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** While browsing the Wisconsin Native Plant Guide, double click on the page to zoom in/out. **

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Wisconsin Native Plants

The use of native plants in the landscape is more than a trend. It is an awakening to the need to preserve our native flora in man-made landscapes. Why? First and foremost, our native plants are beautiful. They offer all of the color and aesthetic interest we could need, and they rival any introduced landscape plant. They are also functional, having evolved over time to prosper in our environment, and they can fill almost any landscape need. Using Wisconsin’s native plants also connects us to our state’s natural heritage, and creates landscapes that are uniquely Wisconsin; rather than another traditional landscape that could be anywhere.

As we continue to develop, disturb, and destroy native habitats, we need to give back to the land the plants that were originally there. Aldo Leopold said, “To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” When we plant native plants not only do we preserve the vegetation, but also all the countless other life forms such as birds, insects, mammals, fungi and more, that depend on and interact with each other to form beautiful sustainable landscapes.

How did we determine what is native? We consider plants that were growing here before European settlement to be native. We referred to the Wisconsin State Herbarium and their Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Wisconsin. It was a difficult decision not to include other North American native plants in our list. An example would be Penstemon digitalis, foxglove beardtongue, which is introduced and naturalized in Wisconsin but originally grew natively just over the border in northern Illinois.

Native plants can be used in your landscape in many ways. You may want to include native plants as an addition to a more traditional landscape. A specific portion of your property could be converted to a native garden. Or you may decide that you want all of your land planted exclusively with natives. Whatever you decide, the use of native plants will fulfill your needs and provide you with an appealing landscape, a sustainable environment, and the satisfaction that you are helping to preserve our natural resources.

Native plants are locally adapted; they are hardy to our climate and at home in our soils. When the right plants are selected for your site conditions they are programmed to thrive, and, once established, will provide many years of beauty with reduced maintenance compared to traditional landscapes. However, even native plants are not maintenance free. It is important to provide new plantings with proper care to ensure establishment. Initial watering, mulching, and fertilization are important and native plants will respond just as other landscape plants do.

Check out our archive of Wisconsin Native Plants.