In a preliminary study, consumer perceptions of native plants in traditional and naturalistic settings was investigated. In Montana, 361 participants in an internet study reported their familiarity with both woody and herbaceous native plant species. Additional data were collected to determine their perceptions of native plants used in naturalistic designs through a conjoint study. Nearly half of the study participants recognized or had purchased most of the native plants shown in photographs. Results of the conjoint study showed that participants placed the greatest relative importance (62%) on landscape style as the most important factor in landscape design. They also preferred a naturalistic style over a more traditional style and mixed plant species to single species. Across all comparisons, the high relative importance of landscape style remained constant and was consistent with prior studies. Plant material (21.9%) and species diversity (16.2%) were half the relative importance of design style and remained relatively consistent through most comparisons. Even among those participants not familiar with native plants and those who had not purchased native plants, native plants were preferred in the landscapes. The demand for native plants may be reaching a critical stage for both commercial growers and the landscape profession. Although this study was limited to one state, results show that consumer interest is present and further investigation is warranted.

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Author notes

2Assistant Professor. To whom all correspondence should be directed. <>.

3Professor, Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University, East Lansing MI 48824.

4Professor and Associate Dean, College of Agriculture, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717.