabamensis
Alabama Croton and Alabama Snow Wreath are rare and only found in a couple of places in Alabama. They can withhstand drought, shade, sun and harsh weather. “They are a great choice for your garden,” said Jackson.
Choose Wax Myrtles when you want an evergreen screen. Most people immediately think about planting Leyland cypress for evergreen screens, but they Leyland cypress often get too big because they aren’t used to our climate.
In addition to choosing native plants, Jackson advises not to plant invasive species, such as Chinese privet or Asian pear trees. “These non-native species can crowd out and take over our native plants,” he added.
Jackson said homeowners also can convert some lawn space to vegetable gardens and include a year-long bloom sequence, which means planting a variety of plants that flower and bloom through all the seasons of the year.
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Native Azalea by JayL/shutterstock.com
Wax Myrtle by Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org