First, consider your main motivations for introducing natives into your landscape. Is it to do your part to create a habitat corridor for birds and other wildlife? Is it to give haven to pollinators? Is it to manage our abundant rainfall? Or is it all of the above?
Next, decide which landscape describes your garden space. Is your garden on a flat prairie with few trees? A neglected pasture? In a bottomland hardwood? Are you along a ridge or coteau? Does your garden or yard stay wet or get a lot of sun? Use this information to choose the right plants for your land and your purpose. Be mindful of how large some woody shrubs can get. Our plant lists in this section can help! If you are gardening to attract wildlife, include sources of shelter, water, larval foods, nectars, nesting materials.
Use basic landscape design principles if aesthetics are important to you. These include height layering, clumping, scale. Plan around the permanent structures in that space you wish to feature, integrate or hide. Choose some spectacular feature plants, and remember to consider seasons!
All gardens need maintenance, even those full of native plants. However, do not feel the need to apply traditional horticulture habits like fertilizers and pesticides to your native garden. Mulch with your own clippings to encourage a healthy microbial community that protects against pathogens. A little elbow grease, patience, and ecology is usually enough to maintain your plantings. Remember, these plants survived and flourished for millenia without our help.