How to Choose Native Plants for Your Project
Before choosing what native plants to use, you should know the soil texture, soil moisture, and sunlight availability in your planting area.
- Soil texture is determined by the ratio of different sized mineral particles in your soil. Sand is the largest particle type, silt is the second largest, and clay is the smallest. Soil also contains organic matter. Different soils can hold moisture, air, and nutrients differently based on the combination of their particle sizes (or texture) and organic matter content. Fun fact: loam is a soil type that is well-balanced between the three particle sizes and is known for being the most productive of the soil types because it holds water and nutrients well without being too saturated for crops or other plants to grow.
- This NRCS soil texture calculator shows how soil type is determined using these particle ratios.
- Unsure of your soil texture? Look it up on the NRCS Web Soil Survey
- If you would like a more detailed assessment of your soil, you can purchase a soil test kit through MSU Extension at homesoiltest.msu.edu.
- For soil moisture, you’ll want to have a basic idea of whether your soil is wet, mesic, or dry.
- Wet soils (also known as hydric) are those typically found in a wetland or shoreline. Wet soils are usually saturated with water and can flood on occasion.
- Mesic soils are in between wet and dry. They have a moderate amount of moisture throughout the year, but are well-drained and are not usually fully saturated with water.
- Dry soils (also known as xeric) are very well-drained and hold little moisture at most times. In Barry County, these tend to be the sandiest of our soils.
- You can have wet-mesic soils which are in-between wet and mesic, and also dry-mesic soils which are in between dry and mesic.
- Finally, you will want to know whether your site is in full sun, partial shade, or full shade.
- Full sun means an area receives 80% or more direct sunlight throughout the day.
- Partial shade (or partial sun) means an area gets 30%-80% direct sunlight throughout the day. This would be like the edge of a woodlot or near some sparse shrubs.
- Full shade means an area gets less than 30% direct sunlight throughout the day. This would be like an area right up next to a large building or under a dense forest canopy.
Once you are familiar with your site conditions, there are many resources available for choosing suitable native plant species.