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Native Plant Guide

Information and Services for King County, Washington

Plant spacing preferences

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Traditional Landscape
If you prefer a landscape with visible ground or mulch between plants, you can still use native plants. For smaller lots, you may want to avoid large trees and stick with shrubs. Some shrubs, such as Pacific wax myrtle or serviceberry, can be pruned to look like small trees, and vine maple can fit into almost any yard. These landscapes typically have plants placed with little or no overlap. Large trees may be spaced 20 - 50 feet (or more) apart and small trees and shrubs planted 10 - 15 feet apart. Groundcover should be clustered in dense pockets of 1-3 feet.

Sparse planting advantages
1.Lower plant material costs
2.Creates a more organized landscape aesthetic
3.Shows off individual plants better
4.Easier to establish less-burly perennials
5.Better habitat for species that like open landscapes

Sparse planting disadvantages
1.Dead plants need prompt replacement
2.Weeds are not out-competed
3.More maintenance required
4.Landscape appears sparse until plants mature
5.Provides habitat for fewer native wildlife species

Of course, there are many options in between sparse and dense. You can always pick different plant spacing for different areas of your yard. For example, a lower maintenance middle-ground might have a sparsely planted tree and shrub layer, but is packed with wildflowers, perennials and groundcovers. This works well if you only have traditional garden weeds on site and are not battling blackberry, knotweed or other super-tough weeds. The choice is yours. Just match up your goals with these outcomes and you will have fun gardening with natives.

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