COLUMBIA, Mo. – Nativars, superhero plants that possess the virtues of native plants but in a more attractive package, make good choices for landscaped areas.
Use nativars as part of your gardening “green movement,” said University of Missouri Extension horticulturist David Trinklein.
Native plants earn gardeners’ accolades because they grow naturally in the local environment. They have stood the test of time, weathering Missouri’s varied temperatures, precipitation, pests and soils. Additionally, many attract and preserve pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Trinklein, however, is among the horticulturists who prefer the ornamental appeal of nativars, a term coined by University of Georgia horticulturist Allan Armitage to describe cultivars selected or hybridized from native species.
Nativars offer the benefits of native plants, but their blooms often are more vibrant, larger and showier, Trinklein says. The plants tend to be more compact and neater-looking than the native species from which they were selected. Like native plants, most nativars require little care and are eco-friendly.
Trinklein said two good examples of nativars are purple coneflower “Magnus” and black-eyed Susan “Goldsturm.” Both are selections from native species but have greater eye appeal in the garden.
Nativars do have their critics. Purists in the native plant movement do not agree that nativars can be equated to native species, Trinklein says. They suggest nativars vary too much in appearance from their native species and do not attract wildlife equally, especially pollinators.
However, Trinklein says many nativars bloom longer than their purely native relatives. This makes them available to pollinators for a longer period.
“Unless your gardening efforts are aimed solely at nurturing wildlife, the next time a landscape situation calls for an attractive, low-maintenance perennial requiring minimal input of natural resources, consider nativars,” Trinklein suggests. “They are proof, contrary to the popular adage, that you can have your cake and eat it too.”