Propagating Native Plants

Specific Native Plants

Clicking on an image should open an information page about my attempts and what I’ve learned so far … if you have any experience to share I hope you will feel free to add your comments.

Antelope Horns Milkweed
Antelope Horns Milkweed
chili pequin
chili pequin
cyperus
cyperus
datura
datura
dayflower/widow's tears
dayflower/widow’s tears
dwarf palmetto
dwarf palmetto
false foxglove
false foxglove
gregg's mistflower
Gregg’s mistflower
inland sea oats
inland sea oats
kidneywood
kidneywood
pigeonberry
pigeonberry
rain lily
rain lily
red yucca
red yucca
Texas persimmon
Texas persimmon
turk's cap
turk’s cap
water primrose
water primrose
wild blue phlox
wild blue phlox
little mistletoe
false mistletoe
Crow Poison
Crow Poison

Why Propagate Native Plants?

Propagation is Conservation

I can’t be alone in thinking that needing to buy native plants is kind of bizarre. By definition our native plants ought to surround us; yet, the species that adapted to live and grow around us are sometimes hard to find. With a little effort this situation can be corrected. Most plants produce a great many seeds because most will fail if left on their own. By providing ideal circumstances we can increase survival rates. Here are my personal collection rules:

  • Don’t become part of the problem.
  • Only collect seed from abundant stands.
  • Only take what you really need and leave the rest for wildlife.
  • Be polite and ask for permission where appropriate.

Safety

I distrust the plants I find at nurseries and garden centres — too many come pre-loaded with poison and very few provide labels to warn of the danger. By collecting my own seed and controlling how and where they grow I know I won’t accidentally poison wildlife.

Thrift and Equity

Filling every possible bald spot with purchased potted plants is simply out of reach for my budget. While gardening has always been connected to privilege it is increasingly becoming a hobby only the wealthy can enjoy. That feels very wrong to me. Especially now that I have come to understand that anyone can learn how to collect and propagate native plants. Nature is generous and will provide most of the materials for little to no cost.

Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement managed to plant 51 million trees in Kenya. They certainly didn’t pop over to the local big box store or specialized nursery to buy each tree. The program began with rural women collecting and planting seeds from native plants and trees. I’d like to follow her path here.

Seed Germination in General

Knowing a little about how seed germinates has been helpful. This is what I’ve learned about …

Epigeal and Hypogeal Germination

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17 thoughts on “Propagating Native Plants

  1. I am in NY, but I have had to order online to get non-neonic treated plants. These might help… Texas Native Plant Society http://npsot.org/wp/
    Finding Native Plants. http://npsot.org/wp/resources/finding-natives/
    Operation Nice – http://npsot.org/wp/resources/nice/
    Xerces Society and Pollinator Conservation http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center/
    Pollinator Conservation Resources – South Central Region http://www.xerces.org/pollinators-south-central-region/ .. I am a novice and trying hard…Michelle

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    1. Wow! What a great little resource. I pretty much collect my seed from plants in the wild but Native American Seed and Prairie Moon Nursery have supplied me with seeds that I haven’t been able to glean. Love your list. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  2. Lovely list of plants, beautiful and interesting to find out how they’ll do. You have a great blog full of interesting stuff.

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  3. Hi, Debra. Thanks for liking two of my posts. I’m from Texas originally, but lived in the Pacific Northwest for years. Now, I’ve moved back east as far as New Mexico and am trying to apply what I know about soil, gardening and native edibles here in this sandy soil. Something I just noticed that’s happening in the ‘wild’ zone of our backyard. I broadcasted a local wildflower seed across the back about a year and a half ago. We had good monsoon rains and the purple asters came up like crazy last spring and summer, in the shade of bird of paradises (an introduced species that grows everywhere here). Anyway I let all the little bushes of asters just go to seed where they were. I was out there a couple days ago, breaking up the old brown flower bushes for mulch on top, and I can see the next generation germinating, but I can also see a crust of black loam on top of what was just sand, that has formed from the fallen aster seed fluff and accumulated leaves of the Bird of Paradise. The aster has a long tap root as well. I think I see a way of building the soil here without alot of work or water, using these naturalized ‘weeds’. I’m going to let this years wildflowers run their course, then I think in the fall I’ll broadcast some peas, carrots, and collard green seeds into the wildflower bushes and see what happens next year. Any ideas? All the very best, Barbara Jean Hollywood.

