Interest in ecological gardening has increased in recent years, largely driven by concerns over environmental issues, including water use and the potential invasiveness of ornamental garden species (Kauth and Pérez, 2011). A common theme of ecological gardening efforts is the inclusion of native plants in landscape design (Uren et al., 2015). Research suggests that gardens composed of native plants are associated with higher native insect β-diversity (the change in species diversity between sites in a community) than those planted with exotic species (Burghardt and Tallamy, 2015). Other studies have shown that exotic plant species support lesser insect species abundance than native plants (Burghardt et al., 2010). Further work by Narango et al. (2017) suggested that urban plantings should include native plant species to provide improved habitats and sustain native fauna.
When considering bees (Anthophila) in particular, many species are generalists and can be found broadly foraging across an array of native, non-native, and cultivated plant species (Baldock et al., 2015; Matteson and Langellotto, 2011; Salisbury et al., 2015; Williams et al., 2011). Nonetheless, gardens with higher proportions of native plants may experience increased bee activity (Fukase and Simons, 2016) and those with more diverse native plant groups increased pollinator diversity (Hostetler and McIntyre, 2001). Therefore, the use of native plant species in garden habitats may help conserve broad insect groups in urban and suburban landscapes, which is particularly timely because of recent reports of global declines in insect populations (Hallmann et al., 2017; Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys, 2019).
Because of their ecological benefits, native plants are a market niche that nursery plant growers and vendors could target. Currently, native plant gardening is an area of interest and growth in the landscaping and nursery industries. The American Society of Landscape Architects ranked native plants and drought-tolerant plants as the two most popular landscape and garden trends in 2018 (Howard, 2018), and the use of native plants by landscape architects and contractors in the southeastern United States has increased with clientele interest (Brzuszek and Harkess, 2009). Despite increasing public interest in incorporating native plants in gardens and other ornamental landscapes, these species are not widely planted by home gardeners and are not widely available at retail nurseries (Avolio et al., 2018; Loram et al., 2008). It is unclear how public interest is balanced with the barriers to adoption that exist at the consumer level and the production level.
On the consumer level, a lack of availability contributes heavily to the low rate of adoption of native garden plants (Wilde et al., 2015). Native plants of limited diversity are available for sale at nurseries, and 74% of the vascular plant species native to the United States are not sold commercially (White et al., 2018). Additionally, gardeners tend to lack knowledge about native plants (Kauth and Pérez, 2011), thereby compounding the issue of availability because gardeners who are not aware of native plants will not request them to be stocked for sale. Finally, consumers tend to prefer cultivated plants that have been bred for aesthetic appeal, or garden standards that are familiar and traditionally used in ornamental landscapes (Yue et al., 2012).
Multiple barriers to adoption also exist at the production level. Nurseries will not increase their selection of native plants for sale unless a market exists for these species, forming a feedback loop with a lack of demand from consumers (Wilde et al., 2015). From a production standpoint, there is limited information regarding the performance of native plants across a realistic range of garden settings, thus complicating the prioritization of plants to produce for sale. Similarly, propagation methods for these plants are generally lacking, and smaller niche nurseries lack resources to create protocols or introduce new plants into production (Norcini, 2007). In addition, the localized nature of native plants means that markets are regionalized. This can make it difficult for growers to scale-up production and can limit sales to smaller geographic regions.
If nursery growers are interested in meeting the public’s demand for native plants, then it would be useful to know which plants show the most promise for retail sales and how gardeners who identify as native plant gardeners (compared to the general gardening public) perceive native plants as garden plants. Therefore, we conducted two online surveys to quantify the appeal of flowering plants that are native to the northwestern United States. The objective of our first survey was to quantify the baseline appeal of 23 native northwestern U.S plant species to gardeners. For this first survey, we hypothesized that gardeners who identified themselves as a native plant gardener would find native plants more aesthetically appealing and would be more willing to include these native plants in their gardens than other gardeners.
