Getting in touch with ‘Island roots’

By Joanne Loos Posted in: ImproveThe Fix is In

I have been writing and reading about home and garden topics for more than a decade. In doing so, I often meet professionals who give me advice on how to create a low-maintenance garden that can thrive. It is through these conversations that I learned of the importance of implementing native plants into your garden. Not only are these plants better suited for the environment, but they also tend to fair better and with less maintenance. Plus, they may provide habitats for native species as well.

Melvin Wong wrote an article for the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences at University of Hawaii at Manoa on the best native plants for landscapes. While he gives the caveat that these are based on his own personal preferences for aesthetics and maintenance, he is also very thorough in his descriptions.

Native plants, according to Wong, are those that arrived in Hawaii without the assistance of man. Native plants can be indigenous, which means they are found in other locations as well, or endemic, which means they occur naturally only in Hawaiian Islands.

If you are thinking of adding some native plants to your landscape, consider some of his recommendations:

• Scaevola taccada, known more commonly as beach naupaka, is a hardy shrub often found near the beach or in the mountains. According to Native Plants Hawaii, the naupaka bush (pictured above) is one of the most widely used of all native plants for commercial and residential landscapes in Hawaii.

• Gardenia brighamii, also known as nanu, produces a pleasant fragrance that Wong said is like that of the Tahitian gardenia. According to Native Plants Hawaii, this endemic plant is easy to grow and care for, partly because it is not particular about soil conditions. However, Native Plants Hawaii also mentions that this shrub is prone to insects such as ants, red spider mites and aphids.

• Hibiscus clayi, which is also known as Clay’s hibiscus (pictured above), can add a pop to your garden with its red hue. This is an endemic plant that can be used in container gardens, as hedges, and for screening, according to Native Plants Hawaii. The flowers bloom year-round, but produce no fragrance.

• Pritchardia martii, also referred to as pritchardia, Koolau Range pritchardia or loulu hiwa, are an endemic plant, according to Native Plants Hawaii. This is a small palm that requires fertilizer, occasional pruning and frequent watering.

Have a comment or question for Joanne? Email thefixisinhawaii@gmail.com.