Going Native: Planting Wildflowers at Home

By Matt Abernathy, Assistant Park Director

Mowing, pruning, planting, mulching, and fertilizing – sound familiar? For many homeowners, springtime means birds, butterflies, flowers, new growth – and countless hours and dollars spent preparing yards and flowerbeds. What many people don’t realize is that you can avoid the chores and still have a spectacular garden. Wondering how? Look no further than native plants.

Homeowners who choose native plants for their gardens are often rewarded with long bloom periods and significant cost savings. These plants often come back year after year from the stem or root and don’t require mulching and supplemental watering. Because native plants have adapted to our climate, they can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and rainfall amounts.

These low-maintenance plants not only add color to your landscape, but they also support native wildlife and pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds. Savvy gardeners can experiment with different plant varieties to attract a variety of pollinators. Pollinators are more likely to visit fruit and vegetable gardens boasting native flowers. With the extra pollinator attention, the plants are more likely to produce fruits and vegetables. Lastly, native flowers come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Whether you are looking for ground cover, traditional flowers, or larger shrubs, you can find a native variety to plant. Ready to get started?

Before planting, make sure to identify a location for your flowerbed and study the environment. Knowing the type of soil, moisture levels, and the amount of sun your plants need can affect the success of your project. Make sure you thoroughly prepare your flowerbed by weeding, tilling, and aerating the soil to minimize weed growth. Plant selection is the most fun, yet challenging, part of the process. When selecting plants, you have four options:

Option 1. Research, research, research. Determine what species works for you and then research the best local sources for plants and seeds. This method gives you the best opportunity to customize your garden. The biggest drawback is that you will inevitably choose some plants that are extremely hard to come by in the commercial plant trade.

Option 2. Search local native plant nurseries online and reach out to them for recommendations and a list of available plants. Unfortunately, the salespeople may not be as knowledgeable of native plants as they claim to be, and they will likely steer you to their specific stock. This could lead you to plants you don’t necessarily want or even cause you to buy misidentified plants.

Option 3. Reach out to local experts. A quick internet search can help you find experts