Homeowners reveal why they love their favorite ‘ugly’ backyard plants: ‘The flowers are nothing special whatsoever, but…’

While many landscapers choose plants based purely on looks, some savvy home gardeners are hoping for more far-reaching benefits — like the native plant enthusiasts on Reddit who recently got together to discuss their favorite “ugly” native plants.

The r/NativePlantGardening subreddit is full of tips for creating beautiful gardens with inexpensive and low-maintenance native plants, but that isn’t the members’ only priority. Many also want to support pollinators — the birds and bugs that carry pollen from flower to flower, fertilizing the plant seeds and allowing their fruit to mature.

“What are your favorite ‘ugly’ natives that you plant just because they’re great for pollinators?” asked the Redditor who kicked off the thread.

They also added their own recommended “ugly” native: “My favorite would probably be late figwort,” they said. “It’s tall and lanky, flowers aren’t showy at all, but according to the Xerces Society it’s one of the most prolific nectar producing plants in the world! It also blooms from summer into early fall which is great for the pollinators in my colder region.”

Other Redditors were excited to chime in.

“Mountain mint,” said one user. “The flowers are nothing special whatsoever, but this stuff attracts an amazing variety of pollinators that don’t visit any of my other flowers. Native bees LOVE mountain mint.”

“Canada goldenrod,” said a second commenter. “It’s aggressive, and people think it’s a weed, but it just brings in the pollinators when I have a huge swath of it growing.”

“Richweed and giant yellow hyssop,” said a third user. “Both have very understated tiny yellowish blooms that don’t stick around for long, but both are constantly covered in bees and other pollinators.”

All of these are wonderful recommendations, although, of course, location matters. For example, mountain mint is only native to the eastern half of the U.S., so in the West, it might not fit in as well with the local ecosystem or be as easy to grow.

For that reason, the nonprofit Wild Ones created a guide showing example native plant garden layouts for each of 19 major U.S. cities. Covering a range of regions and climates, it provides options for gardeners who aren’t sure what plants are native to their area and suggestions for helping them thrive.

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