Why plant native?

So many Reasons!

  • Because native plants are accustomed to the ups and downs of Indiana weather, they are...
    • Easy on water: once established, they require little (if any) watering.
    • Not dependent on fertilizers: no chemicals are needed to help them grow.
    • Great for wildlife: insects, birds, mammals, and other creatures all benefit from native plantings.
    • Often perennial: many native species last for years, weathering Indiana’s hot summers and cold winters.
    • Better for the environment: conserving water, preventing pollution from chemical runoff, and supporting biodiversity all add up to responsible stewardship of the land.

  • Where non-native lawns and gardens fail, native plants support Dr. Doug Tallamy’s Four Landscape Ecological Goals by:
    • Supporting pollinators of all kinds throughout the entire growing season
    • Providing energy for the local food web
    • Managing the area watershed
    • Removing and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere

Plant the Big Three: It’s a G-A-S

Species from these three families offer a bounty of benefits!

G: Goldenrods

(Seen here: Stiff Goldenrod, Oligoneuron rigidum)


A: Asters

(Seen here: New England Aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)


S: Sunflowers

(Seen here: Tall Sunflower,

Helianthus giganteus)


Goldenrods, Asters, and Sunflowers, oh my! Every Hoosier garden should include these keystone species as they provide key ecosystem services, including pollination, clean air and water, and carbon storage. Several species bloom late into the fall, offering pollinators a much-needed late-season source of nutrition, and many are host plants for dozens of species of butterflies and moths in central Indiana. With different goldenrods, asters, and sunflowers suited for various sun and soil conditions, you’ll be sure to find the right fit for your garden!

Boost Birds, Bees, and Butterflies

Love birds? Plant native! Aside from offering forage and shelter for a wide variety of birds, native plants host insects like caterpillars, essential for a baby bird’s diet.

Certain native plants offer forage considered superfoods to bees and pollinators, including the endangered Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee! Especially beneficial are goldenrods, giant hyssops, prairie clovers, coneflowers, joe pye weeds, wild bergamot (bee balm), New England aster, and lead plant. For more information, visit the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Milkweed and monarchs: you can’t have the latter without the former. Due to millennia of coevolution, monarch butterflies have come to rely on milkweed as their sole larval food source. However, habitat loss has drastically reduced the number of milkweed in the wild, putting monarchs at risk. Luckily, you can help by including it in your garden. No matter your site requirements, you can find a species of milkweed suited for different sun and soil conditions. Save the monarchs: plant more milkweed!

For your native planting to be successful, you need to be realistic about three key elements:

Soil, Water, Sun

Indiana has some pretty stellar soils thanks to its geology and climate--it’s why farming is so big here!--but you might run into clayey soils in your garden. Never fear: native plants can grow in all sorts of soils! Just keep in mind that soils high in clay drain slowest, so they stay wetter longer. Know your site’s soil, and think about how a plant’s moisture preferences might play out.

Although native plants thrive in a wide variety of conditions, water can make or break your native planting. Marsh/Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata) won’t grow in bone-dry soil, and Dwarf Blazing Star (Liatris cylindracea) won’t make it in flooded soil. Take note of a plant’s moisture requirements and be willing to consider an alternative if it’s a poor match. Many types (like Liatris) offer options from dry to wet!

Sun--or perhaps a lack of it!--is the third important element to consider in your native planting. If you have a backyard like the one above (full shade in summer), a prairie or savannah planting just isn’t practical. However, don’t think you’re stuck with non-native hostas! So many wonderful woodland native plants like Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) offer color, texture, and character to shady spots.

Keep scrolling for a look at a front yard native planting with high clay soils, featuring plants grown by Indy Urban Acres and Sister Sedge!

from fallow to fertile: a front yard native planting, two years on







Hope Amidst Crisis:

Doing Your Part

Climate change. The biodiversity crisis. Wetlands stripped of federal protections. It’s no wonder that climate “doomers” are replacing “deniers” when we’re faced with bleak projections at every turn.

BUT--don’t lose hope! As you’ve learned, native plants benefit the environment in a myriad of ways, and filling your garden beds with native plants is a wonderful way to do your part to fight these crises. Don’t have a garden? They’ll grow in containers, too. The planter pictured here contains Virginia wild rye and wild bergamot (bee balm) planted back in May 2022, and it’s still going strong. As a bonus, you can harvest the seeds and spread them elsewhere in the landscape. Take a few tips from Dr. Doug Tallamy and get started today!

A little more about...

Indy Urban Acres

You may have discovered this website thanks to the Indy Urban Acres Plant Sale, but did you know that IUA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to grow and distribute FREE, fresh organic produce to Indianapolis families in need? The Plant Sale is IUA’s largest fundraiser of the year, and every dollar you spend at the sale directly supports its charitable cause.

Rare native species + profits to charity = happy planting!

and a few words about...

Sister Sedge

My name is Mary Margaret Moffett, a.k.a. Sister Sedge, and my favorite hobby is spreading the good word of native plants! I first volunteered with IUA thanks to Dr. Owen Dwyer’s Conservation class at IUPUI. By day, I work with the National Environmental Policy Act. Also by day, I volunteer as an Advanced Indiana Master Naturalist, and I study Soil and Water Science online at the University of Florida. (There really aren’t enough hours in the day.) If you shopped the sale, I hope you enjoyed my native plant signs and found something special! Thank you for visiting!

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