5 Ways plants can help the planet

Elin Harryson 19 July 2022

Plants play an important role in protecting the environment. Expert Elin Harryson shares valuable advice on helping plants to help the planet

Plants are key supporters for life on earth: they release oxygen into the atmosphere, absorb carbon dioxide, provide habitat and food for wildlife and humans, and regulate the water cycle. You can do so many things to help the planet by using plants effectively…the sky and your creativity are the limit!

Here to help us flex our green fingers is Elin Harryson, in-house plant expert at Planta, the Swedish plant care app. 

Woman gardening

Pro pollinators

Creating a nectar garden is the best way to attract different species of wildlife across the seasons. Planting herbs helps to attract butterflies and bees if you allow them to flower, and crocuses are key in providing early spring food for pollinators. Remember that bees can see the colour purple more clearly than any other, so planting alliums or lavender will lead to a bee-filled paradise.  

"Creating a nectar garden is the best way to attract different species of wildlife across the seasons"

Planting key pollinator herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, can also help to boost your garden’s carbon stock. The planting of herbs provides above ground carbon stock, which is crucial for ensuring your ecosystem is balanced and healthy.

Change up your lawn routine

Many of us feel the need to mow our lawns every week, however if you stop your weekly lawn routine for just a month, or even the whole season, you can create a wildlife habitat that will thrive. This will allow clover flowers, daisies, buttercups, and even orchids to grow. Clover flowers are a particular favourite of bumblebees, so by mowing less often you will allow the clover to produce flowers that will attract bees and other helpful insects.

Bee in garden

Creating a bee-friendly garden is good for the planet

In addition, taking a break from lawn maintenance will help to save water, use less gas, and can prevent pests by creating an environment that attracts beneficial insects, like ladybirds and lacewings—the ideal biological pest control. 

Attract the ecosystem

While many of us want to get rid of the pesky bugs lurking in our gardens and plants, using chemical pesticides is bad for the planet. They can not only harm your plants, but can kill beneficial insects, are toxic to wildlife, and cause health issues for the surrounding ecosystem.

One way to get around this while helping the planet is by planting anything with berries, which attract birds. Birds feed on the bad bugs without contaminating soil or food. Holly trees, for example, provide the perfect food for attracting birds. They require little maintenance, with fruit ripening in autumn and remaining on trees into winter. Holly also provides dense cover and good nesting opportunities for birds, as its deep, dry leaf litter may be used by hedgehogs and small mammals for hibernation.

"Chemical pesticides can kill beneficial insects, are toxic to wildlife, and cause health issues for the surrounding ecosystem"

Other plants that work well include fruit-bearing trees like cherry and honeysuckle trees, as well as jasmine, and wisteria. 

Pollution-tolerant plants

Air pollutants are a significant risk to those living in the UK. Cleaning up our air using plants is a great way to help our planet. It has been shown that plants with textured foliage traps pollutants best.  

Close up of Cotoneaster franchetii leaves

Close-up of Cotoneaster franchetii leaves

A study by scientists at the Royal Horticultural Society found that the bushy, hairy-leaved Cotoneaster franchetii are the latest “super plant” to help boost the environment and improve human health. The plant has the ability to fight off pollution by trapping harmful airborne particles. This makes Cotoneaster franchetii an ideal species to plant near busy roads, or in crowded cities, as a way to help reduce toxins that pollute the air.

Native plants

Native plants can provide nectar, pollen, and seeds for birds, butterflies, and all sorts of wildlife, helping them to thrive and bring life to your garden.  

"Allow native plants to bloom and provide food for the ecosystem"

Native plants also promote biodiversity and decrease soil erosion, while reducing the use of herbicides and pesticides—a true win-win. They require much less watering, fertiliser, and pesticides, and have the ability to help decrease air pollution as they eliminate the need for lawn mowers and other garden equipment. Like many other plants, native plants have the ability to pull and store excess carbon.  

Native plants can vary by region, so speak with your local nursery specialist to see what will work best in your area. A key tip is to allow a small part of your lawn to become a “weed” garden, allowing native plants to bloom and provide food for the ecosystem

Read more: 5 Ways to help wildlife in heatwaves

Read more: How to make a good hedgehog house

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