Here at Shooting Star Nursery, we’re hearing from more and more people interested in gardening with native plants, and that makes us very happy. We’re big native plant fans here and think there are lots of great reasons to add native perennials, shrubs, trees, and vines to your garden.
To begin with, native plants are the ultimate low-maintenance plant choice. They’re already preadapted to our climate (cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers) and don’t need the coddling that many of their highly cultivated counterparts require. As a result, you’ll find yourself spending less time working in the garden, and more time just enjoying being in the garden.
Native plants also provide essential high-quality food – pollen, nectar, berries, seeds, other insects - and shelter for pollinators and other wildlife like songbirds. And finally, many of our native plants are just plain beautiful – the ultimate justification for any gardener!
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start exploring the wonderful world of gardening with native plants.
Not all native plants are drought tolerant! Some - like Red-twig Dogwood, Western Columbine, Seep Monkeyflower, Mock Orange, Pacific Ninebark, and Douglas’s Spirea - are native to shady riparian areas or wet meadows and will need more shade and water than other native plants.
This is not the Pacific Northwest. Here in the Rogue Valley, we are actually part of the California Floristic Province, which extends along the Pacific coast from Baja to southwest Oregon. The plants native to this region share a set of adaptations to cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. So even though we live in Oregon, we’re more likely to be successful with native plants from the California chapparal – or even the southwestern US - than plants from the cooler maritime climate of northern Oregon. As they say in Grants Pass: It’s the Climate!
Microclimates! Success with native plants is all about putting the right plant in the right place, and our yards are all full of microclimates that can be the perfect niche for a native plant. Do you have a dry, shady place under some trees? Sounds like a great place for some Heuchera. A place that gets good morning sun that could use a 6’ tall shrub? Philadelphus would do nicely there. A hot, dry sunny spot that gets sun all day long? A combination of Eriogonum, Monardella, and Zauschneria would bring a splash of bright color there from late spring through fall. A moist, shady area along a creek? A glade of Aquilegia and Mimulus would be perfect. The more you pay attention to the microclimates in your yard, the better you’ll be able to match them to the preferences of your native plants.
About Watering: Native plants have adopted a number of elegant strategies to help them survive in a climate without any appreciable rainfall from June through September. One of these strategies is summer dormancy: some plants actually shut down and stop growing during the hottest months to minimize their need for water, and regular summer watering can actually damage or kill them. When planting drought tolerant natives, make a point of keeping them away from lawns or areas of your yard that receive regular (2 or more times a week) summer water. As always, feel free to ask our staff if you have any questions – we are always happy to help!
Go Take a Hike: Seriously! One of the very best ways to learn more about native plants is to get out into the many beautiful wild places around the valley where these plants occur naturally. While you’re there, take note of the area. Is it sunny or shady? Is there a nearby creek or is the location hot and exposed? What other plants are growing nearby? Are plants all crowded together, or do they seem to like a bit of space? Are they growing in the understory, or out in the full sun? Bit by bit, you’ll develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of these wonderful plants – and likely come up with a list of plants you’d like to try growing at home!
Want to learn more? We’ve got some great resources for you to check out:
Shooting Star Nursery’s newly updated Native Plant list has a list of the different natives that we carry or have access to, along with information about drought tolerance, pollinator-friendly plants, deer resistance, plants that tolerate clay soils, and plants that prefer wet soils. Our website also has a list dedicated exclusively to Manzanitas (we're big fans)!
The Siskiyou Chapter of the NPSO is a great source of local information, with monthly presentations, hikes, and plant lists.
The California Native Plant Society has developed a website called Calscape, which contains a wealth of information including native plant profiles, information about pollinator gardening, and even some design suggestions.