Native Plants and Invasive Species

Tips for Choosing Native Species

Wildflowers, trees and shrubs can all be used to plant your garden but they present particular challenges. Click the links below for advice on how to select appropriate species for your project.

Native Plant Gardening and Naturalization Guidelines

The following guidelines were adapted from the North American Native Plant Society's Ethical Gardening Guidelines. Visit their site at

Sensible wildflower gardening does not involve disruption of native plant communities.

Acquire native plants, seeds, cuttings and root divisions from garden or nursery stock in preference to transplants from the wild.

Use plants and seeds that have originated locally, as these plants and seeds are best adapted to local climate, soil and predators.

Make the best effort not to transport and plant locally adapted seed more than 250 km from a collection site.

Where tree seeds are used, it is best to refer to your provincial government for a tree seed and/ or climate-hardiness zone map for your province.

Buying cultivated, local native plant seed from a reputable specialty native plant nursery is highly recommended.

In cases where trained individuals collect wild seed, no more than 10% of a seed crop should be collected from a healthy population of many individuals, and from several plants of the same species. Leave the remainder for natural dispersal and as food for dependent organisms.

Give preference to regional native plant species in your garden, rather than naturalized or exotic species.

Promote the cultivation and propagation of local native plants as an educational and conservation measure to supplement the preservation of natural habitat.

Keep accurate records of any regionally rare flora, which you are growing to increase our understanding of the biology of the species.

Transplanting of wild native flora is only condoned when the plants of a given area are officially slated for destruction, e.g. road construction, subdivisions, pipelines, golf courses, etc. Obtain permission before transplanting.

Use natural methods of fertilizing the soil, controlling predators and eliminating weeds rather than synthetic chemical products.

Consider planting native species that are attractive to native fauna, especially to those birds, butterflies and moths, which are regionally uncommon.

Exercise extreme caution when studying and photographing wildflowers in order not to damage the surrounding flora and fauna.

Co-operate, when possible with arboreta, botanical gardens and university departments of biology and environmental studies in the propagation and study of regionally rare plant species.

Openly share your botanical knowledge with the public, so long as such sharing will not endanger native plant species or communities.

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Tips for Choosing Wildflowers

The following tips should help when you are ready to choose wildflowers for your garden:

Choose plants with soil, sun and moisture requirements that closely match the conditions of your site. You can obtain information from a grower's catalogue. You also need to know the bloom time, colour and height.

Native plants already growing on local remnant sites are indicators of suitable species and can give you hints about the growing conditions in your community.

Plant for diversity, imitating natural patterns.

Pay attention to edge vegetation. Does it need to be low growing? Does it need to be vigorous to maintain an edge? Will you be able to control spreading varieties?

Consider plants that are known to attract wildlife, such as butterflies.

Use plants that provide year-round interest.

Look for species that are drought tolerant to minimize summer watering.

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Tips for Choosing Native Trees

Be sure to consider these tips should help when you are ready to choose native trees for your garden:

Where are the leaves going to drop? Are there neighbours of any others who will be affected by this? Will blowing leaves be a problem?

Will leaves need to be raked and disposed of? If this is a problem, consider trees with small leaves that will blow away (i.e. honey locust).

Where and at what time of day will the shade be cast? Do you want people to be able to enjoy the shade?

Are there any obstructions overhead? Will your trees grow into this?

Is there anything your tree's canopy will obstruct? Will it hang over a neighbour's yard?

Are you choosing nut trees? Consider the issues of anaphylaxis and juglones.

How does the location of your tree affect the energy needs of surrounding buildings? Does it provide a windbreak or sun block to reduce energy needs?

Is your tree too close to a building?

Investigate the tree communities in your province. Some trees are naturally found growing together and you can recreate these communities.

What size of tree do you want to plant? What is the shape of the mature canopy? Does this have any implications for your site? Do you want heavy or dappled shade?

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Tips on Choosing Native Shrubs

The following tips should help when you are ready to choose shrubs for your garden:

Native shrubs can provide beautiful spring colour when they bloom and provide a valuable source of food (through their berries) for birds.

If young children frequent your site, consider planting only edible berries such as currants and raspberries.

Start with small stock and plant in well wood-chipped beds.

Choose species whose needs match the moisture and sun conditions of your site.

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