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South Carolina Native Plants for Your Garden

A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region or ecosystem without human introduction. There are many benefits in growing native plants.

First, these plants are better adapted to soils, moisture, and weather than exotic plants that evolved in other parts of the world. They need less fertilizers, pesticides or use less water.

Second, they are unlikely to escape and become invasive, destroying natural habitat. Third, they support wildlife, provide shelter and food for native birds and insects, while exotic plants do not.

There are many varieties of native plants. During spring planting, here are a few species that work best in our region of the state, (with full sun). There are numerous other varieties for shade or part sun locations. These are some of my favorites:

Carolina Jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens - SC State Flower, Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata, Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa

Wild Indigo, Baptisia spp. A nitrogen fixer, Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgida, Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens - Flowers visited by hummingbirds,

Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamomea

– for nesting birds, Atamasco Lily, Zephyranthese atamasco, Lyreleaf Sage, Salvia lyrate, Wild Geranium, Geranium maculatum

To introduce wildlife to your yard, balcony, work landscape, or any greenspace, you need 4 basic elements. It is fun, easy and makes a big difference for neighborhood wildlife. Get started by providing these basics. - Food - Water - Cover - Places to raise young Use practices to make your garden safe for wildlife:

Conserve water and control water runoff

  • Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses instead of oscillating sprinklers as they result in less water loss due to evaporation.

  • Position watering devices to prevent water loss by water falling in storm gutters, walkways or in the street.

  • Mulch beds to help retain soil moisture

Reduce fossil-fuel energy use

· Get some exercise and do some hand digging.

· Pull weeds by hand. This is often more effective and less damaging than resorting to chemical sprays.

Deal with yard and garden “waste” in a sound way

· Develop your own compost pile so you can return the valuable plant material back to the soil in your yard.

· Don't send plant-based garden waste to a landfill. Instead support your local yard waste recycling program for any materials you can't compost and use in your own yard

Plant Maintenance

· Tolerate minor insect damage in your yard and garden and work to increase the number of beneficials. Beneficials are a particular set of insects that feed on pests, such as aphids, mites, caterpillars, worms, etc. Spraying with a pesticide can place harmful chemicals in the environment and may kill beneficials or damage nearby plants.

· Learn which plant diseases are harmful to your plants and which are just a cosmetic nuisance that will not affect the health of your tree, shrub, or perennial.

· Get a soil test before you add fertilizer and or lime to your yard or garden and follow the recommendation. Over fertilizing can lead to excess plant growth, which can be more susceptible to diseases. Trying to grow a plant in a soil outside its recommended pH range will result in poor growth or death. Also, fertilizer runoff can pollute streams and groundwater.

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