Growing Native Plants
Native plants are best for native insects, pollinators, birds, and local wildlife. Plants and animals evolved together, so the ones that are native are always the best for local wildlife. Mix them in with your ornamentals, and you will have a diverse landscape teeming with healthy life! You will have more beneficial insects and attract more birds and pollinators. Pacific Northwest native plants are becoming more readily available as nurseries respond to interest in wildlife friendly, lower maintenance gardening. Not all native plants are suitable for all soil types or gardens. It’s important to recognize that they are plants after all, and they need the same attention to proper placement, and care that any ornamental should receive.
- Research the sun and soil requirements
- Figure out how much space you have, and choose plants that fill that space at maturity so you don’t have to struggle to make them fit, or worse, rip them out when they get too large
- Make sure you take very good care of them for their first three years in the garden – this means extra compost, regular weekly watering in the dry season, and attention to training for shape
- After they are well established, and mature, you will find them well-adapted to our dry summers and wet winters. The ‘modern’ maritime northwest climate patterns developed about 6,000 years ago and the plants adapted. You will find that little or no water is okay in many cases. As the climate warms, summer dry spells and temperatures will be more harsh, so plan to add a good layer of mulch once a year in the spring or fall to conserve moisture, and expect to water a little more often when plants show signs of heat stress later in the season
- Water deeply and infrequently (about 1 to 1-1/2″ per week applied in one or two watering sessions with a sprinkler). Soaking deeply will encourage roots to go deeper and grow stronger plants. For mature plants, once a month should do it. If your soil is very sandy, or heavy clay, adjust time and amount to keep the root zone moist.
- Take care of your pollinators (native bees, flies, hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, beetles) and all your insects by not using pesticides, providing some water, and keeping the soil surface covered and undisturbed. The exception is for ground-nesting bees (they don’t sting, and they are very important pollinators), which need some undisturbed, bare, sandy soil to excavate nests. Most insects are beneficial. Remember too, that butterfly larvae are caterpillars, and they need to eat leaves! Let them have what they need to survive.