Five Tips on Designing a Native Perennial Garden Using Transplants


By integrating the principles of ecology with garden design, you can create attractive, ecological prairie gardens. After the first year of establishment, these gardens will require no fertilizers, pesticides, or irrigation to keep them healthy and vibrant. Even during severe heat and drought, prairie gardens continue to perform while most other plants fade. And that ensures you of “more flowers per hours” spent in the garden!

Plant wildflowers and grasses together to create a naturalistic meadow effect. The dense root systems of the grasses will do much of the “weeding” for you by eliminating open soil in which weed seeds germinate and grow. Tap-rooted flowers do not provide sufficient soil cover to prevent weed growth around them, and should be inter-planted with grasses. Grasses also help support the wildflowers, reducing the need for staking tall flowers.

Select plants to match the scale of your landscape. Plant tall plants in back and short ones in front. Use short flowers and grasses in small prairie gardens. Tall flowers and grasses work best in back borders and areas where bold plants are desired, as well as for screening undesirable views in late summer and fall.

Plant flowers in masses and drifts of color to create drama and impact in the garden. Include short prairie grasses with mass flower plantings to help control weeds. In a closely tended or heavily-mulched garden, flowers can be planted without the grasses, but will require more maintenance.

Select plants for a succession of bloom throughout the growing season. This ensures that something interesting is always going on in your prairie garden. Include spring bloomers, as these are among the most attractive and delicate of the prairie flowers. Late in the year after all the flowers have gone by, the prairie grasses will provide a great show in fall and winter.

Use large “specimen” plants as architectural focal points in the garden. Surround individual specimen plants with lower-growing flowers and grasses to help them show off. Use groundcover plants for inter-planting among taller flowers and grasses, and in areas where low-growing cover is desired.


2 thoughts on “Five Tips on Designing a Native Perennial Garden Using Transplants

  1. I have a relatively lard yard that I have been wanting to convert to a natural landscape to avoid having to mow. So far I have two large “islands” which boast native wildflowers, grasses and other plants and herbs which I encourage to spread by natural germination in the fall (intentionally dropping ripened seed heads randomly about has always worked well). However I am concerned that if I encourage a full yard of this type of landscape with the intention of eradicating “lawn” the resultant tall flowers and grasses will be a haven for ticks. Is there any way I can allow the yard to go wild (with perhaps planned pathways throughout) and not risk predator pests overtaking the plantings?

  2. Hi Laura,

    Just about any landscape that is not mowed to wihtin an inch of its life will harbor ticks. I have noticed that woodlands and shrubby areas tend to have the highest tick densities, especially in spring. I also spend most of my time in the prairie during its peak blooming time in summer and fall, when ticks are typically less common.

    I suggest that you leave wide pathsat least ten feet in width so that you do not come in contact with the prairie vegetation where the ticks hang out. This will minimize the chance of coming in contact with there pesky critters. Good luck!