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Be a Smart Gardener and Plant Native Plants Near Shorelines
Published: 2/7/2024
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Plants that grow in, along, and above the water play an important role in lake ecosystems and provide critical habitat for fish, birds, and other wildlife. While removing aquatic plants, installing seawalls, and building sandy beaches are popular on lakefront properties, these activities destroy the natural features that protect lakes.

Turfgrass is especially not suited near shorelines because its short roots do not have the strength to withstand waves and ice, making the shoreline area susceptible to erosion. Turfgrass is also a favorite food for Canada Geese which cause problems for your yard and add nutrients to the lake that can lead to algae blooms.

Residents lucky enough to live on lakes must be especially conscious of their landscaping given their proximity to water and the critical role plants play near shoreline areas. Without a healthy, vegetated, and vibrant shoreline, lake health can decline. Deep rooted native plants have stronger, deeper, and more complex roots systems than turfgrass and help minimize erosion. Having native vegetation along shorelines can also help filter out pollutants like phosphorus and nitrogen that may runoff from yards and contribute to algae blooms in the summer. There are many landscaping options that are both beautiful and beneficial for shoreline areas. Many resources exist for property owners looking to enhance shoreline areas. 

The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership has a variety of resources including native plant options, design ideas, a list of natural shoreline landscaping companies, and a free program to grade the health of your shoreline. Learn more at

Learn more and get inspired with the Shoreline Living magazine. It features property owners who dipped their toes into natural shoreline landscaping: 

Smart Gardening is Michigan State University Extension’s campaign to help gardeners make smart choices in their backyards. The Shorelands series focuses on landscaping and protecting water. Topics include rain gardens, stormwater, protecting frogs, gardening into the water, lakeshore gardening and preventing aquatic invasive species. The factsheets can be found at Do your part and encourage your lakeshore neighbors to do theirs to keep the waterways in Novi in good shape.