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How to Make a Garden With Native Plants

Using native plants in your gardening and landscaping has many advantages. For one, you use plants that probably need much less maintenance than store-bought plants. You can avoid bringing alien or invasive species into your ecosystem. And you may be able to reduce the amount of money, water, and overall fuss in your gardening!

Wild plants are often as beautiful as store-bought ones.

1. It's not a weed, it's lovely local vegetation! Get out of the mindset that cultivated plants are better than the ones that naturally grow in your area. A weed is simply a plant which is somewhere a human doesn't want it. If you do want it in your garden or landscaping, it's not a weed. While invasive species (see below) are undesirable and should be removed whenever possible, many plants eschewed by gardeners can--with a little imagination and a fresh eye--take their rightful place in your world. Your neighbors might consider you insane at first, but may well come around.

2. Research Your Local Flora. You don't want to unintentionally hurt your local ecosystem, so you will need to do some research.

- Know your Endangered and Threatened Plants. Unfortunately, some plants are threatened, and should not be transplanted for any reason (unless maybe under threat of destruction by home building). Even plants that may look ordinary--like ferns--may in fact be off-limits. Check with your areas endangered and threatened species list.

- Removal of many kinds of cactuses in the USA is a serious offense.

- Some plants may live and thrive in your area, they may actually be pests. For example, in Vermont, USA, purple loosestrife is a beautiful plant, but is an invasive species that hurts the native habitat.

- Yes, it's pretty, but in the wrong habitat loosestrife can elbow out native plants.

- Yes, it's pretty, but in the wrong habitat loosestrife can elbow out native plants.

- Know what local plants are dangerous to have around. For instance, you do not want to start a garden of poison ivy, or encourage highly poisonous plants like nightshade with your baby brother playing in the yard.

- In America, "Leaves of three, let it be." Therefore, not a good candidate for your garden.

- In America, "Leaves of three, let it be." Therefore, not a good candidate for your garden.

- Most high-quality nurseries can guide you into choosing appropriate native species. Some can offer cultivated versions of "wild plants" that should not be re-located. (For instance, trillium or cacti)

- In the USA, some colleges and universities may have agricultural extension services that can help you.

- If you are a student, check with your botany or biology teacher...or a teacher who is fond of gardening (there is almost always one in every school).

3. How Do You Make it Grow? Some plants germinate from seeds, others by "runners" or otherwise clone themselves, or come from tubers, and this is important to know so that you can nurture it the right way. Does it live in sun, shade, in sandy soil, clay soil, damp soil, on rocks...observe the environment and plant accordingly. Although some plants thrive in a variety of situations, others are particular.

- Nearly every species of plant has a web page based on those who love them, whether it's moss, day lillies, cactus, or wildflowers. Usually there will be information on how to care for your plants.

4. When is a Good Time to Cultivate? Along with knowing how to nurture your plant, it's important to understand when is the appropriate time. For instance, planting blackberry bushes in January will doom your vines.

- For many plants, spring is an excellent time to transplant or plant, as plants are often more receptive to change than more mature plants.

- Mid to late summer or fall is an excellent time to save seeds or bulbs, and sometimes to plant for next spring.

5. Transplant or grow native plants in similar conditions. Plants are often adapted to a certain type of soil, amount of sun, water conditions, and so forth. Usually plants fail to thrive when conditions are simply unfavorable, no matter how lovely they look in a certain place.

- Plants with large leaves usually love shade.

- Plants with big flowers typically need lots of sun.

6. Wild plants need TLC, too. While well-established, mature plants are usually low-maintenance, young plants need as much attention as cultivated ones. Be sure to water regularly, if needed, weed, and protect from frost if needed.

7. Wildflower seeds need preparation. If you buy wildflower seeds, be sure to read the soil preparation information on the back of the container. Just throwing the seeds to the wind will not likely yield flowers.

8. Consider your gardenscape. Although obviously plants are featured in a garden, including such natural features as rocks, driftwood, water, and so on. Rock gardens lend themselves to natural plantings, and so do fences made from branches or rock.

- A Japanese Temple garden can inspire use of all natural materials in your garden.

9. Have patience and a willingness to learn. To a large extent, your garden will grow and thrive by Mother Nature's clock, not yours. And the results may not be the ones you expect--as in gardening in general. Every year, you will learn more and more.

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