At Smithsonian Gardens, we strive to showcase and highlight the importance of using native plants in the landscape. In the last decade, the popularity of native plants featured at Smithsonian Gardens has grown enormously and this trend has significantly increased sustainability efforts at SG. When deciding what to plant at their respective gardens, SG horticulturists often choose native plants for their array of benefits, including the following:
1. Native plants require less water. Because they are naturally adapted to their environment, these plants can use water resources more efficiently than non-native plants.
2. Native plants attract native wildlife. This includes all of the vital pollinators that help maintain garden ecosystems, but also many different species that play key roles in the food web like birds, arthropods, and small mammals.
3. Native plants – especially perennials – require fewer inputs (fertilizer, soil amendments, etc.) and less labor to maintain. Fewer annual plantings mean the amount of work and resources (like plastic pots) needed for each plant is reduced, which in turn saves time and money.
Smithsonian Gardens seeks to educate the public about the usefulness of native plants through a variety of garden themes, exhibits, and interpretive signs. For example, the Bee Lawn and Pollinator Garden outside the National Museum of Natural History emphasize how the native species planted there provide benefits. Additionally, the Native Landscape surrounding the National Museum of the American Indian incorporates only species of plants native to the Piedmont region, creating an extension of the museum’s themes. While these are certainly not the only benefits that native plants bring to their ecosystems, Smithsonian Gardens takes advantage of these assets to create healthy, sustainable environments on our grounds.