Growing Native Plants

Selection and Cultivation of Nevada Native Plants
(a guide to information resources)

The Nevada Native Plant Society (NNPS) and its members receive many inquiries about how to find, select, and cultivate native Nevada plant species for personal gardens and landscaping, sometimes including rare or endangered species. Even in Nevada, many native species are as pleasing to the senses as the most beautiful of non-native offerings, and cultivating native species can help cut the use of water and pesticides dramatically, and can help curb the spread of invasive non-native species. Besides joining NNPS and attending its meetings and field trips, there are several other sources of information and materials, listed below, that may be helpful in this worthwhile endeavor. As we become aware of further useful resources we will add them to this page. Please contact the webmaster at jdmore [at] heritage [dot] nv [dot] gov with your suggestions!

(NOTE: THE NNPS SPECIFICALLY DISCOURAGES COLLECTIONS OF LIVE PLANTS FROM THE WILD FOR HORTICULTURAL PURPOSES. Besides increasing the chances of doing unintended harm to natural populations and ecosystems, there are specific legal restrictions on such activities depending on ownership of the land involved, and on which species are being collected. Nevada state law (N.R.S. 527.050) prohibits collection of native plant materials from private lands in the state without prior permission of the land owner or manager.)

Of the approximately 2,800 plant species native to Nevada, only a fraction are suitable for cultivation in any given region of the state, and an even smaller fraction are available commercially. For both ecological and horticultural reasons, it is important to grow species that are native not only to Nevada, but to your local area of the state as well, whenever possible. (For example, planting Palmer penstemon, a southern and eastern Nevada native, in northwestern Nevada can threaten another rare native subspecies via hybridization.) Some of the following resources may be helpful to you in finding and growing species appropriate to your area:

Landscaping with native plants of the Intermountain Region. Parkinson, H., A. DeBolt, R. Rosentreter, and V. Geertson (editors). 2003. Boise: U.S.D.I. Bureau of Land Management, Idaho State Office, Technical Reference 1730-3 (BLM/ID/ST-03/003+1730). 47 pages. (For northern Nevada, this is perhaps the best single starting reference currently available.)

Native Gardening web page of the U.S.D.A. Forest Service's Celebrating Wildflowers web site, which has a wealth of other helpful pages and links for learning about, enjoying, and growing wildflowers and native plants.

The Xeric Gardener is a well-written newsletter with much information on growing native species at home. Though based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, much of the information is helpful for Nevada residents as well. Many species mentioned in the articles can also be purchased through the newsletter's host, High Country Gardens, although we do not specifically endorse or recommend this or any other company. (Thank you to Christy Malone, NNPS Horticulture Chair, for this tip.)

All about dry climate gardening. Schrock, D. (editor). 2004. Ortho Books, Marysville, OH. 128 pages. ISBN 0897214994. ~$11-$15 (paper). Favorably reviewed in the Newsletter of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico, Vol. XXIX, Number 2, page 14, Apr-Jun 2004.

Local Nurseries: while we cannot offer specific recommendations or endorsements, many local nurseries will offer both native and non-native species. Call and ask. If there is too long a pause after asking what local native species an outfit carries, it may be time to move on to the next listing! For an independent check on whether a species is truly a native or not, and what some of its characteristics are (and sometimes a wealth of further information including photographs), also check out the USDA PLANTS web site and iNaturalist (see further below). To check on whether a particular species native to Nevada is also native to your local corner of Nevada, try consulting some of the recommended readings (see below) at your local library, or check with a botanist at a University of Nevada herbarium in either Reno (775-784-1105, unrherb [at] unr [dot] edu) or Las Vegas (Wesley E. Niles Herbarium, 702-895-3098, kbirgy [at] ccmail [dot] nevada [dot] edu), or at the Nevada Natural Heritage Program.

Nursery and Seedbank Program of the Nevada Division of Forestry: for certain conservation-oriented purposes (generally not for gardening or regular landscaping uses), native plant materials, including some rare and endangered species, may be available through the Washoe Valley or Southern Nevada nurseries or through the Nevada State Seedbank. Many non-natives are also available.

Native Plant Information Network of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: although centered on Texas, this web site offers species lists for the entire United States. Nevada is included in their Rocky Mountains region, for which there are lists of recommended native plants, commercial plant and seed sources, commercial landscapers, native plant organizations, and reference materials.

iNaturalist: This community science platform covers all species around the globe but you can search for plants native to Nevada or your county by using the filters in the Explore tool.

U.S.D.A. PLANTS Database: besides having a general wealth of information and photographs on North American native plants, their new Plant Materials Publications module offers a searchable database of published information on propagation of native (and non-native) species. (with thanks to Lingua Botanica, the quarterly newsletter of the U.S. Forest Service's National Botany Program) Two publications of particular interest are:

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension: useful information and contacts may be found under subject headings such as Master Gardeners, Horticulture, and Water Conservation. Be aware, however, that most of the plants Cooperative Extension promotes for use in Nevada are NON-natives.

Recommended Readings of the Nevada Natural Heritage Program: these references provide loads of useful information, both general and technical, on plants native to Nevada, sometimes including specific ranges within Nevada. Many of the technical works can be very helpful even to the non-technical reader - don't be afraid to check them out! One of particular interest is Roadside Use of Native Plants, edited by B. L. Harper-Lore and M. Wilson (1999).

Native Seed Network web site sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management is still under development and promises to become an excellent source of information on the availability and suitability of native plant seeds for specific regions. (with thanks to Lingua Botanica, the quarterly newsletter of the U.S. Forest Service's National Botany Program)

Wildland Shrubs of the United States and its Territories is a useful source of information for those contemplating specific shrubs for cultivation. (with thanks to Lingua Botanica, the quarterly newsletter of the U.S. Forest Service's National Botany Program)