Native Gardening Tips

By Paul O’Hara 

Blue Oak Native Landscapes


There are many ways to start using native plants in your garden. You can start to incorporate native plants into your existing landscape, or you can start completely from scratch. 

1. Plant in Layers

  1. Plant in layers (canopy, sub-canopy, shrub layer, ground layer) to create vertically diverse gardens.

2. Plant for Four Seasons

  1. Plant for four-season interest. Plant spring, summer and fall flowering plants. Include evergreens, grasses, rocks and hardscaping (e.g. patios, walkways, fencing, trellises, arbours, decorative pots and outdoor art) to create winter interest.

3. Plant Keystone Species

  1. Plant keystone species like native oaks, cherries, willows, birches and aspens, as well as perennials like milkweeds, asters, goldenrods and sunflowers. Asters and goldenrods brighten the fall garden and are critical food plants for Monarch butterflies and bees preparing for winter. There are over 60 species of native asters and goldenrods in Ontario.

4. Imitate the Forest

Imitate the forest by planting a grove of trees instead of just one. The network of roots will keep the trees sturdy and strong.

5. Include Accents to Support Wildlife

Include a bird bath, rain garden or pond on your property to help support wildlife. 

6. Consider Permeable Surfaces

Consider permeable surfaces for driveways and walkways that allow the rain and snow to percolate into the water table. 

7. Don't Be a Fusspot

  1. Don’t be too fussy with your plant selections, most native plants have wider light and moisture tolerances than they do in the wild because there is less root competition in the garden. If a certain native plant doesn’t work, then replace it with something else.

8. Be bold. Be creative. Have fun!