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How to Decide Which Native Plants
So you want to plant natives around your place, and you want to know which natives to plant? This is a very good question that we all encounter just as soon as we decide to landscape with water efficient intermountain native plants.
First of all, we define the Intermountain Region we serve as the area between the Cascade Mountain Range and the Rocky Mountains and from the Canadian Border to Southern Utah. Many of the native plant species we grow are found naturally all around the Intermountain West. But, as you probably know some native species are only found in certain spots. So why are native plants found where they are found?
The answer can be complicated and there would be many differing opinions, but a simple working understanding is based on how much precipitation and/or ground water is available at each site and what type of soil. Temperature differences play some role as to where native plants are found, but we believe temperature differences are not as important as moisture availability and soil type. As long as a native species is hardy to zone 4, then it usually does fine in zones 5, 6 and 7. Most of the native plants we grow are hardy to zone 4.
Soil type has an influence on success of native plants. Soil texture varies in the intermountain west from sandy to clay, with most soils being in the middle as silt loam. Soil pH ranges from acid to alkaline with the majority of soils in the neutral to alkaline pH range. High rainfall mountain soils are usually acidic and lower rainfall soils are usually alkaline. Extreme soil textures like sand or heavy clay and extreme alkaline soil pH such as pH 9+ present challenges so that you have to be more careful which native species you plant, but many of the native species we grow are adapted to the average soils found around the intermountain west. See Soil Preference under each species listing. See How to Plan Your Naturescape.
Precipitation and groundwater availability is, we think, the most important consideration before you plant.
Utah area native plant pioneers Susan E. Meyer, Roger K. Kjelgren, Darrel G. Morrison and William A. Varga have a new book out Landscaping on the New Frontier: Waterwise Design for the Intermountain West that goes into detail about all these things. The authors have given much thought to the process of how to choose native plants for use in landscaping and they have proposed understanding native plant water needs by grouping them into "Communities" which is primarily a means of classifying the plants by precipitation zones. We are using their Communities classification system. See our page How-to Links & Resources for the book's full reference.
Native Plants by Community, Meyers, et.al.
|Community||Annual Precipitation||Plant Water Efficiency|
|Desert||Less than 10 inches||Very low water use|
|Semi-Desert||10-15 inches||Low water use|
|Foothill||15-20 inches||Medium water use|
|Mountain||20-30 inches||High water use|
|Riparian & Wetland||30 inches and more||Very high water use|
The water needs concept and grouping the plants into Communities helps us choose which native plants to use in which part of our landscapes in the Intermountain Region. Think about managing your landscape with different irriagation needs for the different communities you establish around your property.
If you know of species that we ought to be producing for your landscaping, please email us your suggestions to email@example.com
You can search our website for the plants we currently produce by "Community" or "Annual Water Needs":