When it comes to plant parenthood, most of us tend to think in terms of what we give to our plants: Water (not too much, not too little), light (full sun? bright indirect? shade?), a bit of fertilizer, and—for the most dedicated—some conversation from time to time. (Yes, this is a thing!)
But what about the things our plants give back to us? In effort to celebrate the symbiotic relationship we have with our light-loving neighbors, let’s look at a few of the ways plants help us out:
Nosy neighbors? As tempting as it may be to build an increasingly taller fence, we prefer the practice of using plants to create a bit of privacy. In addition to offering you some much-needed seclusion—and eye candy!—plants absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen (1) that even the fanciest fence can’t. Here are some of our top picks; check your local extension office to learn which will grow best in your area!
The most sought-after soil-builders are the nitrogen fixers. These masterful crops harbor nitrogen-producing bacteria on their roots, and each time you cut them back, some of it is released into the surrounding soil for use by neighboring plants (2) (sharing really is caring!). The other plants on our list are those with thick, powerful taproots that break up compacted soil and accumulate copious amounts of nutrients in their foliage (4). Let’s dig in to some of our favorites:
Birds, bees, and butterflies help sustain our ecosystem, but their populations have been declining at an alarming rate (5, 6). Luckily, you can create a garden that’s both beautiful and beneficial by choosing pollinator-friendly plants!
What you select will depend on your climate (7), but here are a few general tips to keep in mind when getting started (8):
Ready to get started? Here are some of our top picks:
To attract birds, choose colorful seed-bearing annuals such as marigold, sunflower, zinnia, poppy, and cosmo; or native perennials including aster, coreopsis, echinacea, sedum, goldenrod, and thistle (8).
To attract bees, choose pollen-rich plants, particularly purple varieties like lavender, allium, and catmint. Other great options are agastache, black-eyed susan, hollyhock, abelia, columbine, daisy, echinacea, bee balm, gaillardia, lupine, yarrow, and salvia (8).
To attract butterflies and hummingbirds, choose nectar-rich flowers like chrysanthemum, aster, columbine, penstemon, delphinium, salvia, verbena, bee balm, and dianthus; or shrubs including lilac, lavender, viburnum, and butterfly bush. Milkweed is also a favorite of butterflies, and the host plant of Monarchs (7)!