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    1. I am no expert but I have seen the same phenomenon in the wilder spaces of our property. After the height of the nasty drought I had an area of turf grass die out leaving behind barren dusty silt. Where I have ‘allowed’ weeds to proliferate they have done the job of slowly building up healthy soil by improving tilth and nutrient content. In my case the succession went something like: thistles (with nice long tap roots) to oxalis (nitrogen fixing) with some hemlock in between. This year I am going to try purposefully adding some wildflowers that are indigenous to this area. It has been a slow process — taking a few years of waiting but it seemed like the best way for me to go. I am considering speeding things up a bit with the addition of some compost and leaf mold. My idea there is to improve the water retention properties. I hope you will report back about your edible garden. That sounds like a great idea. Since annuals can pull out a lot of nutrition I wonder if you might want to add a green manure into your rotation.

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      1. I see what you mean about annuals. Thanks for bringing up that point, it may be too soon. I build all my regular garden beds with crumbled leaves, ‘bone black’ and charcoal, and the odd dose of manure, usually llama poop or leached cow manure crumbled up on top. The thing here is the hard winds, so i’m putting in short pieces of logs about 4 or 5″ in diameter and about 2 feet long to cross the wind direction and hold the soil behind my plants. You might try that to help build your soil, wind breaks for leaves to pile up against. Anyway, I think I could talk to you all day. Let me know what you think of my posts, good or bad, I’d value your opinion. Cheers, Barbara jean.

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        1. =D Thanks. I’ve just started exploring your blog and so far I love it. Moisture is the thing here. I’ve been using deadwood that falls to corral leaves. haha Not picture perfect but it mostly works. I am so lucky I don’t live in one of those neighbourhoods where every activity is monitored and subject to approval. And … uh … llama poop! wow wow wow.

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          1. Same here. I’m on a large suburban lot in a very small town in the middle of nowhere. You hear roosters in the morning. No one pays much attention to me. I’m about to post a new article about how I’ve been building the soil and growing food here in the desert, and how it differs from how I did things in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been working on things here for about 2 1/2 years, so I’m still learning, but I fill the freezer every year, and over-winter more and more continuously producing beds. Last years big dilemma was nematodes. I expanded too fast, and the sandy soil took back. I found a chart of nematode population as plotted against loam content and it drops off quickly with added organic matter, with pure sand being their favorite environment. So, I’m adding in a lot of crumbled leaf and turning the soil, which I normally don’t do, but the summer rains pound the bare sand so badly you have to dig. I hope it’s only once.The key is living cover and wind breaks. I’m getting some native weeds in one long bed on the northside that have made a perfect winter cover. They’re going to seed now, and I won’t turn that bed. It’s doing what I’d expect of a no-till bed anywhere. Anyway, like I said, I could talk to you forever. Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll steadily post more and more about my subsistence and other projects. Hope to have video soon also. I love that your propagating natives back in my home state. Oh, and any pellet type poop, like rabbit, deer, llama is the best. You just toss it on top without composting it. All the very best, neighbor, Barbara Jean.

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  4. That is a nice list of plants~ it will be interesting to see how that goes for you. I don’t have much to offer… around here in northern Il, we will take a sustainable amount of seed and then simply sow it in an appropriate habitat in our yard. Many shrubs will grow from cuttings ~ I have had success from the new shoots that are growing up. Because our climate is harsh, many of our plants require stratifying, but I figure nature can accomplish this better than I can so I put the seed right out there where I want it. Not the most efficient, I suppose, but then, the ones that grow are going to be the hardiest. Also, there is a succession factor; some plants will more readily “take” in a young garden, while others are more conservative and won’t come in until the earlier, pioneer plants have modified the soil. I wonder if that is the same in Texas????

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    1. These are great tips. Thanks =)

      A lot of what you say about Illinois holds for Texas. Some seeds here do need to be stratified and succession is definitely a factor. I’ve been quite fascinated watching what has happened over the years to one corner of our property. The first plants to move in had tap roots that drilled deep, followed by nitrogen fixers. I think it is ready for my interference.

      Some stratification protocols really do seem pretty intricate. In those cases I agree it is a lot easier to just let nature take care of the details.

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  5. “Unfortunately, reliable propagation guides for native plants are hard to find. Depending on who you ask the advice can be directly contradictory. Frequently, important bits of information aren’t even mentioned.” I thought I would mention that I have extensively used “How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest” by Jill Nokes. It is an excellent professionally written book that should answer most if not all of your questions about propagating Texas plants.
    -Texas Jelly Maker

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