Planning Your Native Plant Garden

Hi River Roaders,

Following my blog three weeks ago on “Nature’s Best Hope,” a couple folks reached out to get advice on what natives they should plant. In this blog I share resources you can use to plan your native plant garden. The resources allow you to select plants that are native to our specific area (the Maryland Piedmont) as well as soil type, sun, and moisture requirements.

All of these resources are freely available on the internet and links are embedded here. Take a look and send me an email with your thoughts on what we should plant next on RRUUC grounds.

Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is my favorite resource. It identifies native grasses, ferns, aquatics, shrubs, trees, and vines that have wildlife or conservation value in the Bay watershed. For each plant, it lists the region where it is native (mountain, Piedmont, or coastal plain), and the soil, light, and moisture requirements. You can spend hours going through this. For the RRUUC grounds, we look for plants native to the Maryland Piedmont that take full or partial shade.

I also commonly use Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas from the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify what not to plant or what to remove on RRUUC grounds. For each non-native invasive plant, it describes the plant, discusses how it harms the ecosystem, and provides control suggestions.

Native Woody Plants of Montgomery County Maryland

Native Woody Plants of Montgomery County, Maryland from the Maryland Native Plant Society is hyper-local and includes abundance (Common, Fairly Common, Rare, Very Rare, etc.) of the plant in our county. I used this to identify the shrubs to plant in the Conservation Area last year, focusing on plants that are common but were missing from our grounds.

The Maryland Biodiversity Project is a “citizen science” website with curated photographs and distribution maps of insects, birds, fungi, plants, and more. I use this to confirm what plants are confirmed as native to Montgomery County. A plant that is native to Maryland at 4,000 foot elevation in Garrett County might not do well closer to sea level.

The Native Plant Finder on the National Wildlife Federation website allows you to identify the native plants in your zip code that are most beneficial to insects and the associated ecosystem. It’s based on the research of Douglas W. Tallamy, who I covered in a blog last December. Hint: If you want flowers that will help the most species of insects here, plant goldenrod and sunflowers.

I use Common Native Trees of Virginia from the Virginia Department of Forestry to identify trees at RRUUC. It includes bark, leaf, and twig descriptions and has a key to allow you to identify the tree based on answering some questions.

Common Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of Virginia is another guide from the Virginia Department of Forestry focused on native shrubs.

That’s all for this week. All of these resources are available free for downloading, with hard copies also available for many of them. Happy garden planning!