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Why Landscape with Native Plants

Oxalis oregona (wood sorrel) and Oplopanax horridus (devil's club) in a native garden photographed by Kimberly Leeper.

Oxalis oregona (wood sorrel) and Oplopanax horridus (devil's club) in a native garden photographed by Kimberly Leeper. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

Additional Information

Did you Know?

  • Native plants are adapted to our climate of wet winters and dry summers.
  • Require less water than most non-natives once they are established.
  • Resist native pests and diseases better.
  • Improve water quality by needing less fertilizer and no pesticides.
  • Save resources and encourage a sense of Stewardship.

Native plants will need a little care in their infancy in order to develop a healthy root system so provide them with supplemental water the first couple of years, but after that most natives planted in a favorable site require little additional attention.

Native Plants for Landscaping

Which native plants already grow in your garden? Here’s a great opportunity to hone your plant identification skills. Of our 3000 natives, one author suggests that only 250 are of residential scale and merit. Books by Pettinger, Kruckeberg, and WSU guides give practical advise on selecting, situating, and creating compatible plant communities.

The key to landscaping with any plant, including natives, is threefold: plant the Right Plant in the Right Site and Conditions for its Mature Size.

Soils are the key to where you may grow a plant. Evaluate the texture (% sand, loam, clay) and tilth (ability to absorb and hold water over time), water content, and drainage rate and capacity. Assess whether you have sun/shade and if it’s full/part time. Finally, exposure to weather and winds is important. Taller plants sited in saturated soils and exposed to high winds may topple.

Landscaping Resources

Fitzgerald, Tonie Jean. Landscaping with Native Plants in the Inland Northwest. Washington State University Cooperative Extension, revised June 2003 (6/2000). WSU-CE order number MISC 0267.

Grow Your Own Native Landscape: A Guide to Identifying, Propagating & Landscaping with Western Washington Native Plants. Native Plant Salvage Project, WSU Extension-Thurston County, revised June 1999

Hortus West: a journal listing sources for Northwest native plants

Kruckeberg, Arthur R.. Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle, 2 nd edition 1996 (1982).

Leigh, Michael. Grow Your Own Native Landscape – A Guide to Identifying, Propagating & Landscaping with Western Washington Native Plants. Native Plant Salvage Project, Washington State University Cooperative Extension, Thurston County, revised edition June 1999. WSU-CE order number MISC 0273.

Pettinger, April and Brenda Costano. Native Plants in the Coastal Garden – A Guide for Gardeners in the Pacific Northwest. Timber Press, Portland, OR, revised edition 2002 (1996).

Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: a field guide by Pojar and McKinnon. 1994, Lone Pine Publishers.

Pojar for westside of the Cascades and Parish for eastern Washington (see ID Books).

Rose, Robin, Caryn E.C. Chachulski, and Diane L. Haase. Propagation of Pacific Northwest Native Plants. Oregons State University Press, Corvallis, OR, 1998.

King County Hazardous Waste Management Program: the least toxic pest control, natural lawn card, and hazardous waste disposal.

Master Gardener Program of WSU Cooperative Extension: landscaping information plus pest and disease diagnosis in several counties statewide.

Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group has created a useful guide for homeowners to create effective backyard riparian buffers.

Plant Amnesty: proper pruning information and classes, referrals to certified arborists, and referrals to natural landscapers.

Seattle Public Utilities and partners: resources about water conservation and watershed healthy gardens.

The Garden Hotline: The Garden Hotline offers individualized solutions to garden problems that are practical, safe, effective, and natural. Our services are FREE to home gardeners and landscape professionals throughout Seattle and King County. 206-633-0224.

The Garden Hotline is managed by Seattle Tilth and sponsored by Seattle Public Utilities, the Saving Water Partnership, the Cascade Water Alliance, Seattle and King County's RainWise Program and the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County.

Stewardship Partners: Rain Garden Program hopes to install 12,000 rain gardens by 2016, for reducing poluted runoff, preventing flooding, and creating beautiful low maintenance native landscapes.

Native Plants in Public Demonstration Gardens

Sources of Native Plants and Seeds

  • Come to a WNPS plant sale! Check out our local chapters plant sales page for the latest information on upcoming sales.
  • Check with your local Conservation District to learn if they sell native plants.
  • Some county Department of Natural Resources conduct periodic plant salvages open to homeowners. King County DNR posts a list of plant sources as well.
  • Many retail nurseries now offer native plants raised from locally propagated stock. However, some may sell plants raised out of state or misname a hybrid as a true native. The best option is to ask where the plant came from and how was it originally obtained to prevent buying improperly salvaged plants or ones that will not survive in our different soils.
  • Caution is urged in buying “wildflower” or “instant meadow” mixes. Whether added intentionally to provide species that will grow in just about any region or by accidental harvest contamination, some mixes contain seeds that may be docile elsewhere yet may be on your county’s noxious and even quarantine lists.
  • For restoration and native habitat purposes, plants bought from within a 50 mile radius will recreate what most likely originally thrived there.



Updated: December 12, 2016
Copyright 2000-2018 Washington Native Plant Society. All rights reserved.

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