Tips and Tricks for Natives
When selecting native plants for the ornamental garden, choose species that will thrive in the planting sites you have chosen. Many natives—trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals—will not tolerate shade if they are sun-lovers or sunny sites if they are habituated to shade. Nor will they succeed if they receive unwanted irrigation applied to nearby non-native species.
Nearly all natives have a preference for excellent drainage and rather lean soil, not overly rich or heavy. To provide drainage in heavy soil, incorporate small amounts of lava rock or pea gravel as needed. The following practices apply to many plant species, but are keys to success with natives.
- Dig a planting hole no deeper than the root ball but twice as wide.
- Water both the hole and the root ball before planting.
- Line hole with wire mesh or a gopher basket where gophers and moles are a problem.
- Loosen and uncoil wrapped roots once the plant is out of the pot; trim extra long and damaged roots and those matted at the bottom of the root ball.
- Set plant on a slight mound inside the hole with roots spread out and top of the root ball slightly raised above surrounding grade level.
- Back-fill the hole with native soil using no purchased amendments. If extra soil is needed, use compost only on top of planting area, not in the hole; tamp the soil to insure contact with the roots. Water well.
- Do NOT fertilize newly planted natives.
- Protect new plants that are not truly deer resistant with wire cages.
- Mulch planting area with 2-3 inches of chipped or shredded bark, taking care to keep it several inches away from the base of the plant. Small stones can be mixed in for mulch as well.
- Check the soil an inch or so under the mulch every week the first year after planting. If the soil is moist, do not water. If the soil is dry, water thoroughly with as much as 3-5 gallons of water.
- In succeeding years, water from November to March if the plant area of origin has higher rainfall than yours. In very dry years, provide supplemental water as needed from March through May. Additional watering may not be needed unless plant displays signs of drought stress. Keep in mind that too much water can cause crown and root rot and death. Add mulch periodically to maintain a depth of two inches.
- There are always some exceptions: Coast Redwood, Scarlet Monkey Flower, and Leopard Lily are among some of the natives which are moisture-loving—care for these and other water-loving species accordingly.