The short answers are “No. And a big difference.”
Native plants bring beauty to the landscape and provide important food and shelter for beneficial insects, songbirds and wildlife. On top of that, a well-chosen assortment of natives plants requires no fertilizer, is relatively disease free, and once established, requires no watering except in extreme drought.
With a little planning, a small plot of earth can play a big role in sustaining a healthy ecosystem. Native plantings will delight and entertain as they provide visual evidence of their environmental benefit: birds eating berries and gathering nesting material, butterflies flitting from plant to plant sipping nectar, and insects nibbling on the leaves.
Yes, that’s the other benefit of a native garden: No frantic worrying when you see insects, no more running for the spray. We need those insects a lot more than they need us, and sharing your garden with them is well worth your while.
The vast majority of pollination is done by wild insects. Native insects rely on native plants for survival. Introduced plants, no matter how beautiful, are of little interest to native pollinators. If insects aren’t around to pollinate our crops, the task will fall to people. It’s already happening in China, where they have resorted to costly hand pollination for some fruit crops.
If the story of pollination doesn’t convince you that we need native plants, think back to the food chain we learned about in middle school biology. Remove the little critters at the bottom and watch the effects ripple up to the top. Then look around and see who’s at the top. We are.
If all this is too much of a science lesson for you, no worries. Enjoy all that a native garden has to offer and watch birds, butterflies and blooms unfold season by season. Add a native plant or two, and let the show begin.