Native Backyards Challenge Recap

Week 1 Challenge: What’s in Your Yard? 🔎

The first step to making your yard better is to know what you currently have growing…

The Week 1 Challenge is to create a list of the plants in your yard. If you’re like me, you may be surprised with what you discover!

1. Use a plant ID app

Use a plant identification app like iNaturalist to help you identify plants in your yard:

Plant ID app

2. Download yard inventory

Print my free plant inventory template to create a list of the plants in your yard. Check out this completed example:

Yard inventory

3. Share what you’ve done!

Snap a photo of a plant you ID’d or your plant inventory list and share it with our Facebook group or email it to me!

Native Backyards Facebook Group

Week 1: Community Results

Check out what you all have accomplished in Week 1 of the Challenge…

New Plants Identified

Challenge recap
I just discovered this big clump of what I “think” is mock bishopsweed. The black swallowtails loved it last year!! – Martha, TX
A volunteer plant I saw on my property recently – apparently this is a native called Carolina geranium.” – Lana, TX
“Pink and orange globe mallows!” – Linda

I discovered a volunteer Carolina snail seed recently. – Dabney, TX

I found a new one in my garden today: Genum canadense (White Avens). It looks similar to a strawberry plant. Identified it via an app. I was getting ready to pull it up and decided it was too pretty not to just leave alone! – Linda, TX

I’ve learned so much from using iNaturalist! What I thought was some sort of morning glory coming up was actually Chinese parasol tree – an invasive here in Austin! I pulled them up right quick. – Alicia, TX

I used the Seek app to figure out a tree in my backyard is a Chinese Photinia and another tree is a Yaupon Holly. – Vicki, TX

Yard Inventories Completed

The yard inventories are starting to come in! See details of each inventory on the Native Backyards Community Facebook group post.

Cindy created a 3-page inventory of her Texas yard!
Cheryl says “Did my inventory… I have a lot of room for improvement! Looking forward to the development/transformation of my yard.”
yard inventory
I had to add a third page to my inventory this year – I now have over 30 native species in my yard that weren’t there 2 years ago! – Haeley of Native Backyards
Kerry created a 3-page inventory of her Texas yard. She said “This was a great exercise…a lot of this was from seed otherwise I would’ve never added so many things this year.”
Page two of Kerry’s inventory. Lots of great natives added in the last couple years! 👍
Betsy from Bryan, TX typed up her 2 page inventory, which features over 25 Texas natives. She also chose some Keystone species to add to her yard: “My keystone plant choice is to plant two varieties of red oaks (Quercus buckleyi and Quercus phellos) in the area of my landscape that does not have trees but is near my gardens.” 🙌

Week 2: Where to Add Natives?

The Week 2 Challenge is to find at least two spots in your yard where you could put a new native plant.

Measure the area and gauge the amount of direct sunlight it gets!

1. Find a spot

Measure the area where you want to put a new plant. This will help determine the number and size of plants you can grow there based on their mature size.

2. Measure the sunlight

Pick a sunny day and set an alarm on your phone to check the sun the area receives every couple hours. You can get my Sunlight Tracker if you like!

3. Share what you’ve done!

Snap a photo of where you plant to add a new native plant or your completed sunlight tracker with our Facebook group or email it to me!

Native Backyards Facebook Group

Week 2: Community Results

Check out what you all have accomplished in Week 2 of the challenge:

Where You Plan to Add Natives

AC says “80 feet long, looking forward is south, the street side is east. It’s a side yard not the back and the HOA says I can but all plants must stay below 36 inches in height. It gets great morning sun and some afternoon because of trees in my backyard. This will be my first area to plant native.”
Shannon in San Antonio says “This area is the only really sunny spot in an otherwise shady yard. Hoping to turn it into a pocket prairie over the next year with native turf mix (Thunder turf from Native American seeds) and some taller plants and vines along the fence.”
Michelle in Austin plans to give this pot a makeover with Salvia greggi!
Franco yard
Cherryl says “This is the area I have chosen to begin adding native plants. My yard is a bit of a mess with a deck being built. But the positive is a concrete slab was removed in 13x13in squares so I will reuse those as a border for a planting area. I got a chance to look up your suggestion on solarization. Will use it on part of my backyard but right now I will build up the part sun/shade area.
Pocket prairie
Annie says “There are so many spots I want to add native plants. I need to focus on one spot so this is my priority. Its in our leach field where I’d love to build a pocket prairie.”
Betsy says “In an area in the backyard garden, I planted two Penstemon digitalis which are native plants to fill in bare areas.  I chose this native plant because it is a host plant to Chalecedon Checkerspot and Edith’s Checkerspot butterflies.  It also attracts honeybees, Miner’s bees, bumblebees, Mason bees and hummingbirds.” 

