By following these guidelines, you will be able to successfully grow natives in your garden and enjoy the beauty and ecological benefits of native plants.
1. Use plants that are native to your ecoregion. What is an ecoregion? Ecoregions are areas that are relatively uniform in soils, vegetation, climate, geology, and wildlife. Ten ecoregions are recognized in Oregon. Refer to the map on the Table of Contents page. Plants within your ecoregion are most likely to grow well in your garden.
2. Choose plants that grow well in the unique conditions in your garden. The particular conditions of soil type, soil moisture, and amount of sunlight may vary in different parts of your garden. You will want to select the right plants to fit the various conditions that may be present in your garden. For example, if your front yard gets full sun for most of the day, you would want to plant natives (from your ecoregion) that grow in sunny places. Local NPSO chapters may have lists of native plants in your ecoregion, along with descriptions of the conditions under which they grow best. In addition, you can consult numerous field guides and gardening books that describe suitable growing conditions for native plants. There is a partial list in the right hand sidebar.
3. Select plants that originated from as close to your home as possible. Plants that occur in your ecoregion and that originate close to your garden site are locally native. By using locally native plants, you will preserve the natural heritage of your community. In addition, you will have a higher probability of successfully establishing the plants than if you were to use plants that originated from far away.
4. Select healthy looking plants. Healthy looking plants exhibit vigorous growth, are not wilted, have good foliage color, and are free of insect damage and spots on the leaves. Healthy nursery plants will have a much better chance of growing well in your garden than unhealthy plants. But remember, once they are growing well in your garden, native plants may attract butterflies and other animals that depend on these plants for their own survival. Welcome these visitors! Attracting these animals to your garden is one of the many benefits of gardening with natives!
5. If you choose to not plant natives, avoid using invasive non-native plants. For lists of invasive, non-native plants, visit one of the web sites listed on the Resources page.
6. For best results, plant in the spring or fall. At other times of the year, plants will need greater amounts of attention (e.g., watering) in order to flourish.
Remember that every plant you choose may not grow well. Have fun and experiment with different native plants from the ecoregion and microsite types appropriate for your particular garden.
The Emerald Chapter of NPSO has produced excellent lists of native plants and tips for growing them in home gardens. All the species are local to the Willamette Valley, but many of them are found in and suitable for other regions: Gardening with Native Plants
GardenSmart Oregon: A Guide to Non-Invasive Plants, from a coalition of groups including The Nature Conservancy, offers suggestions for both natives and ornamentals that can be used instead of invasive species.