How to Propagate Native Plants

Overview

Wherever you live, so do native plants. Ranging from grasses to fruit trees to all types of wildflowers, native plants are great choices for your landscaping projects because they are very carefree. After they become established, wildflowers and other natives don't need human help---so you're free to relax and enjoy your garden without having to water, fertilize and deadhead your native vegetation. The best way to propagate native plants is from seed, but in some cases root division or cuttings give you the best results.

Propagating Native Plants

Step 1

Collect seeds from wild plants in fall or order them from specialty catalogs (see Resources). If you collect seeds from wild stands of native plants, be sure not to take them all.

Step 2

Clear an area in your yard by removing all weeds, grass and other plants that might shade or compete with young native plants.

Step 3

Start seeds in pots or flats, using regular potting soil. Scatter seeds on top of the soil and then gently pat them down with the palm of your hand.

Step 4

Outdoors, scatter seeds lightly on top of the cleared area and then pat them down with your hand. Think how nature does it and try to emulate that process. Water the area well and keep it moist until your young seedlings are several inches tall.

Step 5

Thin seedlings to four or five inches apart, depending on the species you are growing and the adult height they will attain. For example, California poppies can grow close together, but a native walnut tree will need 10 or more feet between plants.

Step 6

Transplant plants you started in pots or flats when they are 3 to 4 inches tall. However, many natives do not transplant well, so direct seeding into the garden is recommended.

Step 7

Propagate some types of plants from cuttings --- the seeds of some varieties are small, difficult to handle or require special propagation techniques such as cold or heat stratification. The quaking aspen tree is an example of this type of plant.

Step 8

Propagate some plants by root division. Ferns are an example of a type of plant that responds well to this method because their spores are tiny and difficult to begin. Simply dig up a clump of the plant you want and then gently pull off a piece from the root ball and then plant it in the appropriate environment for the type of plant.

Tips and Warnings

  • It can be illegal to collect native plants or their seeds from the wild. Make certain you are not violating any local laws or ordinances before you begin, and always treat areas that contain native plants with respect.

Things You'll Need

  • Native plant seeds
  • Nursery pots or flats
  • Potting soil
  • Garden area with proper conditions

References

  • Native Plants Propagation Protocol Database
  • California Native Plants
  • Native American Seed

Who Can Help

  • Seeds for California
  • Seeds for prairie, meadow, savanna and woodlands
  • Seeds for the Midwest and East
Keywords: propagating native plants, native plant seeds, native plants cuttings division

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 and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.