Since plants are the base of the food chain they need to be established first in a restoration area.  Native plants will attract organisms that have evolved with the plants.  Native plants have also adapted to the soil in an area. 

Plant propagation

Growing plants can be done in many different ways.  For native plants it is best that you have the correct species for the area that you are restoring.  The native species of plants have the genetic material necessary to combat local plant diseases and insects and they are already accustomed to the climate.  The following are practical guides for general propagation.  For specific information on each species consult a native plant manual or local expert.  This is sometimes difficult.

New Century Dictionary Vol. 1 (1936)
Author: Emery, H. G. and Brewster, K. G.
Illustrator: Many
Publisher: P. F. Collier and Son Corp.
Copyright (c) 1996 Zedcor Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Keywords: acorn seed fruit of oak nut n hardened scaly cup, b/w


To plant plants by seed you need to first find a mature tree in the location you are planning to plant.  The correct location would include areas with similar conditions to where you are trying to restore.  You do not want to collect plants from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to plant in the East Bay Hills; they are completely different areas with different climates.

This mature tree will have the correct genetic adaptations to the environment you are planting along with natural defenses against local bugs and pathogens.  Collect seeds at the proper time of year (generally early summer to fall depending on the species) and plant at the right time.  Having a greenhouse or cold frames helps to produce the ideal conditions necessary for your plants to germinate quickly.  Once germinated the plants are seedlings.  For each species you need to learn how long they can remain in a pot.  Some plants like oaks grow very large taproots to help find water.  If they are n a pot, they cannot adapt to the local conditions.  

Small grasses and or flowers can be planted once they are in the one gallon containers but trees, unless they have a well developed tap root like an oak, should be planted after 2-3 years.  You want a healthy top portion of the plant and very healthy root in order for your plant to survive.

Place seed in soil and cover lightly with soil.  Water and continue to water once germinated.  After a few weeks, transplant plant into a larger container.  You may want to add nutrients depending on the species.


Not all plants grow successfully through seeds.  Some plants, especially those in wetlands can propagate by cutting a slice of a branch and emerge it in moist soil or water.  If you use this method the cutting needs to be moist until it starts rooting.

Willow trees are a common example of plants that start by this method.  Even large branches that are cut germinate.    Some other trees can root by this methods but require younger branches.

If you do not have a manual or any experts, experiment!


Many aquatic plants like tules and other sedges can be spread easily by planting their rhizomes, Planting rhizome fragments is labor intensive and has variable success.  Usually dig rhizomes in late winter or early spring before the shoots emerge.  Cut the rhizomes so there is at least one internode or thickened bands on the rhizome.  Plant it in wet soil and keep moist until the plants emerge. 

Another successful way is to submerge the rhizomes in water and let them grow for a few weeks.  You can then transplant them in an area.  This should be done only prior to when rains will insure the soil will be moist for a few months, until the tules become established. 


Tree Planting

Planting a tree or any other plant requires patience, diligence, and some hard work.  Know what you are doing and you can have yourself a wonderful plant for many years to come.

Preparing the soil for a new plant     

Dig a hole using a hole digger or shovel.  Start by making small depressions into the earth and use the handle as a lever to push out the soil.  Place the soil near the hole (you will need it later) then to widen the hole take some off the sides, so that you are not hefting more than you can carry, and place it in your pile.

Once your hole has reached about 1.5 times the size of your plantís pot, in depth and width, you can start the process of planting.   Take the pot off the plant carefully.  Check the roots, are they free or are there many very close together growing around the pot?  If they are free you can proceed to the next step if they are growing together loosen the roots or take them by the bottom and gently pull them apart to loosen. 

Fill in some of the soil back into the hole until you have a mound.  Place the plant in the hole on top of the mound and then proceed to fill back in the soil.  Stop once you have reached the crown of the roots.  Pack the soil and water.  If after the water has drained the soil has settled then add some more soil and water again.  

Apply some mulch around the edge of the hole, not directly against the trunk, to prevent moisture loss.  Water well to prevent shock and your plant will be able to survive.

For Planting on a slope: make sure that you create a catch basin or shelf for the plants to collect water.  If you donít do this plants will wash away during the next heavy rain.  This also serves as a shelf for the plant to sit on and provide stability for the plant.  Notice on the picture to the right there is an area of flat ground that helps the water collect and for the roots to spread out.

Non-Native Plant Removal

Non-native plants compete with native plant species for space and resources.  Many non-native plants tend to be aggressive growers and reproduce quickly.  Plants become established through different seed dispersal mechanisms including wind, bird, and attachment on other animals including humans.  Seeds plant themselves in the ground and will grow if soil and weather conditions are good.   Control of these plants can be difficult but with diligence can be completed and successful

A good example of seed propagation is the growth of Erodium cicutarium, which came to California from Spain.  Historians suspect the horses that the Spaniards brought over ate grain and the feces would contain seeds.  Seeds could have gotten in the hoofs or shoes and easily brought to California.  It acts as a time line of when the Europeans arrived in California. They can even trace the movement of the plant species from southern to northern California.  .

Removing various grasses

Grass roots tend to be shallow and by removing the major growing portion of the plant you have killed the plant.  Make sure that the grasses have not gone to seed because next season you will have to repeat the process.  Using a shovel or a hoe you can gently remove the growing portions of the grass and by removing the stalks you can prevent the regrowth.  As a preventative measure add a layer of mulch to prevent the buildup of seeds from sprouting and causing problems.

Removing non-natives with taproots

The taproot is a single root that goes deep into the ground and provides an anchor for the plant and example of such a non-native is the dandelion.  The photo at the right shows the dandelion plant with its root system the above portion with green and white is what lies above the ground while the root is below.  By cutting off the top of the plant the root is able to continue to grow and produce another green top.  You need to remove the root in order to remove this type of non-native.  Another type similar to this in more marsh areas includes the curly dock with its taproot.

To remove the root you need to get down to its level and either pull the root out or take a weeder to remove the root without disturbing the surface too much.

Thistles and thorny plants

These plants should be removed using a shovel with the head held at ground level chop off the growing portion.  Carefully rake into a bag to be picked up or place into a compost pile.  Many species of thistles have small itchy thorns that can imbed themselves into your skin and provide you with the wonderful experience of having to pull them out so be careful.

Large shrubs and trees are already established and removing them can cause a large ecologic impact therefore it is not recommended to remove all of them.  

General things to remember when removing non-natives:

  • Try to remove before they have gone to seed
  • For plants with large taproots wait until after it has rained or you watered, the soil will be looser and easier to move
  • Remove as much of the taproot as possible
  • Remove all parts of the plant, some can regenerate from just a small cutting
  • Try not to disturb the soil too much
  •  Place a mulch over the disturbed area to prevent any future growth of the non-native you have removed
  •  For already seeding plants such as pampas grass or fountain grasses bag the seed head and then proceed removing the remaining plant.
  •  Thistles or other thorny plants need to be completely removed or they will regenerate


To information on pruning trees we suggest going to the following U.S. Department of Agriculture site:

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