Chesapeake Bay Field Office
Northeast Region

Know your site and plant to the existing site conditions.

blue eyed grass flowerIs your planting area in the sun or shade, or does it get some of both? Is the soil dry, moist, or wet? Is the soil sandy, loamy, or clay based (not sure? see "Get a soil test" below)? Use one of our native plant guides or the online Native Plant Center to choose plants that will grow and thrive in the conditions in your planting area.

Get a soil test. For a few dollars, you can have your soil tested to determine the type of soil you have (sand, clay, loam, etc.), and its pH and fertility status. The lab will also make recommendations for amending the soil to make it into “average garden soil.” However, it is not necessary to amend the soil for planting native species. By planting to the existing conditions, you won’t need to bring in additional soil, compost or other organic material, fertilizer, or lime. There are a wide variety of plants that will thrive in most conditions, even the driest, poorest soil you can find, or very wet clay soil. If, however, the soil test shows extreme pH – very acidic (pH of less than 5, as it might be for example under oak trees) or very basic (pH 8 or above), your plant choices will be fairly limited. In that case, you might choose to follow the instructions for making the soil more neutral. If the soil is hard, compacted fill dirt brought in during construction, you might want to improve it by adding organic matter and work the ground so that it can more easily be planted. If you alter the site, then select plants suited to the new conditions.

To find a lab that analyses soil samples, try contacting your state or local Cooperative Extension office:


Why BayScape?

Choosing Plants

How To

USFWS Plant List

Finding Natives

Other Web Resources


Online Native Plant Center now available to help you find native Plants of the same type, shape color, size and other desirable plant characteristics for creating attractive and more natural landscapes in your yard.


Last updated: June 28, 2011