Gardening with Native Plants

A Guide to Planting and Growing Local Native Plants

Native Plants:

Although all native plants once grew in the wild it is important to know that not all plants growing in the wild are native plants. There are many plants growing in the wild that have become naturalized. Other plants growing in the wild may have been introduced by human intervention and are identified as exotic plants. A native plant is one that grows in the wild without human intervention. Many lists of native plants are available. A list of native plants may include all plants native to North America. Other lists may include native plants specific to a region of the United States. A list of local native plants are available from the state department of natural resources, state agricultural resources, state and local organizations, native plant societies, as well as local and state colleges and universities.

Planting Native Plants:

Great diversity exists among native plants. Many native plants thrive in a variety of sites such as wet or dry conditions, they may prefer sun or shade, and plants may prefer low or high soil fertility and may grow in a variety of soils.

Some benefits of planting native plants are: solving landscape problems such as bog areas, attractive plantings for shady areas, requiring less maintenance, providing seasonal color and interest, adding local interest, and being of great value to local wildlife.

Considerations:

  • Plant needs
  • Site conditions
  • Soil conditions
  • Light
  • Moisture

Growing Native Plants:

Understanding the needs of the native plants will assist growth. Most residential and urban landscapes do not resemble natural habitat. And although many native plants are adaptable to residential conditions they may need considerable effort and attention to allow them to adapt. Properly maintained and established native plants may become extremely low-maintenance.

Considerations:

  • Plant type
  • Fertilization
  • Soil
  • Organic amendments

Landscaping Using Native Plants:

Native plants may be integrated into an existing landscape or may be used to create a specific type of landscape that may be beneficial to the homeowner as a home improvement. Many native trees, shrubs, and plants are commonly used by home gardeners and commercial landscapers as well.

  • Naturalistic Landscape
  • Generally informal
  • Low maintenance
  • Seasonal interest and color
  • Beneficial to wildlife
  • Types of Naturalistic Landscape
  • Natural Landscape
  • Prairie/Meadow
  • Woodland
  • Wetland

Obtaining Native Plants:

Most native plants are available through local plant nurseries or other commercial plant vendors. It is best to locate a local, specialty grower, such as plant sales from local native plant societies, local agricultural resources, state resources, or local native plant organizations. Many of these sources offer plant sales in the spring and fall. It is possible to propagate plants from an existing wild plant.

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