Starting a garden for the first time can be intimidating. You’ll need decide if you want to create a wildlife friendly habitat or grow your own food. Plants come in different shapes and sizes and sometimes they don’t even have clearly labeled containers.
The Backyard Habitat Certification Program has a handy, interactive map to help you find native plants throughout our region at different times of year. This map highlights local nurseries and native plant sales so you can find the right plant for your specific garden. While shopping for native plants, you’ll likely find:
Potted plants are what you often find when browsing your grocery store or nursery. These plants come in plastic or biodegradable containers filled with soil. Many types of plants are sold this way, from short-lived annuals to long-lasting perennials to larger trees and bushes.
How to plant potted plants:
Depending on the species, you can simply leave the plant in its container or replant it into the ground. This makes potted plants a perfect solution for starting gardens in small spaces such as patios, balconies, and windowsills.
If you are planting a potted plant into the ground, follow these steps:
- Dig a hole as deep as the roots and about twice as wide. Make sure to keep the removed soil and add organic material to it, such as compost or all-purpose garden soil.
- Gently squeeze the sides of the container to remove the plant from its pot and gently break apart the roots so they are no longer in the shape of the pot.
- Position the plant’s crown at, or slightly below, the soil surface.
- Once the plant is in the ground, fill the hole with the soil and organic matter, gently pressing down to keep the plant firmly in place.
- Finally, deeply soak the area with water. We advise watering newly planted trees and shrubs slowly over six hours, every two weeks.
Bare Root Plants
Bare root plants are perennials, usually trees or shrubs, that are dug up in the winter when they are in the dormant stage of their lifecycle. These plants are sold with their roots exposed, rather than in containers filled with soil. This is especially common for plants being shipped long distances. Ornamental roses, fruit and deciduousDeciduous Trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally. trees, and native shrubs like Douglas spirea (Spiraea douglasii) and Oregon iris (Iris tenax) can all be transported and sold as bare root plants.
There are several advantages of bare root plants. First, they are less expensive because they do not require pots and soil. Second, they are lighter and take up less space, making them easier to transport home. Best of all, many bare root trees and shrubs develop faster than those sold in pots. This is because bare root plants can quickly acclimate to new soils.
How to plant bare root plants:
Planting bare root plants is no more difficult than planting potted plants in a garden. The only difference is you’ll need to take care to place the roots pointing down into the soil rather than up out of the planting hole.
If you’re planting many plants or are not ready to plant right away, keep your bare root plant in a shady, cool location. Make sure to cover the roots with moist sawdust or another type of mulch to prevent them from drying out. They can be kept like this a couple of weeks before needing to be planting into the ground. Right before planting, soak the roots in a bucket of water for up to 2 hours to give it a healthy drink before putting it into the ground.
Bulbs and Rhizomes
While we tend to call any roundish, knobby plant root a bulb, there are several distinct types of bulbs:
- “True” bulbs are what you imagine as a flower bulb. They often contain a miniature flower or sprout at the center that is wrapped in a layer of papery leaves. The roots are located at the bottom of the bulb and act as an anchor that secures the plant in the ground. A few of our favorite plants that grow from “true” bulbs include common camas (Camassia quamash) and tiger lily (Lilium columbianum).
- Rhizomes are horizontal stems that grow just below or on the soil surface. When planting rhizomes , position them horizontally in the soil with the flattened portion facing down. A few of our favorites include Pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa), redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana), and seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus).
How to plant bulbs and rhizomes:
Bulbs should be planted depending on when they bloom. Spring-blooming bulbs should be planted in the fall when the soil has had a chance to cool from the hot summer sun. Summer-blooming bulbs are best planted in the spring after the danger of frost has passed, usually April in Washington County.
Most bulbs need well-drained soil and at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Plant bulbs two to three times deeper than their diameter with the bulb’s pointed end facing up.
Sowing seeds can be a fun, inexpensive way to get your garden started. Fortunately, many grasses and ornamental annual flowers are especially easy to grow from seed. These plants are great for planting as a lawn alternative or native meadow. A few of our favorite native plants that grow from seeds include farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum).
How to plant seeds:
Each plant will have its own needs: seed depth, type of soil, exposure to light, and water requirements. Often the printed instructions on the back of the seed package will provide information on how (and if) your seeds should be planted indoors first or if they can be planted directly into the ground.