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The Joy of Gardening

Whether prairie plant or pansy, native or ornamental, gain insight into all aspects of gardening & wildlife.

Starting a Native Garden


I would like to plant some native plants this year, but have absolutely no experience therein. Can you give me some good advice to get started?


Always start small! Do not think you have to create an entire prairie in your first season, or ever. Even individual native plants are beneficial. Starting small will help ensure success in your native plantings, and then you can always expand. This will allow you to learn as you go and not be overwhelmed! I always recommend starting with plugs or potted plants. I realize this is more expensive, but it will also make your life a whole lot easier. Native plants can be slow to establish from seed and are easily overrun by weeds and invasive plants which establish rapidly. Native seeds might also need to undergo a cold period to germinate. Rather than choosing a plant and then putting it where you have space in your garden, try a reverse approach. First consider the available space and then take note of its environmental conditions; soil type, light exposure, soil dampness. Based on the findings, select plants adapted to these conditions to allow for these to thrive. If you want specific features from a plant- i.e. butterfly host; look for this within the group of plants that are suited to your conditions. Also consider the nature of the plant; an aggressive plant can seed prolifically or spread by underground root structures and ultimately take over an area. Seek expert advice prior to purchasing plants to ensure they are a good fit for your expectations. Treat plants like any other perennial, meaning weed and water for the first few years to allow these to root well so they can outcompete weeds. Quality garden centers do offer a selection of native plants or else seek out local native plant sales in Apr/May. Try to avoid cultivars of native plants which are recognizable by the non-Latin word in their name; Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks'. Good luck!

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