How to Feed Native Plants


The good news about growing native plants is that they are fairly carefree and don't require a lot of fussing, fretting and fertilizing. Because natives are perfectly adapted to the environment where they naturally grow, they do just fine without any help from humans. But when you "naturescape," you might need to enhance their growing conditions to make their new home like the one where they thrive in nature. If you do a little research on the native plants you plan to grow, you'll learn exactly what they need.

Step 1

Plant your native plants in an area of your garden where the soil contains no amendments such as compost. Compost contains nitrogen, which encourages bacteria and not the native plants, which it can kill over time.

Step 2

Mulch the garden area where you grow your natives with the correct type of mulch for the individual plants. For example, chaparral plants prefer a mulch of redwood and pine. When you prune leaves, branches or spent flowers, chop them up with your clippers and spread them on the soil around the base of the plant from which you took them. This simulates the natural conditions, keeps the soil cool and moist, and nourishes the plant.

Step 3

Speed the growth of your natives if you wish by applying a slow release fertilizer with a low phosphorus ratio, for example 10-5-10. Spring and fall are the preferred times of year for using a fertilizer of this type.

Step 4

Fertilize native trees with "tree tablets," a commercial product that you drop into holes you dig around the tree's roots. Spring and fall are the best times to use this fertilizer.

Step 5

To encourage blooming of flowering plants, feed them with a low nitrogen plant food in spring, just before they begin their rapid growth and form flower buds. Look for a low number in the N-P-K ratio, for example, 0-10-10.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not remove any native plants from the wild because doing so can reduce natural populations and reduce biodiversity by allowing invasive species to take hold. In addition, plants taken from wild settings often do not perform well in home gardens.

Things You'll Need

  • Unamended soil
  • Clippers
  • Slow release fertilizer low in phosphorus
  • Low nitrogen fertilizer (optional)


  • Las Pilitas Nursery
  • Australian natives
  • United States National Arboretum
Keywords: native plants, fertilizer natural, gardening natural

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hiā€˜iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Barbara 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 She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.