Week 3: Let’s Find Some Great Native Plants

The Week 3 Challenge is to decide on the new native plants you want to add to your yard.

Remember to prioritize plants that serve as butterfly and moth host plants and/or provide nectar, fruit or seeds for wildlife!

1. Find natives near you

Check out my state-by-state native plant lists to get started. Need more help finding plants that would work well in your yard? Email me and I’ll be happy to help! 

2. Make a wishlist

Print this garden planner to start a wishlist of plants you would like to add. Be sure to find plants that fit the size & sun conditions of the areas where you plan to plant them.

3. Head to the nursery!

Head to the nursery that carries native plants. Bring your list and see what they have! Read plant labels closely to make sure you’re getting the right plant!

Nursery plant sign

Week 3: Community Results

Check out what you have accomplished in Week 3 of the Challenge!

For my new native garden along my side fence (part shade) I added: Obedient Plant (great nectar source), Inland Sea Oats (skipper host plant, seeds for birds), Cedar Sage, Autumn Sage (fall nectar), Turk’s Cap (fruit for wildlife, nectar for hummers) and Yellow Columbine so far!.” – Haeley of Native Backyards
Kerry in TX says “I’ll be replacing 2 tall nandinas with dwarf barbados cherries”
Vicki says “My neighborhood Garden Club recently had a sale and I made a beeline for the natives tables. I was thrilled to see a great selection of natives that came from the Morning Star Prairie plant nursery in Damon, TX. I snagged a Camphor Daisy, Gulf Vervain and a Prairie Spiderwort for my native/pollinator garden! So excited to watch those new additions bloom and attract native insects! “
Mary H recently created a new bed full of TX natives and a few favorite non-natives to attract pollinators: “Fennel, Zizotes Milkweed, Shrubby Boneset, Iris, Purple Coneflower, Mealy blue sage, Butterfly Milkweed, Flame Acanthus, Showy Goldenrod, Gay flower, Beebalm, Standing Cypress, Turks cap, Cardinal Flower, Wild Bergamot, Wright Skullcap, Frostweed, Joe Pye Weed, Texas lantana, Texas Lyre Sage, Gaura and more!”
Cherryl F. says “I was so overwhelmed with my backyard I picked the Mt. laurel to place one Native-Silver Pony Foot and one non native-scarlet firecracker fern. Then I added to the front walk area one Native-Turks Cap red and one non native Hamilton Orange Globe Mallow. I learned that both of these are Mallows. I think I need to make sure I can keep the plants alive!! Going slowwwww”
Betsy C. says “For this week’s challenge, I have done quite a bit of research.  I have a dappled shaded area at the top patio area of my fairy garden.  I want to add new (plants that do not already grow in the fairy garden) low growing native blooming plants that will attract pollinators specifically moths and butterflies.   
Frogfruit and many other native ground cover plants will not get sufficient sun to grow here.  
I think that the two best choices are creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera) and Heartleaf Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia).  Both are native plants that are considered wildflowers in parts of the US and as woodland plants which would be appropriate for the wooded hilltop patio setting”

Gayle in MN says…

Here’s what I’ve got going into my Lawns to Legumes planting…know it’s a lot. But diversity, right? Also, a dense, layered planting. And I needed at least three things in bloom spring, summer, and fall. And I needed as many of my plants, as possible, to be preferred by the Federally endangered Rusty-patched Bumblebee (I got 6). Also, if any of my plants do not thrive, their demise won’t be noticed. I did do my research. These are all woodland plants that should also do well on a floodplain.

