Gardening Native plants

Garden Myth: Native Plants are Less Prone to Pests

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The above would be wonderful … if only it were true! Source: Clipart Library and

There are all sorts of great reasons to grow native plants. You know for sure that they are hardy and adapted to local seasonal changes. Also, you can be certain they attract butterflies and birds in your area (flowers and fruit of some imported plants are of little interest to local animals). Finally, if they escape from your garden, they won’t upset the environment as can an escaped exotic plant can do, but will rather meld in. And that’s good. But the idea that native plants are more resistant to insects and diseases, often touted by well-meaning environmentalists with little actual gardening experience, is simply nonsense.

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European gardeners don’t have to worry about the noxious milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) when they grow ornamental milkweeds: it’s only found in North America, where milkweeds are native. Source: Greg Hume, Wikimedia Commons

Some native plants have pests and diseases that bother them regularly, while others seem to have few enemies … but that’s also the case with introduced plants. Moreover, imported plants often have an advantage over native plants: a plant may have a pest in its native country that has not followed it to its new home. In fact, one well-known technique for controlling invasive exotic plants is to go back to their native land and introduce the pests that slow them down there.

I’m not saying to grow only non-native plants. But I do think you should know that at least one of the arguments used to promote growing native ones really isn’t valid.

If you truly want plants that have no major insect or disease problems, you have to do a bit of research on the plant itself. Assuming a native plant will have no pests is just ridiculous!20171123A Eng

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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