Success With Native Plants

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The best way to discover which native plants will work best in your wildlife garden or to get information about where to purchase these plants or how to start native plants from seed is to visit your nearby native plant nursery or to join your local native plant society.

Here at Beautiful Wildlife Garden and also at our sister site Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens we receive many questions about which native plants we recommend that folks plant in their gardens to attract more wildlife. And some of you have expressed frustration about not being able to locate the native plants you are looking for or not having success with your attempts to grow them from seed.

For example, Suzanne Dingwell wrote an excellent article about the beauty of native plants and the diversity of the native plant palette available for use in your wildlife garden, and we received this comment:

To be honest, I have not found many attractive native plants for sale. I’m in Utah and I’ve been trying frantically for a few years to replant large spaces left open by weed eradication and construction for erosion control. I was committed to using all natives, but it’s not working out and my place looks terrible.

And Ellen Sousa wrote a very informative article about how to successfully grow your own native plants from seed, and this comment was left there:

I have tried growing native plants from seed for a few years now. So far it has been high investment, low reward. Most of the seeds I have attempted didn’t germinate, and the vast majority of seedlings that did germinate died quickly. First I didn’t get the seeds cold long enough. Then I let the seedlings get too wet. Then I let the seedlings get too dry. Then I let the seedlings get too cold. Some pots aren’t deep enough for the taproots, others are so deep I go through soil really fast.

There are several ways to overcome this frustration. Your best success will come from educating yourself about the native plants you wish to add to your gardens. Yes, you have to do a bit of homework, but this is fun and will guarantee your success with native plants.

Success With Native Plants

Join your local native plant society and visit nearby native plant nurseries. You’ll find that native plant societies schedule monthly meetings and workshops that provide lots of education about native plants specific to your region. You’ll get to meet lots of other folks who are dealing with similar conditions in their wildlife gardens and they will be eager to answer your questions.

Native plant nursery owners are passionate about sharing their knowledge of native plants and will happily answer your questions about choosing the best plants for success in your wildlife garden. Many native plant nurseries schedule workshops and classes throughout the year where you will be able to learn more and achieve success in your wildlife garden.

Attend native plant workshops and conferences. Many organizations host workshops, lectures, and conferences about specific topics related to native plants, including how to start them from seed. We have created a calendar of these events to help you find workshops near you.

Shop In Your Garden. As you look around your wildlife garden you’ll discover that some native plants are very successful. They happily reseed and spread themselves around your garden. They pop up in your pathways and appear in places where you know you didn’t plant them. Since these plants are proving that they like the conditions in your garden, put that to work for you. Don’t just pull them out of your pathways and toss them away. Instead transplant them into other areas of your garden where you’re looking to fill in some blank spots.

Start Your Own Native Plants From Seed. So what’s a native plant gardener to do, if they want large quantities of native plants? Why, collect seeds and grow your own, of course! You can help support local plant and wildlife communities and have a beautiful, natural native plant garden by collecting seeds from existing natives and growing and distributing the seedlings around the landscape via friends, family and fellow citizens.

Make Sure You Plant Native Plants Correctly. Most plants bought at nurseries, garden centers, or garden fests (native or not) will fail because they are improperly planted and/or do not receive adequate care after planting–especially irrigation. Learn how to plant your native plants in the right place and care for them after planting to ensure your success

Read about Native Plants. There are so many excellent books about gardening with native plants, and if you’re like me, you’re always eager to learn more. So I’ve put together a growing list of books about Native Plants for North America for your reading pleasure. There are books about why native plants are so important, landscaping with native plants, growing native plants, creating wildlife habitat with native plants, gardening for birds, creating a butterfly garden, and gardening for native pollinators.

Locate Local Native Plant Resources

New England Native Plants:

Mid-Atlantic Native Plants:

Native Plants of the South:

Midwest Native Plants:

Native Plants of the Plains:

Southwest Native Plants:

Pacific Coast Native Plants:

Find Native Plants in Canada

Please enjoy these incredible resources to learn which native plants will attract the most wildlife to your garden, discover where to purchase native plants, and how to have success when adding them to your wildlife garden.

© 2014, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    This is a great summary of how to increase your chances of success with native plants, but of course there are no guarantees and even after all your education and effort, we mere gardeners will fail sometimes for no apparent reason. The key is to keep trying until you find some natives that work for your landscape. For instance I planted some Elliot’s lovegrass as a border but two years later it did not grow back after winter. I talked to the plant wholesaler who grew it originally and his advice was, “Don’t plant it there again: try something else.”
    Ginny Stibolt recently posted..A sweet onion harvest, Frostproof, and more…

  2. says

    Thanks for the comprehensive nursery list. Also, what great advice to take those plants that are spiliing into the pathway and move them.. because they already love your garden. In my case, I would leave them be and move the pathway! (I know, not always do-able)
    kathy vilim recently posted..Why Plant Natives?

  3. DeAnna B says

    Thank you for this wonderful article with so many resources! I’ve found it very difficult to grow natives from seed. I had Tuberosa Milkweed seeds and not one germinated. However, the seeds in nature germinated and I had several new seedlings popping up in various places throughout the yard. Now, I order my native plants online and I go to the native plant sale. I start saving my money for the sale several months in advance so I can get whatever I want. Buying the plants is much easier and far more successful than starting natives from seed.


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