Yes, it’s different to do a pollinator garden that isn’t in full sun. I had already seeded all my full sun areas (what little there is). This plant list can be repeated throughout my double lot.Trees and shrubs will start arriving today! I have over 30 of them that I will be adding. Fortunately, I had already pre-measured for spacing and dug preliminary holes:

  • Jacobs Ladder
  • Solomons Plume
  • Wild Blue Phlox
  • Wild Geranium
  • Virginia Waterleaf
  • Early Figwort
  • Poke Milkweed
  • Sweet Joe-pye-weed
  • Tall Bellflower
  • Big-leaved Aster
  • Zig-zag Goldenrod
  • Lion’s Foot
  • Interrupted Fern
  • Cinnamon Fern
  • Bottlebrush Grass
  • Long-beaked Sedge

Week 4: Planting Time!

To conquer the Native Backyards Challenge add at least 2 new native plants to your yard:

1. Purchase your plants

If you haven’t done so already, find a local nursery that sells plants native to your area, and make a trip this week! When checking out plants at the nursery, it is helpful to look for the scientific name. You can Google the name along with “native” to make sure it is native to your area before purchasing. 

2. Prep and plant

Make sure your planting area is big enough for the mature size of the plant and has adequate sunlight for it to thrive. Make a hole as deep as the pot and loosen any pot bound roots. Water thoroughly after planting, and every couple days for the first several weeks and then weekly until it is established.

3. Watch for insects!

Spend a few moments out in your yard this week and find a new-to-you insect to photograph. Try to identify it by uploading the photos to the iNaturalist app and share a pic with us along with some info about the insect. Once you plant natives they will come! You are providing important habitat.

Week 4: Community Results

Congrats to all of you who conquered the Native Backyards Challenge!

Check out how Aracely in Texas created a beautiful native garden with a backdrop and water trough:

Aracely says “This area was covered by grass and mesquite trees. We cleared out the mesquite branches and only left the tall trunks. We left the trunks tall so that we can install birdhouses on them. I cleared out most of the grass -took out some plumbago I planted a couple of years ago…
…I added plants including Cenizo, Passionvine, lots of Zizotes Milkweed, Clasping Coneflowers, Black Eyed Susan’s, Maximilian Sunflowers and some pink Salvias. I covered the areas around the plants with cardboard. Then just added crushed granite- which is quickly becoming my favorite mulch! My daughters helped built the border with rocks…”
“…The backdrop is made out of three trailer underskirts attached to t-posts. I think the greatest challenge we always face is getting rid of the mesquite trees. So this time we decided to use them to our advantage instead of trying to get rid of the entire thing. The clearing out is what takes us the longest. After that I planted everything, added cardboard and covered half of the area with crushed granite. The following day we completed the project!
Lana says “This is our new wildlife pond – it still needs some finishing touches, but it’s pretty much done. It doesn’t look like much now, but the plants will fill in. It was also stirred up by the rain last night, but that also filled it up nicely: Eventually I want to remove more grass around it and add even more natives. Starting at the bottom of the photo and going counter-clockwise around the pond there is: frog fruit, water hyssop, American water-willow, common rush, pickerelweed, rose mallow hibiscus, blue waterleaf, water pennywort –
Underwater in the middle of the pond:
American white water lily and
American eelgrass.”
…On Monday my husband caught this photo of a yellow-crowned night heron checking out the pond! 😃 Looks like we’re on the right track with this habitat! …” – Lana in TX
Donald in San Antonio says, “Allow me to post my sad looking, not ready for prime time front yard rain garden! Planted Button bush (shown with deer nibbles), elbow bush, elderberry, hop tree, and a Gregg’s Mistflower to bring the butterflies in for viewing. Much more to plant but I was waiting for cooler weather. Maybe if it actually rains the next few days.”
Betsy in Bryan, TX says “Here is an early spring photo of my hillside fairy garden. For the challenge I found Texas natives to incorporate among my other annual flowers…”
“…I also planted these two Red Oak trees at the beginning of the challenge. This photo also shows the  native wildflower seeds for hummingbirds and butterflies that I planted in the common area behind our property. I have enjoyed participating in the native plant challenge.  It really motivated me.  I also want to thank you because I applied for and received the Native Wildlife Habitat certification yesterday.  I appreciate your encouragement for us to do so.” – Betsy in Bryan, TX
Mary says“Here’s the Texas Rose Pavonia I’m going to plant in the pecan tree shade garden I am readying. Complete with a lovely skipper enjoying lunch.”