What do I plant?
The first place to start is determining where you want to plant. Starting with native plants can be as easy as picking out a great spot for an oak tree in your yard or adding to an existing flower bed.
Consider the site and how much sun it will get?
Assess how much sunlight your plants will get. If it’s more than 6 hours/day that is a full sun plant. Does it get shade in the afternoon? That would make it a partly sunny location. Does it get dappled light or is solid shade? Look for plants well suited to a part sun to shade location.
What is your soil like?
Is it an area that stays wet much after a rain so it would fit rain garden plants? If it’s a shady site is the soil rich? Shade plants like several inches of good, organic soil to grow in. If you don’t have this, you may consider amending the soil. If you have a question about what your soil needs, you can have it analyzed by going through your local Extension Office.
For Missouri more information can be found on the Missouri Extension website.
Johnson County, KS residents can have one free soil test per year. For more info go here.
For other counties in Kansas you can contact your local Extension office or the K-State Soil Testing Lab
Where to find native plants?
Native plants are becoming easier to find as the nursery trade is seeing increased demand to make these plants available. Grow Native, a program of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, maintains a resource guide of professional members that provide services with and around native plants. Grow Native Resource Guide.
Many organizations in the Greater Kansas City area also host spring and fall native plant sales. KCNPI maintains a PDF with a list of known native plant sales in the area. If there is a sale missing, please email KCNPI with the details.
As you pick out your plants give consideration to when they bloom. Selecting different varieties of plants with staggered bloom times will give consistent nectar for the pollinators and always give the area blooms throughout the season.
How do I plant native plants?
Native plants can be planted anytime of the year the ground is not frozen. Dig a hole 2-3 times the size of the plant with the bottom of the plant sitting even with the top of the surrounding soil. Remove plant from container and break or cut apart roots on bottom and sides of the root ball. Plant and fill in the hole. Water after planting to eliminate air pockets around the roots.
Mulch plants with fine particle, organic material after planting to hold in moisture and decrease weeding. You can continue to mulch annually to no more than a total depth of 2 inches. Water plants when first planting and then when the soil dries out. Be careful not to overwater prairie or glade plants as they thrive in dry conditions and will not tolerate overwatering.
Take care to chose plants that have successive bloom times so the pollinators always have a source of nectar in your yard.
Planting a New Garden
Black Plastic- during the growing season, cover the area you wish to plant with black plastic. Secure the plastic down with rocks. Make sure there are no holes in the plastic. If so patch them. Leave down 2-4 weeks until turf is dead. You can till the dead turf into the soil or just plant through it and then mulch
Newspaper- During the growing season low mow or weed wack the area you wish to plant. Cover the area with wet newspaper 8-10 sheets thick. Cover with mulch. After 4 weeks the turf will be dead and you can plant right through the newspaper.
Herbicide- during the growing season, when the wind is calm and the temperature is above 60 degrees, spray the area with a glycophosphate. It often takes 3 or more times of spraying the same area a week apart. Wait 7 days after the last spraying to plant
After planting mulch plants with fine particle, organic material after planting to hold in moisture and decrease weeding. You can continue to mulch annually to no more than a total depth of 2 inches. Water plants when first planting and then when the soil dries out. Be careful not to overwater prairie or glade plants as they thrive in dry conditions and will not tolerate overwatering.
KCNPI Favorite Native Plants
All plants are perennials and will return each season.
Lanceleaf Coreopis (Coreopsis lanceolota)
Milkweed (host plant for the monarch butterfly caterpillar)
-Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
-Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
-Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
-Purple Beardtongue (Penstemon cobaea)
-Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
-Prairie Beardtongue (Penstemon tubaeflorus)
Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)
Coneflowers (many are host to silvery checkerspot caterpillars)
-Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
-Yellow Coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa)
-Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida)
-Missouri Coneflower (Rudbeckia missouriensis)
-Sweet Coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa)
-Rigid Goldenrod (Solidago rigida)
-Cliff Goldenrod (Solidago drummondii)
-Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)
-New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
-Aromatic Aster (Aster oblongifolius)
Star tickseed (Coreopsis pubescens)
Squaw-weed (Packra obovatus)
Showy Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida/sullivantii)
Skullcap (Scutellaria incana)
Dittany (Cunila origanoides)
Celedine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)
Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
Woodland Spiderwort (Tradescantia ernestiana)
Leadplant (Amorpha canescens) host to grey hairstreak butterfly caterpillar and dogface sulphur butterfly caterpillar
Ozark Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) host to the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar
American Beautyberry (Callicarpa america)
Rusty Black Haw (Viburnum rufidulum)- host for spring/summer azure butterfly caterpillars
Oak trees are the host to the most number of invertebrates of any species of plants in the Eastern US.
Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)
Paw Paw (Asimina triloba)
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipfera)
Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Maintaining your Native Garden
Once your native garden is planted, depending on the size of the plants uses, it will need weeding from 1-3 years until the plants fill in. Native plants are very hardy when placed in the right spot. You may need to water them to get them established or water some of the moist soil plants when things dry out. Leave the stalks and stems up into winter as they provide a seed buffet for birds. In the spring cut back or mow your garden to remove dead matter and allow more light to help germinate seed and coax the plants up.
What is a weed?
The term ‘weed’ means different things to different people. The primary weeds you should be on the outlook for are those that are non-native species that can escape a cultivated setting and take over areas. These are known as ‘invasives.’ Invasives are a threat to our natural ecosystem as they crowd out native plants and result in a monoculture that decrease biodiversity and offer wildlife little value. Controlling invasives is an important part of attracting and supporting wildlife.
Compare the fat and energy content of native and invasives berries. The invasive berries are often the last berries eaten by birds and will not meet their energy requirements to keep them warm during harsh weather.
|Common Name||Botanical Name||Native?||Average Fat Content||Average Energy Content|
|Multiflora Rose||Rosa multiflora||No||0.99%||17.17 kJ/g|
|Japanese Honeysuckle||Lonicera spp.||No||0.70%||16.22 kJ/g|
|Snowball Tree/Cranberry bush||Viburnum Opulus||No||0.86%||16.73 kJ/g|
|Grey Dogwood||Cornus racemosa||Yes||34.90%||27.16 kJ/g|
|Arrowwood||Viburnum dentatum||Yes||48.72%||28.06 kJ/g|
|Spicebush||Lindera benzoin||Yes||48.01%||28.61 kJ/g|