COLUMBIA, Mo.— Many Missouri gardeners are interested in using native plants but find them less attractive than imports. A University of Missouri horticulturist says that gardeners can have the best of both worlds by using “nativars”—native cultivars selected for increased ornamental appeal over their counterparts in the wild.

Native plants are adapted to local climate extremes and often have resistance to regional pest problems. Gardening and landscaping with native plants can reduce the need for water, fertilizer and pesticides.

“Many native gardening ‘purists’ refuse to plant anything that is not found growing in the wild,” Trinklein said. “But a goodly number of gardeners consider such species to look ‘weedy’ and shy away from using them—and with that the concept of eco-friendly landscaping.”

Most nativars posses all of the attributes of native plants, he said, but package them in what is arguably a more attractive plant.

“Nativars often display greater flower number and size, more intense flower color and shorter growth habit than the species from which they are selected,” he said.

True native plants include black-eyed Susan and purple coneflower. Both are native to Missouri and flourish across the Midwest with minimal input. Popular nativars include Goldsturm, a cultivar of black-eyed Susan, and Magnus, derived from wild purple coneflower.  

Trinklein said that selecting for greater ornamental appeal could reduce the eco-friendly attributes of a native cultivar. “But it is unlikely given the outstanding garden performance most nativars display.”


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