The objective of the second survey was to investigate whether access to information regarding the ecological benefits of specific native plants would change gardeners’ opinions of these plants. We hypothesized that all gardeners would increase their positive impression of native plants by a similar magnitude, irrespective of demographic group, after learning about the bees that are associated with various native plant species. Again, we hypothesized that gardeners who identify as native plant gardeners would rank these plants higher, overall, than non-native plant gardeners.
Avolio, M.L., Pataki, D.E., Trammell, T.L. & Endter-Wada, J. 2018 Biodiverse cities: The nursery industry, homeowners, and neighborhood differences drive urban tree composition Ecol. Monogr. 88 259 276
Baldock, K.C., Goddard, M.A., Hicks, D.M., Kunin, W.E., Mitschunas, N., Osgathorpe, L.M., Potts, S.G., Robertson, K.M., Scott, A.V., Stone, G.N. & Vaughan, I.P. 2015 Where is the UK’s pollinator biodiversity? The importance of urban areas for flower-visiting insects Proc. Biol. Sci. 282 20142849
- Search Google Scholar
- Export Citation
Baldock, K.C. Goddard, M.A. Hicks, D.M. Kunin, W.E. Mitschunas, N. Osgathorpe, L.M. Potts, S.G. Robertson, K.M. Scott, A.V. Stone, G.N. Vaughan, I.P. 2015 Where is the UK’s pollinator biodiversity? The importance of urban areas for flower-visiting insectsProc. Biol. Sci. 282 20142849
Bamberg, S. 2003 How does environmental concern influence specific environmentally related behaviors? A new answer to an old question J. Environ. Psychol. 23 21 32
Brzuszek, R.F. & Harkess, R.L. 2009 Green industry survey of native plant marketing in the southeastern United States HortTechnology 19 168 172
Burghardt, K.T., Philips, C.R., Tallamy, D.W. & Shropshire, K.J. 2010 Non-native plants reduce abundance, richness, and host specialization in lepidopteran communities Ecosphere 1 1 22
Burghardt, K.T. & Tallamy, D.W. 2015 Not all non-natives are equally unequal: Reductions in herbivore β-diversity depend on phylogenetic similarity to native plant community Ecol. Lett. 18 1087 1098
Campbell, B., Khachatryan, H. & Rihn, A. 2017 Pollinator-friendly plants: Reasons for and barriers to purchase HortTechnology 27 831 839
Cubino, J.P., Cavender-Bares, J., Groffman, P.M., Avolio, M.L., Bratt, A.R., Hall, S.J., Larson, K.L., Lerman, S.B., Narango, D.L., Neill, C., Trammell, T.L., Wheeler, M.M. & Hobbie, S.E. 2020 Taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional composition and homogenization of residential yard vegetation with contrasting management Landsc. Urban Plan. 202 103877
- Search Google Scholar
- Export Citation
Cubino, J.P. Cavender-Bares, J. Groffman, P.M. Avolio, M.L. Bratt, A.R. Hall, S.J. Larson, K.L. Lerman, S.B. Narango, D.L. Neill, C. Trammell, T.L. Wheeler, M.M. Hobbie, S.E. 2020 Taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional composition and homogenization of residential yard vegetation with contrasting managementLandsc. Urban Plan. 202 103877 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2020.103877
Dietz, T., Stern, P.C. & Guagnano, G.A. 1998 Social structural and social psychological bases of environmental concern Environ. Behav. 30 450 471
Fukase, J. & Simons, A.M. 2016 Increased pollinator activity in urban gardens with more native flora Appl. Ecol. Environ. Res. 14 297 310
Hallmann, C.A., Sorg, M., Jongejans, E., Siepel, H., Hofland, N., Schwan, H., Senmans, W., Müller, A., Sumser, H., Hörren, T., Goulson, D. & de Kroon, H. 2017 More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas PLoS One 12 e0185809
- Search Google Scholar
- Export Citation
