Native Alternatives

Consider the use of native plants in your yards and gardens instead of non-native plants. Here are resources to assist gardeners in making more eco-friendly selections.

Native plants in a suburban garden. Photo: Fred Oleson

Native plants in a suburban garden. Photo: Fred Oleson

There are many native plants that make lovely additions to our yards. But what to use? Which plants are native? How will they look and is it worth the trouble? 

If you value native birds, insects or pollinators, adding native plants into your landscape is a wonderful way to return habitat lost to development and have a lovely yard into the bargain. Native trees, shrubs and flowers also have the advantage of being better adapted to the local environment, and, once established, needing little or no fertilizer and pesticide use and less watering compared to non-native plants.

Many of the native plants in the Mid-Atlantic have invasive look-alikes. Here is a resource to help gardeners distinguish between them:
Mistaken Identity: Invasive Plants and their Native Look-Alikes
download a copy

These sites have databases to assist gardeners in plant selection based on plant characteristics and site requirements:

i Conserve Pennsylvania - Native Plants
Native Plant Center - Chesapeake Region
Aquascapes Unlimited
(aquatic plants)

Here are some resources to help you identify what you have:

Common Trees of Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania DCNR
PLANTS database - USDA
Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping Chesapeake Bay Watershed - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Here are some resources to help gardeners select native plants. The PA DCNR site has a listing of nurseries.

Bringing Nature Home - The Case for Native Gardening
Pennsylvania DCNR Native Plants
Mid-Atlantic Ecological Landscaping 
Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve
National Native Plant Nursery Directory

Native Trees

There are 133 species and subspecies of trees native to Pennsylvania. Native plants are part of our natural heritage and future. William Penn described the forests of Pennsylvania as “the natural produce of the country.” Consider using native trees in yards to preserve our habitats.

Pennsylvania Native Plant Society

For additional assistance, contact your local Penn State Master Gardeners or local Native Plant Society.

Return to Pest Pages

Gypsy Moth

— by Diane Oleson, M.S. — last modified March 5, 2012 1:03 PM

Gypsy moth is a cyclic insect that has been a problem in York county and will be again.

Invasive Tree Pests

— by Diane Oleson, M.S. — last modified March 5, 2012 1:04 PM

Learn about Emerald Ash Borer, Asian Longhorned Beetle, and Thousand Canker Disease and other tree issues.

Invasive Plants

— by Diane Oleson, M.S. — last modified March 5, 2012 1:06 PM

Many of the plants we see in our yards are not native to the mid-Atlantic region. Some of these plants are not good neighbors, and refuse to stay in our yards, with disastrous consequences.

Aquatic Invasive Species

— by Diane Oleson, M.S. — last modified December 2, 2011 4:28 PM

Invasive species are not restricted to the land. Many invasive species that are problems in our water bodies are also part of our homes, as pets; in ponds or water gardens; or are moved via our recreational activities.

Home and Garden Pests

— by Diane Oleson, M.S. — last modified March 5, 2012 12:29 PM

Here are some unwelcome invasive guests common around the house or in your garden.