Native plants grow in all of the world's ecosystems. They provide food, shelter, shade, soil nutrients and many other beneficial benefits to other native species, such as birds, mammals and insects. When you discover the plants that are native to your region and begin to include them in your landscaping, you'll be adding carefree members to your plant community. Natives will add interest to your landscaping and will attract butterflies and other desirable creatures.
Plan Before You Plant
Evaluate your property in terms of its size, whether it is mostly sunny, partly shady, wet or dry. Different native plants have different cultural needs, so with a little knowledge you'll be able to choose appropriate plants that will stand a better chance of succeeding in environmental conditions that are favorable to them. If you measure areas where you want to include native plants, you'll get an idea of how many plants you can introduce to each area. Native trees are an important part of natural ecosystems, so don't forget to consider adding one or more trees that occur in your part of the world. Determine how much space all plants will need when they are mature, and don't overplant. Your property might look bare after you first plant your natives, but they will grow larger and many, such as wildflowers, will drop their seeds and create more plants without your help.
Choose Locally Occurring Natives
The conditions under which native plants grow can vary from mile to mile in nature. If a plant, such as a fern, needs to live where water is plentiful, it will succeed near creeks, rivers or lakes and not in a hot, dry, sunny area nearby. Keep this in mind when you select your native plants and evaluate the conditions on your property. If you have a large tree, for example, you might consider growing a shade loving native such as baby blue eyes (Nemopila insignis) underneath it. For sunnier areas, choose other plants, such as native poppies, penstemon and others that occur naturally within several miles of your home.
Evaluate Your Soil
Consider doing a soil test before you begin. Many native plants are not particular about the soil in which they grow, but some have specific needs. If your soil is similar to the surrounding native soil type, locally occurring natives will do well without the addition of compost or other additives to your soil. However, if your soil is heavy clay or sand, for example, you might want to add compost and other organic materials to improve drainage and give the soil some nutrients, which all plants need to survive.
Combine Natives With Other Plants
There's no reason to isolate your native landscaping from your ornamental plants, fruit trees, vegetables and lawn. If you create a circular area in the center of your lawn, for example, a splash of colorful clarkias, poppies or penstemons can liven up a solid green area. Shade-loving natives such as baby blue eyes add color and interest to areas under trees. And don't forget native grasses: ornamental grasses such as red fountain grass are attractive and add lovely movement to border areas of lawns and other planted areas.