Although most of the plant species growing in Indiana are native, roughly 25 percent are not. These invasive species can cause issues to the existing plants growing in your yard by competing with and crowding out more desirable native species. So what is an invasive species? Any species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration, and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health. Identifying, reporting and removing these from your yard and replacing them with more desirable plants is not only good for the health of your yard, but the surrounding community as well.
Identify gardening needs
With the wide variety of plants offered at your local garden center, choosing the right ones for your yard can become an overwhelming job. Start by thinking about what you might want from your finished product: are you planting large leafy fauna to achieve more privacy? Maybe you want to focus on creating a thriving backyard ecosystem for local wildlife. Doing some research before buying and planting can save you a headache later when these plants become harder to remove.
Do your research
Before introducing a new plant to your garden, do some research on how this could affect your existing landscape. The Department of Natural Resources website for the state of Indiana is a great resource to help you identify any questionable species growing in your area. Another useful tool is EDDMapS which uses local and national distribution maps to track invasive species. Being mindful of which plants you are choosing for your yard, and reporting any invasive species you may have removed is a short process that will make a big difference for your surrounding ecosystem.
Some of the most common invasive plants to avoid include English ivy, purple loosestrife, and Japanese honeysuckle. These are typically offered at local gardening centers and pushed onto unsuspecting gardeners for their obvious beauty and array of seemingly beneficial properties. A quick search reveals that although beneficial for providing privacy and sophistication to trellises and garden walls, ivy will cover even large plants, blocking light and eventually killing them. The plant is also toxic to humans and some animals and may cause allergic skin reactions.
An aggressive plant is one that spreads faster than preferred, or into an area of your garden where it is unwanted. It is beneficial to be aware of any aggressive plant species that may be masquerading as a harmless addition to your garden. Although aggressive plants are not necessarily invasive, their fast spreading properties can pose a threat to surrounding plants. A plant may be aggressive in one area of a garden or neighborhood and well behaved in another. Mint is a common example. Grown for its fragrant smell and sharp, fresh taste, it makes a positive addition to your collection of plants but can outgrow and overtake your garden. Instead, try growing mint in a pot or consider starting a small indoor gardening space in your home.
As a homeowner, you have the opportunity to do your part in addressing the biodiversity crisis in Indiana. When adding native plants to your landscape you are better supporting surrounding wildlife as well as creating a more sustainable garden. Local plants require less watering, fertilizing and maintenance. Take the time to plan your landscape and incorporate plants that will improve the curb appeal of your home and create a thriving ecosystem in any backyard space.