Cardinal Flower

Living Sustainably: Plant Native Plants this Spring

Native plants help our ecosystems absorb carbon

Spring is a time of growth and rebirth. Raleigh is growing rapidly, and we can plant the seeds for a sustainable community by taking climate action in our lives.

Third-grade student and Raleigh resident Levi recently described his passion for helping the environment and his recommendation to limit driving in cars to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Another step Raleigh residents can take to help our community is planting native plants. Native plants help ecosystems absorb carbon (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and reduce flooding and heat, which are two of the largest climate impacts for Raleigh and our region. Native plants also help prevent runoff (which pollutes our waterways) by soaking up rainwater.

Examples of native plants in Raleigh include:

  • Bee balm
  • Oakleaf hydrangea
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Carolina Phlox
  • Cardinal flowers
  • Southern blue flag
  • Purple coneflowers
  • Butterfly weed
  • Joe Pye weed

You might even plant native trees such as southern magnolia and dogwood trees. You can discover more native plants at the North Carolina Native Plant Society website. Learn more about some of these plants that could be a good fit for a rain garden.  

What about Invasive Species

kudzu taking over trees and bushes

Kudzu, an invasive species in Raleigh

Raleigh has invasive species that disrupt our ecosystem by taking water, light, and soil from native plants and trees that wildlife depends on. Invasive species tend to grow aggressively and can contribute to the amount of pollen in our air. Some examples of invasive species in Raleigh are English ivy, Johnsongrass, Asian wisteria, kudzu, and privet. See a full list of invasive plants from the North Carolina Invasive Plants Council. We want to replace invasive species with native plants wherever possible. 

Plant Native Plants to Attract Bees

Native plants such as butterfly weed can be used to attract pollinators. Did you know that Raleigh is a Bee City USA member? In 2023, the City hosted about 20 pollinator-related outreach activities with more than 100,000 attendees. We created or enhanced 50 habitat projects. The projects include native pollinator-friendly planting and invasive species removal. Attracting pollinators is important for creating and maintaining ecosystems. Pollinators are critical for the production of about one-third of the food crops humans eat. The way to protect our pollinators and our food system is to protect important habitats, and native species are key to these habitats.  

Planting native plants relates to many important climate action strategies in Raleigh’s Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) and 2023 CCAP Implementation Report. The plan includes increasing pollinator habitat and urban agriculture, addressing food security, supporting carbon sinks, reducing flooding and heat, and removing invasive species. Raleigh’s CCAP works toward a sustainable, equitable community, builds community resilience to the impacts of climate change, and sets the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the community 80 percent by 2050. 

Join Us at Earth Day Celebration

If you want to learn more and celebrate the environmental and climate action work happening in Raleigh, be sure to attend Raleigh’s Earth Day Celebration at Dix Park on April 19! It will have live music, games, activities for all ages, and an awards ceremony to recognize the City’s 2024 Environmental Awards winners. We hope to see you there! 



Jessica Reid
Environmental and Sustainability Analyst

Lead Department: