According to the National Audubon Society, America has suffered a loss of 150 million acres of natural habitat. This is mostly because of irrevocable urbanization, the rise in popularity of exotic plants, and the modern obsession with neatly manicured lawns.
This is why restoring even a small bit of the native habitat is important and beneficial for biodiversity conservation.
Native plants naturally occur in a region and not only contribute to the aesthetics of the area, but are also low-maintenance and provide a great habitat for the local fauna.
With that in mind, if you’re selecting native plants for landscaping, here’s a handy checklist that can help you out:
Native plants require a bit of planning and preparation before you actually put them in their place. The most important bit is pulling out all the weeds because they take away the nutrients that are actually meant for your plants.
You can pull them by hand or even spot-spray so that your native plantation can have a healthy growing environment to begin with.
Secondly, you might want to opt for seedlings instead of fully grown plants, as they grow quicker and bigger in a more efficient manner.
Thirdly, you will also need to map things out before planting your native seedlings. A rough outline of where you want to place which plant species can help you visualize the overall landscape effect, while also determining an estimate of the number of seedlings you’ll need.
After you’ve prepared your garden, you can head to your local nursery or even find an online database where you can look at all the options of native plants that you have in your region.
In general, native plants in the USA can be divided into six geographic regions. Let’s take a look at them:
- Midwest: Almost skewed in the center of America, these states are mostly land-locked and lie on a vast plain. Plants that are native to the midwest region include Wild Ginger, Bottle Gentian, Spicebush, and many more.
- Northeast: This part of America is on the Atlantic coast and leans into Canada on one side. It also runs the course of the Appalachians and has some stunning landscapes. Plants native to this area include the evergreen Eastern Red Cedar, Cinnamon Ferns, Blue-Eyed Grass, and the Eastern Hornbeam.
- Pacific Northwest: Surrounded by the coast on its west and the Rockies in the east, this region is native to the Douglas Fir, Vine Maple, Evergreen Huckleberry, and the Indian Plum.
- Rocky Mountains: As one of the most iconic regions of America, the Rocky Mountains are not just home to a fantastic National Park, but also wonderful native plant species that include the Rocky Mountain Juniper, Rocky Mountain Maple, Chokecherry, Willows, and the Creeping Oregon Grape.
- Southeast: The southeast is the land of rolling hills and river valleys with rich soil. You’ll find a lot of flowering trees (cherry, plum, pear, etc.) in this region. Other than that, there’s also the Sour Gum Tree and the Willow Oak.
- Southwest: The American Southwest features a dry and rocky landscape with lots of plateaus and the occasional greenery and forests. Popular native plants in the area include the spiny tree of Blue Palo Verde, the evergreen Rocky Mountain Juniper, and the Desert Willow Shrub.
In conclusion, knowing what plants thrive in which region can help you choose the right ones.
There are a number of design considerations that you need to keep in mind when landscaping a native garden. Here are a few of them:
Here, it’s really important to understand that you can’t simply select your native biodiversity based on their looks. You need to acclimate yourself to their preferred growing conditions as well.
This means that you need to take a closer look at your garden. Assess its topography, its soil condition, how much sunlight it gets in certain areas, etc. Now correspond this information with what your desired native plant requires and buy accordingly. Some plants might love the dappled shade, so putting them in the direct sun can make them wilt and vice versa.
Native biodiversity comes in a lot of shapes and sizes. You’ll find lovely flowers, plants that have quite a distinct foliage, shrubs that lean on the shorter side and hedges with tall stems that reach for the sky. You’ll need to acquaint yourselves with all of them, then pick out which ones you want to plant in your garden.
You cannot just haphazardly place all these plants next to each other. There needs to be a deliberateness to your method. Educate yourself in contrast, textures, and color schemes.
For example, a statement bush cannot be placed in the middle of a flower bed, but you can design a three-tiered landscape element where the top tier highlights the foliage, while the lower tiers have flowers.
You also need to decide which plants provide the best foliage contrast and whether they’d be compatible if you placed them together. Similarly, take a look at the color wheel and see which flowers from your native biodiversity palate can be put together in the same bed based on their (compatible) color schemes.
All of this is going to ensure that your garden is visually pleasant and coherent in the end.
Native plants are so ideal because they are very easy to maintain and rarely need an extensive care plan. They are already accustomed to regional soil and do not need any extra amendments or fertilizers to facilitate their growth. They take what they need directly from the soil.
However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to maintain them at all. Here’s a handy checklist of the tools required to keep up with their needs:
- Watering equipment: Every plant needs watering – though not much in the case of native plants. Therefore, you need to equip yourselves with the right tools to keep up with their needs. Watering cans are a bit old fashioned now, which is why many homeowners are opting for retractable hose reels. They’re very easy to use as they automatically coil back up in their shells and can be outfitted with a nozzle that can help you control the water pressure while taking care of your plants.
- Rakes: If you plan on mulching or cleaning up grass clippings, then you cannot overlook rakes. Pro tip: don’t overdo the mulching with native plants. Just two, or maximum three inches, is enough for that extra care.
- Hand trowel or hoe: Pulling out weeds is also something that you need to add to your plan of maintenance. This is why you need to add a hand trowel or a hoe to your gardening kit. They can both help you dig out weeds and smoothen the soil afterward.
Lastly, it’s highly important to understand that plants (especially ones that are indigenous to an area) are not isolated entities. They are members of a diverse eco-system that consists of local animals, birds, insects, and even micro-organisms. Therefore, we need to emulate these entities as a part of our garden as well. Here’s how you can do that:
- Attracting birds: You can place a birdbath in the middle of your garden as a focal point and accessory. Bird houses and nut baskets can be attached to the fence for sheltering local fauna as well. These can be painted in colorful hues to add a little extra oomph to the garden.
- Waterbody for the local wildlife: You can even add a small pond in a corner to attract different types of wildlife to your native garden. This not only provides a clean drinking source of water for the animals, but also makes a nice nesting site for some of them as well.
- Don’t be wary of insects: Lastly, if you notice holes in the ground, that means that your native garden is also attracting insects, so there is no need to fill them up.
Things like these can make a big difference when you’re planning for a native, biodiverse garden that is wholesome on all levels.
With meaningful native landscaping, we can reduce the amount of watering, pesticides, and lawn mowing by a margin, thus contributing to the overall welfare of our environment.
Native plants were the origin, and are the future of landscape design and architecture. They provide a number of benefits, including a reduced need for fertilizers, and fewer pesticides – along with reduced water consumption. They also don’t require mowing, which means that planting them reduces the amount of air pollution that is produced while operating a lawn mower.
To top it off, they’re absolutely beautiful, come in a great variety, and will certainly increase the scenic value of your garden.
Annie Morton is an avid nature lover from rural Australia. After some international adventures, she has settled in New York City. If you have any questions about Hoselink Retractable Garden Hose she is the person to talk to.