Did you know that stormwater runoff, water that reaches the bay after a rainstorm, is actually a huge cause of ocean pollution? This water carries litter, pet waste, sediment, excess nutrients, and chemicals into the bay, all of which harm marine life, water quality, and people. If you have a yard, one easy step you can take to help preserve the Chesapeake Bay from runoff is following these simple Bay-Wise gardening tips.

Landscape with Native Plants

The first step you can take is to select native grasses and plants (perennials, trees, and shrubs) for your landscaping. Native plants are well suited to local growing conditions and typically require less fertilizer and pesticide use than non-natives. They also develop larger root systems than many cultivated varieties, and therefore take up more rainwater and absorb more excess nutrients from the rest of the garden while preventing or slowing runoff. Growing native plants also helps native wildlife thrive — especially pollinators such as hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, and bees.

Native Plants to Grow


  •       Monarda (bee balm)
  •       Eastern Columbine
  •       Native Milkweed
  •       New York Ironweed
  •       Black-Eyed Susan
  •       Golden Groundsel
  •       Turk’s Cap Lilly
  •       Joe Pye Weed
  •       Cardinal Flower
  •       Pussytoes
  •       Foxglove
  •       Beardtongue


  •       Panicum
  •       Little Bluestem
  •       Northern Sea Oats
  •       Big Bluestem

Shrubs & Vines:

  •       Rose Mallow
  •       Hillside Blueberry
  •       Serviceberry
  •       Coral Honeysuckle
  •       Arrowwood

Plant a Tree

Trees have large root systems that are excellent at taking up water and nutrients. As with other plants, we recommend selecting a native variety, which will be easy to maintain and will support local wildlife.

Native Trees

  • Pawpaws
  • White Oaks
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Eastern Redbud
  • Southern Magnolia
  • American Holly
  • Black Gum
  • Eastern White Pine

The State of Maryland is partnering with businesses, communities, and citizens to help fund more native tree cover. You can receive a coupon for $25 off the purchase of a native tree from the Marylanders Plant Trees program.

Pass the Word Along

While making a difference in your own yard is important, you can double your impact by educating others. Talk to your friends and neighbors about the importance of Bay-Wise gardening and explain what you’re doing in your yard. You can also put up a sign in front of your wildflower bed.

Become a Bay-Wise Gardener

If you’d like to take this a step further, consider becoming a certified Bay-Wise gardener. A program through the University of Maryland Extension, the Bay-Wise program, is taught by Maryland Master Gardeners and covers multiple elements of Bay-Wise landscaping and stormwater management.

Stormwater runoff affects local wildlife, marine life, and people. By using these Bay-Wise gardening techniques, you can help mitigate local stormwater runoff and help protect our beautiful bay.

For more information about how to preserve our Bay, check out these Bay Wise Gardening tips from our expert, Heather Wheatley.

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