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1. Find the right plant

Guide to Native Plants for Northern Virginia

Of course, the very best place to start your native garden is the official Native Plants for Northern Virginia guide. These plants are naturally beautiful, enhancing your property and requiring less care while benefiting birds, butterflies and pollinators. The guide also includes a quick reference section on best planting conditions. You can also order a print copy from our store.

Native Plant Finder App

Find the perfect Northern Virginia native for your planting needs. ​

2. Find native plants for sale

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It's easy to find native plants!

  1. Native-plant-only garden centers

  2. Conventional garden centers with red stickers on the native plants

  3. Periodic local native plant sales

  4. Mail order nurseries

  5. Seedling sales and giveaways

3. Try out these easy plants


Add valuable natural habitat with these beautiful additions to your yard!

Butterfly Weed

(Asclepias tuberosa)

Turk's cap lily

(Lilium superbum)


(Coreopsis verticillata)

(Physocarpus opulifoius)

Arrowwood Viburnum 

(Viburnum dentatum)

(Ilex verticillata)

Smooth Hydrangea
(Hydrangea arborescens)

Virginia Sweetspire
(Itea virginica)

4. Get Help – Consult Audubon at Home

If you are interested in creating a wildlife sanctuary on your own land, volunteers from Audubon at Home will consult with you for no charge at your house, business, faith community or other property. Once you have documented visits by wildlife, your property will be added to the growing list of certified sanctuaries.

5. Start planting


  • Plant any time of year that the ground is not frozen or saturated (planting in wet soil causes harmful compaction). If you plant in summer, you may need to do a lot of watering! Spring and fall are great, and fall is actually ideal.

  • Make a hole just slightly wider and no deeper than the plant. 

  • Place the plant so its base is at ground level.

  • Water well that day and the next, then twice a week for a couple weeks, then weekly through the first growing season. A good rain counts as watering. (For trees, check special instructions here.)

  • Cover bare soil with dead leaves, pine needles, straw or store-bought mulches made of plant material. 


  • Overwater. For plants that prefer dry soil, let it dry out between watering.

  • Amend the soil (unless planting in construction clay, in which case throw in a handful or two of compost).

  • Fertilize.

  • Use pesticides. That would kill the life we are trying to support!

  • Let mulch touch the plants.

6. Control the deer

​​​Protect your plants! Here are seven ways to keep deer away from your plants.


1. Fencing. The only completely reliable protection is a fence. Six feet might do, eight feet is safer. Home supply stores sell a tough black plastic mesh in rolls for this purpose which is nearly invisible when seen from a distance and which can be attached to trees or posts.

2. Temporary enclosures. Newly planted trees and shrubs may be protected by cages made out of wire fence cloth.

​3. Netting. Netting over the garden bed is relatively effective, but can be a nuisance. Birds and other animals may get caught in it.

4. Repellants. It works best to use multiple strategies at once and to rotate products periodically.

5. Smelly sprays.  Usually based on "putrescent egg solids," sometimes mixed with other oils such as rosemary or lavender, and a spreader sticker.  Must be re-applied periodically, usually every 30 days.

6. Granules such as Deer Scram. These are applied to the ground monthly.

7. Capsaican tablets. These are put into the ground in spring. As the plant grows, the roots take up the capsaicin, which makes the leaves less palatable.


8. Pin small plant plugs down with garden staples.

Learn more about the effect of deer on the environment.

Search for plants that are relatively deer-resistant with our Native Plant Finder App.

Pollinator Garden for Sun

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7. Get inspired

Multiple resources for ideas on how to lay out your landscape.

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Larger Pollinator Garden for Sun

Click on the gallery below to expand the image.

Mailbox Garden Plan by Elisa Meara, President, Native Plant Landscape Design

The Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources has published a Green Book of the (Chesapeake Bay Watershed) Buffer, aka the GBB.  Follow the link for a variety of garden plans.

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