Current research indicates that mixing some non-native plants* in a designed native landscape can increase pollinator habitat.

Mixed native and non-native plants in a designed landscape (i.e., near-native landscapes) can contain a higher diversity of food resources over longer periods of time for pollinators and, therefore, containing more diverse pollinator communities.

Lurie Garden is a perfect example of the near-native landscaping concept—functioning as both a visually striking garden and an ecologically vibrant habitat for all types of pollinators and beneficial insects. Using Lurie Garden as an example, you should feel confident mixing some non-native and plants into a designed native landscape.

Non-native Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Little Spires' (Russian sage) inter-planted with native Erngium yuccifolium (rattlesnake master)

Non-native Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Little Spires’ (Russian sage) inter-planted with native Erngium yuccifolium (rattlesnake master) creates both a beautiful and ecologically important habitat for pollinators of all types.

Pollinators play important roles within the natural world, affecting crop and seed production within numerous important plant groups. Common pollinators include bumblebees, native bees, non-native honeybees, moths, and butterflies. Even birds, animals, and rain can serve as pollinators for certain plants! Horticultural, designed landscapes, etc. play an important role in maintaining and enhancing pollinator biodiversity.

There exists a growing body of evidence that mixing some non-native plants* into a designed native landscapes benefits pollinators.

Among many individuals and agencies there are increasing concerns about the status and trends of pollinator populations. Many of these concerns have arisen due to questions about the use of non-native plants in designed landscapes.

Many homeowners, institutions, businesses, and municipalities have established rules regarding the inclusion of native plants and/or the exclusion of non-native plants in landscapes as a way to support local pollinator populations.

Native Pycnanthemum muticum (blunt mountain mint) supports many different pollinators, including the non-native honey bee (Apis spp.).

Native Pycnanthemum muticum (blunt mountain mint) supports many different pollinators, including the non-native honey bee (Apis spp.).

There exists a growing body of evidence that mixing native and non-native plants in designed landscapes benefits pollinators. Researchers know that non-native plants can interact with pollinator populations in both positive and negative ways; however, field studies in public and private gardens have shown no consequential evidence that the introduction of some non-native plants has any significant negative impact on resources available for local pollinators. In fact, creating near-native designed landscapes may have a mutualistic benefit in the maintenance of pollinator populations.

Planting near-native designed landscapes means that nectar and pollen sources are more likely to be present within the landscape for longer periods of time across all seasons, benefiting all local pollinators and increasing foraging benefits for, especially vulnerable specialist pollinators.

Learn more about some of our specific sustainability practices. For additional reading on the benefits to pollinators of near-native landscaping, see these recent research studies.

(*Non-natives that are known not to be detrimental – i.e. invasive or those that disorient pollinators, etc.. Please research carefully as you plan your garden. – L.E. 1/2019)

Goddard, M.A., A.J. Dougill, and T.G. Benton. 2009. Scaling up from gardens: biodiversity conservation in urban environments. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25: 90-98.

Potts, S.G., J.C. Biesmeijer, C. Kremen, P. Neumann, O. Schweiger, and W.E. Kunin. 2010. Global pollinator declines: trends, impacts and drivers. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25: 345-353.

Salisbury, A., J. Armitage, H. Bostock, J. Perry, M. Tatchell, and K. Thompson. 2015. Enhancing gardens as habitats for flower-visiting aerial insects (pollinators): should we plant native or exotic species? Journal of Applied Ecology 52: 1156-1164.

Stelzer, R.J., L. Chittka, M. Carlton, and T.C. Ings. 2010. Winter active bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) achieve high foraging rates in urban Britain. PLoS ONE 5: e9559.

Stourffer, D.B., A.R. Cirtwill, and J. Bascompte. 2014. How exotic plants integrate into pollination networks. Journal of Ecology 102: 1442-1450.

Stout, J.C. and C.L. Morales. 2009. Ecological impacts of invasive alien species on bees. Apidologie 40: 388-409.

Tscharntke, T., J.M. Tylianakis, and T.A. Rand. 2012. Landscape moderation of biodiversity patterns and processes – eight hypotheses. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 87: 661-685.

Westervelt, P. 2016. The new perennial movement. Greenhouse Product News February.

Winfree, R. 2013. Global change, biodiversity, and ecosystem services: what can we learn from studies of pollination? Basic and Applied Ecology 14: 453-460.