Native plants program helps gardeners fight nature and climate crises

It is now easier than ever for gardeners to join WWF-Canada’s efforts to provide essential wildlife habitat and capture carbon by growing native plants in yards and containers. Native plants — those that have adapted to local conditions and have deep relationships with other plants and wildlife native to an area — can now be found in 120 Loblaw garden centres throughout southern and eastern Ontario and 10 in southern Quebec.

This increased accessibility to native plants is possible thanks to a partnership between In the Zone — a program run in collaboration by WWF-Canada and Carolinian Canada — and Loblaw Companies Ltd (Loblaw).

Gardening novices and pros alike can talk to gardening and wildlife experts and learn more about native plants at pop-up stations in garden centres across Ontario and Quebec. More date and location details below.

Essential for healthy landscapes, native plants are the gold standard for attracting pollinators and restoring wildlife habitats. They support a vast diversity of insects, birds, mammals; healthy soil ecosystems and clean water; and other living organisms through the food web. Plus, being hardy and low maintenance (almost all are perennial), they’re perfect to build all-season, gorgeous gardens that are more resilient to climate change.

Last year, nearly 69,000 plants were sold across southern and eastern Ontario and southern Quebec, a 60 per cent increase in the number of plant species sold compared to 2020. In total, over 37,000 hectares are being managed for wildlife by In the Zone participants.

Kate Landry, Senior manager, Community action, Restoration and Regeneration, WWF-Canada, says:

“When faced with dire news about nature loss and how it is driving wildlife loss and climate change, people look for what they can do to help, and they are often excited to find out they can make a difference in their outdoor space by growing native plants. This is the third year with native plants at Loblaw garden centers and we’re thrilled to see growing enthusiasm for In the Zone and native plant gardening. We hope that even more people will be adding native plants to their yards and balconies this year, creating critical patchworks of habitat for wildlife throughout areas otherwise dominated by humans.”

By choosing native plants with the In the Zone tag, people can be assured their plants are:

  • native to the region
  • sourced from a local, known original wild population
  • grown from seeds that have been collected ethically
  • genetically diverse (not propagated clones)
  • wild-type plants (not cultivars/nativars)
  • grown without neonicotinoids and glyphosate; and other pesticide use is limited

Many wildlife species in southern and eastern Ontario and southern Quebec benefit from native plant gardening, including:

  • Monarch butterfly
  • Rusty-patched bumblebee
  • Jefferson salamander
  • Blanding’s turtle
  • Woodland vole
  • Peregrine falcon
  • Red-headed woodpecker
  • Ruby-throated hummingbird 

Gardeners are invited to help grow Canada’s biggest wildlife garden by signing up for the In the Zone program, where they’ll get access to free garden guides, gardening tips, and contribute to community science through the Garden Tracker.

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