Seal of Dane County County of Dane
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Plant Selection

Selecting the right plants for your native garden may feel overwhelming - after all, there are thousands of native plants to choose from! But putting together a garden design doesn't have to be overly-complicated and with just a few pointers in mind, it can be as easy as picking out plants that you find beautiful. Keep in mind that there's no "right" answer and try to have fun with it.

For starters, you'll want to select plants that will thrive in your garden's light and soil conditions. Light conditions include: Full Sun (6+ hrs of direct sun each day), Part Sun (3-6 hrs of direct sun), and Shade (less than 3 hrs of direct sun). Soil conditions range from Wet to Mesic to Dry. As a rule of thumb, sandy soils are often Dry and clayey soils are often Wet. If your soil isn't sandy or clayey, chances are you've got Mesic soils. 

    Once you know your light and soil conditions, select appropriate species using the suggested formula:

    • 1-3 blooming species for each part of the growing season (early, mid, late)
    • 1-3 grass species/sedge species
    • 1 milkweed species (the Monarch butterflies will thank you!)

    After you've selected your plants, here are a few quick tips to get you started on how to arrange them within your garden. 

    • Plant shorter plants along the perimeter (or front) of your garden, and taller plants in the center (or back) of your garden.
    • Cluster plant species in groups of 3 to 5 for better visual appeal.
    • Consider spreading out plants with different bloom times to achieve interest throughout the garden during all seasons.