How to Garden Native Plants

Overview

Plants that are native to the region where you live are among the easiest to grow and maintain. That's because they are adapted to the specific environmental conditions--the type of soil, the amount of rainfall, the winter lows and summer high temperatures are all what native plants need to thrive and survive. It's unnecessary to fertilize many native plants because Mother Nature provides them with everything they need. All you need to do is scatter seeds or plant young native plants and then sit back and enjoy your natural landscape.

Step 1

Prepare garden beds for your native plants in fall. Select sunny places in your yard and mark off beds by pounding a wooden, plastic or metal stake at each corner and then tying string to form a rectangle. Make beds at least 2 feet wide by 4 or 6 feet long. Pull all weeds and unwanted plants from the bed area.

Step 2

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of any type of organic compost and other organic materials, such as peat moss, on top of the soil in your bed areas. Turn it under to a depth of 8 to 12 inches and then water the area with a sprinkler for 20 minutes or longer.

Step 3

Broadcast seeds of many native species in fall. Follow seed packet instructions for correct planting depths, distances apart and other particulars regarding each type of seed. Water well for 15 to 20 minutes.

Step 4

Dig planting holes for bedding plants that are large enough to accommodate the roots of each plant. Leave sufficient space between plants, based on their mature size. Then, set the native bedding plants into their planting holes and cover them with the soil/compost mixture. Water well for 15 to 20 minutes.

Step 5

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost or other organic material on the ground around your plants to serve as a mulch to help keep the soil warm and moist and keep weeds away.

Step 6

Control snails and slugs by scattering iron phosphate granules or diatomaceous earth on the soil around your new plants and sprouting seeds. If aphids or other insects attack your plants, spray them with insecticidal soap every other day until all signs of the insects are gone.

Tips and Warnings

  • Some of your native plants will thrive and survive and others will not. You can try again with the ones that don't make it, but with natives the adage "survival of the fittest" applies.

Things You'll Need

  • Stakes
  • String
  • Compost or peat moss
  • Shovel
  • Seeds or plants
  • Sprinkler
  • Mulch
  • Insecticidal soap (optional)
  • Iron phosphate (optional)
  • Diatomaceous earth (optional)

References

  • United States National Arboretum: What Is a Native Plant, Anyway?
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: A Guide to Native Plant Gardening

Who Can Help

  • ENature.com: Native Gardening and Invasive Plants Guide
Keywords: native plants, natural gardening, organic growing

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.