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1404 Goodale Boulevard, Suite 100
Columbus, OH 43212
Phone: (614) 486-9613
Fax: (614) 486-9614

Gardening For Clean Water

Gardening for Clean Water
provides local nurseries with native plant education and tools for staff and customers to promote the use of native plants and clean water.

What is a native plant?
Native plants are species of plants that are originally from a specific region. These can be trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns, graminoids, and forbs.

Why are native plants important?
Native species of plants have been co-evolving with other species of birds, insects, and other wildlife for thousands of years. This has created crucial relationships in which these animals rely on certain plants to breed or eat. Without native plants, many species of wildlife would go extinct. Non-native alternatives do not provide these same ecosystem services and therefore can cause indirect harm to wildlife. Not only are native plants important to animals, but they also provide numerous benefits to improve water quality. Compared to non-native plant species, native plants have extensive root systems that help absorb and filter pollutants from stormwater. These root systems also improve soil health and help hold soil into place better, reducing erosion and keeping sediment out of local streams and rivers! By planting native plants, you are taking a step to support local wildlife and improve water quality in Central Ohio! The program currently involves optional education for nursery employees about stormwater pollution, an onsite store display, and rain garden plant tags.

***The Use of Cultivars***


What is a cultivar? A cultivar is a plant bred by humans for a specific genetic trait. Typically, it is for a specific color, height, or flower shape.


Gardening for Clean Water strives to promote the usage of native plants by labeling native plants at local partnering nurseries. We recognize that a lot of native species found at nurseries are cultivars of the straight species AKA wild type you would find naturally occurring in nature. While we understand the importance and benefits that straight native species provide, we do not want to count out some of the benefits that cultivars can provide. Only 55% of Americans participate in gardening activities. Cultivars can serve as a gateway for newer gardeners to engage with native plants since they may initially be more concerned with plant size, shape or disease resistance than their environmental benefit. 


For more information on cultivars, check out these links:


  • In this study done of six native shrubs compared to their cultivars, it was determined that native shrub cultivars are not universally less or more attractive to pollinators and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Source:

  • In this study conducted on native woody plant cultivars compared to their wild type, they found no evidence that cultivar traits of enhanced fruiting, leaf variegation, disease resistance, and altered growth habitat affect insect populations. Only cultivars with leaf color changes to a more red or purple color were preferred less by insects. Source:

  • This robust series of studies looks specifically at pollinators and how specific varieties change how they visit flowers of native plants. Chapter 1 provides an overview of current literature. Chapter 2 analyzes an array of species and varieties, and calls for each variety to be analyzed independently as it shows that many insect pollinators prefer native species over cultivated varieties, but not all varieties and not all pollinators follow this “rule”! Chapter 3 looks specifically at Coneflower (Echinacea) varieties and finds that the straight species attracts more overall pollinators than any of the tested varities.


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