March certainly teases us with warm, blue-sky spring days and then brings us back to reality with a cold snap. Still, we know that spring is around the corner and that ol’ spring itch has gotten under our skin and put us in the mood for scratching in the flower garden. Now is a good time to plan to complete some landscaping projects on your list.

March certainly teases us with warm, blue-sky spring days and then brings us back to reality with a cold snap. Still, we know that spring is around the corner and that ol’ spring itch has gotten under our skin and put us in the mood for scratching in the flower garden. Now is a good time to plan to complete some landscaping projects on your list.

Before you put one plant in the ground though, you may want to consider planting with natives. You may have heard that term before and wondered what exactly it meant. Planting with natives means using native plants, or plants that grow naturally in the local area, Kansas or Missouri. A purist would consider plants only from the Kansas City area (I tend to be more of a purist).

Since native plants have grown in these parts for hundreds of years, they are used to the region’s climate and sudden changes in the weather. I know some people who will plant a native as long as it is a variety that is native to Missouri; while others will only plant natives that have a Missouri genotype. This means the seeds actually came from Missouri. In my opinion, a Missouri genotype is the best. You could purchase a purple coneflower, or coreopsis, from a garden catalog. Both of these plants are native to Missouri, but if they’re coming from Minnesota, it defeats the purpose.

A Missouri genotype was born and raised in these parts and can stand up to our cold winters and survive our hot summers. Let’s face it: Missouri is known to have pretty strange weather. The temperature can rise or fall 20 degrees in 30 minutes. You need sturdy plants to be able to tolerate the extreme weather conditions that occur in our home state.

Some of the best reasons to plant with natives are that they are very low maintenance. They can easily grow in poor soils. As a matter of fact, they do not do as well in soils that have been fertilized. They also require less water, saving dollars in your pocketbook, and this important resource. (You will not have to worry about installing a sprinkler system just to keep your landscape beautiful!) Natives also attract wonderful wildlife to your yard. Of course, since native plants are grown in the area, they don’t require long distance transportation, thus saving on your carbon footprint.

Your landscaping plan can include plants to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and an array of songbirds. To attract butterflies or hummingbirds, try planting butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa (different than butterfly bush, which is not native). Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis, garden or summer phlox, Phlox paniculata, and buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, are just a few choices to beautify your yard while attracting these winged wonders.

Wild plum trees and blackberries will not only sweeten your summer palette but also attract several songbirds to feast on these berries, as well. The berries of the elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, are eaten by more than 45 bird species and are used to make pies, wines, and jellies.

There are so many incredible plants, shrubs, and trees to choose from I could write a book about natives. Actually, there are several really good books already written! There are also several websites all about growing native plants. The Grow Native website has great information on species selection, design and local nurseries that sell these special plants. If your favorite local nursery does not carry natives, ask them to! They won’t make these changes unless you, the consumer, let them know there is a demand for natives.

 So, if you’d like to spend less time weeding and manicuring your landscape and more time enjoying it; if you’d like to cut down on your water bill; if you’d like to relax in the shade and watch all of the colorful butterflies and songbirds visiting your yard, then check out some native plant websites and books. Then go ahead, exercise your green thumb and scratch that spring itch with natives!