How to Design With Native Plants


No matter where you live and garden, you can add a natural look to your yard by growing easy-care native plants. Because these plants are perfectly adapted to the climate where they live, they give you the freedom of not having to fuss with much water or fertilizer, or even the need to control insects that might attack other plants. Also, many native plants will readily reseed themselves, giving you "wonderful weeds" and spreading their population to other parts of your property. When you grow native plants, chances are they will attract birds, butterflies and beneficial insects, which will help to increase biodiversity and make your property a bit of a nature sanctuary.

Step 1

Assess your yard in terms of which areas receive the most sun, which areas get the least sun, and any areas that might have poor drainage and standing water. Ask yourself if there is an area where a large tree would be appropriate; whether you want lawn or a native groundcover; if there are areas where taller plants would be appropriate, and perhaps areas in front of those plants where shorter plants would fit well.

Step 2

Draw a map of your property that includes the general areas you have identified. Mark areas where you want a tree, areas that are shady, areas that are sunny and so forth. Be sure to include ways to walk through the area by including paths and areas to sit and relax. Also think about the possibility of including structures, such as a gazebo or potting shed.

Step 3

Visit a nursery in your area that carries a good selection of native plants. Discuss their needs with a knowledgeable staff member and explain the particulars of your yard. Be sure to bring your map with you.

Step 4

Prepare your planting area(s) by removing plants you do not want or need, building your paths or determining exactly where they will go, and then digging compost or other organic materials into your garden bed area(s).

Step 5

Plant your young plants in the areas you have defined for them, making sure that you leave sufficient space for growth between plants. If you plant natives in the fall, your winter rains should be all the irrigation they need to get a good start in life.

Step 6

Prune or trim natives to encourage bushiness and keep them looking tidy. If you leave spent flowers on flowering natives, they should form seeds, which will drop to the ground and self-sow without any help from you.

Things You'll Need

  • Native plant starts or seeds
  • Shovel or trowel
  • Compost


  • Native plant network
  • Plant Native
  • Seeds for the Midwest and East

Who Can Help

  • Seeds for California
  • Seeds for the Southwest
  • Seeds for prairie, meadow, savanna and woodlands
Keywords: native plants, landscaping naturescaping, gardening easy

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.