Hallmann, C.A. Sorg, M. Jongejans, E. Siepel, H. Hofland, N. Schwan, H. Senmans, W. Müller, A. Sumser, H. Hörren, T. Goulson, D. de Kroon, H. 2017 More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areasPLoS One 12 e0185809 10.1371/journal.pone.0185809
Hostetler, N.E. & McIntyre, M.E. 2001 Effects of urban land use on pollinator (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) communities in a desert metropolis Basic Appl. Ecol. 2 209 218
Howard, C. 2018 ASLA survey: Demand high for sustainable residential landscapes 12 Oct. 2020. <https://www.gardencentermag.com/article/asla-demand-sustainableresidential-landscapes/>
Kauth, P.J. & Pérez, H.E. 2011 Industry survey of the native wildflower market in Florida HortTechnology 21 779 788
Khachatryan, H. & Rihn, A.L. 2018 Defining U.S. consumers’ (mis)perceptions of pollinator friendly labels: An exploratory study Intl. Food Agribus. Mgt. Rev. 21 365 378
Loram, A., Thompson, K., Warren, P.H. & Gaston, K.J. 2008 Urban domestic gardens (XII): The richness and composition of the flora in five UK cities J. Veg. Sci. 19 321 330
Matteson, K.C. & Langellotto, G.A. 2011 Small scale additions of native plants fail to increase beneficial insect richness in urban gardens Insect Conserv. Divers. 4 89 98
Mircioiu, C. & Atkinson, J. 2017 A comparison of parametric and non-parametric methods applied to a Likert scale Pharmacy 5 26
Narango, D.L., Tallamy, D.W. & Marra, P.P. 2017 Native plants improve breeding and foraging habitat for an insectivorous bird Biol. Conserv. 213 42 50
Norcini, J.F. 2007 Native plants: An overview 2016. Univ. Florida, Inst. Food Agric. Sci. Ext. Publ. ENH1045. 12 Oct. 2020. <https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep297>
Salisbury, A., Armitage, J., Bostock, H., Perry, J., Tatchell, M. & Thompson, K. 2015 Editor’s choice: Enhancing gardens as habitats for flower-visiting aerial insects (pollinators): Should we plant native or exotic species? J. Appl. Ecol. 52 1156 1164
- Search Google Scholar
- Export Citation
Salisbury, A. Armitage, J. Bostock, H. Perry, J. Tatchell, M. Thompson, K. 2015 Editor’s choice: Enhancing gardens as habitats for flower-visiting aerial insects (pollinators): Should we plant native or exotic species?J. Appl. Ecol. 52 1156 1164 10.1111/1365-2664.12499
Sánchez-Bayo, F. & Wyckhuys, K.A. 2019 Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers Bio. Cons. 232 8 27
Smith, R.M., Thompson, K., Hodgson, J.G., Warren, P.H. & Gaston, K.J. 2006 Urban domestic gardens (IX): Composition and richness of the vascular plant flora, and implications for native biodiversity Biol. Conserv. 129 312 322
Uren, H.V., Dzidic, P.L. & Bishop, B.J. 2015 Exploring social and cultural norms to promote ecologically sensitive residential garden design Landsc. Urban Plan. 137 76 84
White, A., Fant, J.B., Havens, K., Skinner, M. & Kramer, A.T. 2018 Restoring species diversity: Assessing capacity in the U.S. native plant industry Restor. Ecol. 26 605 611
Wilde, H.D., Kamal, J.K.G. & Colson, G. 2015 State of the science and challenges of breeding landscape plants with ecological function Hort. Res. 2 14069
Williams, N.M., Cariveau, D., Winfree, R. & Kremen, C. 2011 Bees in disturbed habitats use, but do not prefer, alien plants Basic Appl. Ecol. 12 332 341
Wollaeger, H.M., Getter, K.L. & Behe, B.K. 2015 Consumer preferences for traditional, neonicotinoid-free, bee-friendly, or biological control pest management practices on floriculture crops HortScience 50 721 732
Yue, C., Hurley, T.M. & Anderson, N.O. 2011 Do native and invasive labels affect consumer willingness to pay for plants? Evidence from experimental auctions Agr. Econ. 42 195 205
Yue, C., Hurley, T.M. & Anderson, N.O. 2012 Heterogeneous consumer preferences for native and invasive plants: Evidence from experimental auctions HortScience 47 1091 1095