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Lawn Alternatives – NATIVE FLOWERS

These flowers have been chosen from the Native Plants for Virginia’s Capital Region booklet. It can be downloaded for free or purchased online.  

The featured flowers have been selected because they are native to the Richmond area, attract pollinators /wildlife and are relatively easy to grow. They are often available in retail nurseries which feature regional native plants or at native plant sales. 



All plants have a common name: Our example above: Wild Red Columbine

Sometimes, common names can be misleading as people call the same flower by different names. (In our example, this flower is also known as Eastern Red Columbine)

All plants also have Latin names. The first name refers to the genus (family-name), the second one to the species (first name). LATIN NAMES ARE ALWAYS SPECIFIC!! ASK FOR ANY PLANT CITING/WRITING DOWN THEIR LATIN NAMES TO AVOID ANY CONFUSION.  Example: Aquiliegia canadensis

Should a third name be listed after the Latin names, that plant is a cultivar.  A cultivar

is a plant which has been purposefully, MOST OFTEN asexually bred.  Example:  Aquilegia CANADENSIS ‘Corbett’   

       Please be aware that both (Latin) names have to match if you are searching for a specific plant. Should only the Genus match (in our case Aquiliegia), but not Species (canadensis) you might deal with a plant which has different light/soil/PH requirements and might not benefit the environment the same. 

 As for the cultivars,  purchasing a cultivar of native plants, recent research suggests that IN GENERAL, pollinators, insects and other wildlife benefit from such a choice. However, the further the cultivar is changed from the truly native plant, the less wild-life it supports. In doubt, ask for help at a reputable nursery which features NATIVE PLANTS. 


  • For good practice, always check the invasive species list of your area before purchasing new plants.  



Helpful reminders to ensure successful planting:

  • Know what kind of soil your garden features. Know the PH level you have in your yard. 

Azaleas, Rhododendrons, etc. like acid soil, others don’t. (Soil tests are available at your local extension office) 

      –      Know that afternoon sun affects plants differently than morning sun. Some plants don’t  

              tolerate afternoon exposure.  (ask for assistance in a reputable nursery)

  •        Follow the instructions closely (spacing/water/light requirements) 

Landscaping tips:

  • Buy in odd numbers, most people perceive plants in odd numbers as more harmonious.  
  • Think of color, texture and height to make your garden interesting.
  • Group the same flowers.  A few plants of the same kind make, in general,  a bigger impression than  many “lonely” plants.   
  • Select the flowers so that at least one kind of your chosen plants blooms in every season. 
  • Have a focal point in your yard (A stand-out plant, water feature, statue) 
  • Know that some plants have mosquito repellent qualities. Plant them amongst your native plants. (Lavendar, Marigolds, Mint, Rosemary, Citronella Grass, etc.)
  • Aggressive plants like all mints should be planted in pots. They will take over the yard otherwise. 
  • Know that even though we stress the importance of choosing native plants, it is perfectly acceptable to add some non-native pollinator magnets, such as Zinnias, Anise Hyssops to name a few. 


            Bird             – food source for birds (berries, nectar or insects present on plant)

            Butterfly:   –  Nectar and pollen source for pollinators – butterflies, moths, bees 

                                 and or other insects

            Caterpillar:  – Larval host for butterflies or moths (larva are newly hatched forms of


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Ideally, when planting milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies, one should buy at least 2 species of Milkweed and plant them separately, AWAY FROM OTHER FLOWERS, SO THAT THEY ARE CLEARLY VISIBLE TO FLYING BUTTERFLIES LOOKING FOR A HOST PLANT. Ideally, one should plant them at the periphery of the garden, preferably offset by mulch which MAKES THE PLANT MORE VISIBLE. (Such planting practices attracts 2 ½ -4 times as many visiting butterflies).  PLANT AT LEAST 6 PLANTS.  

PLEASE REFRAIN FROM BUYING TROPIC MILKWEED, as it affects the Monarch butterflies negatively. 

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