Native plants and raingardens are like peanut butter and jelly…they go together! The combination of the two helps clean water naturally since native plants generally have deep rooted systems that anchor soil and act as filters, while raingardens collect dirty water from streets and rooftops.
Including native plants in your raingarden can have many benefits. Not only are native plants best adapted to our local climate, but they are much heartier than non-natives because their roots are generally long and can find their own water. With these long roots, natives also decrease soil compaction and filter out pollutants.
Below is a picture that demonstrates the root systems of a few native plants:
If you compare the roots from common lawn turf, Kentucky Blue Grass (non-native; first plant on the far left), to the Lead Plant (native; the second plant from the left), the difference between non-native root systems to natives is quite surprising!
Native plants are also more valuable than non-natives because of their unique relationship with other local organisms. Nectar, pollen, and seeds for bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife are just a few ways natives are kind to critters. In addition to providing local food sources, native plants also provide critical habitat for our beautiful and diverse native butterflies, insects, and birds.
For more information on raingardens and native plants, visit the Blue Thumb website. If you are thinking about going native, check out the Blue Thumb’s Plant Selector Tool; it’s a great resource to help choose the best native plants based on the soil type and sun exposure for your project.