Gardening in New York is a unique and wonderful experience. With such diverse climates and geography, New York boasts an impressive selection of native plants that thrive in our gardens. From the prairie-like landscapes of the Midwest to the lush vegetation on the coasts, New York has something for everyone when it comes to gardening.
Get ready to create an outdoor oasis full of the beauty that thrives in New York state. Whether you’re looking for a tranquil place to relax or an energizing landscape for your family and friends, there’s something for everyone when it comes to gardening in the Empire State!
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Is New York good for gardening?
There is no doubt that New York is great for gardening! New York state’s terrain consists of diverse ecosystems, from grasslands and montane forests to marshes and rivers, offering gardeners an array of opportunities. Notably, these differing ecosystems in the state are home to a huge number of native plants, which are essential to local ecology and also to us!
Native plants are essential to the success of New York's gardens, providing gardeners with access to the diverse and unique flora that has evolved here. However, New York is a place where the weather conditions are anything but ordinary. You’ll encounter some challenges while growing your plants, but don't worry, we've got you covered.
Here are the three main challenges you must consider when gardening in the Empire State.
Sudden and unpredictable weather events
The weather in New York can be pretty wild, and it's not always a gardener's friend. From droughts to floods, storms to extreme heat, your plants can face serious and unexpected threats. Always be aware of local weather conditions and alerts, so you’re not taken by surprise.
Summers in New York are hot, hot, hot! If you want your plants to survive and thrive, keep an eye on the temperature and water accordingly. Even plants labeled as full-sun, like our Monarch Munchables 12-Plant Collection, may need extra attention with wildly hot weather in New York.
New York's winter is known for its heavy snowfall, which can be a real pain in the plants. With an average annual snowfall of around 70 inches, your ability to grow plants in winter is limited. However, don't let those cold snaps stop you. You can always use a protective covering or garden indoors to extend your growing season.
The many gardening zones of New York
Gardening zones, also known as USDA Hardiness Zones, are a system developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that divides North America into 13 zones based on their average annual minimum temperature. Each zone is a 10°F difference in temperature from the next. The zones range from 1 (the coldest) to 13 (the warmest).
New York State falls into zones 3 through 7, with the northern areas in zone 3 and the southern areas in zone 7. The zones are determined by altitude, proximity to bodies of water, and the amount of sunlight received in the area. This means certain areas within the state may be better suited for certain plants than others.
For gardeners, understanding the gardening zones in their area is crucial when selecting and planting New York native plants. Growing plants that are not adapted to your zone can result in poor growth and even the early death of a plant. By selecting plants native to your zone, you can increase the chances of success in your garden.
It is also important to consider the local weather conditions and soil types when selecting plants for your garden. If you’re utterly confused by this, check out our ZIP code native plant finder! Simply type in your ZIP code, and you’ll get a customized list of native plants perfectly suited to your New York garden.
Right plant, right place: Understanding soil in New York
Soil is a vital aspect of gardening, and understanding the soil in New York State can make a massive difference in the success of your garden. New York has a diverse range of soil types, the most common being sandy, loamy, and clay soils. The soil type can vary depending on the location and the landscape, so you need to know what kind of soil is in your garden.
For example, sandy soils are excellent for drainage but often don’t have sufficient nutrients for gardens to thrive. Clay soils have lots of natural nutrients, but the downside is drainage problems. Loamy soils are probably ideal for New York gardeners, with a great balance of sand, silt, and clay ensuring good drainage and nutrient retention.
Whatever native plants you bring into your New York Garden, be sure to check the soil preferences before planting!
Best native plants to grow in New York
The good news is that there are many options to choose from when it comes to finding the perfect native plants for your New York garden. Here are some of our favorites.
New York gardens will almost always benefit from the colorful addition of a whorled milkweed or three. This native plant is an ideal choice since it thrives in dry, sunny, and part shade areas, which are common throughout the state.
Its thin leaves arranged in whorls and tiny fragrant blooms bring an aesthetic beauty to a garden while also providing a home and food source for monarch caterpillars and other local wildlife including birds, butterflies, moths, and bees.
Great St John’s Wort
Great St. John's Wort is an amazing choice if you want a terrific addition to your New York garden. It features large, bright yellow or white flowers that bloom in late summer, providing a lovely contrast of color and texture. Plus, its ornamental seed pods are a big draw for birds during winter and natural shelters for other wildlife such as butterflies, moths, and bees.
This perennial grows best in moist and organic soil, making it easy to care for in any New York garden.
Adding a native twist to New York gardens, purple lovegrass is the perfect addition for gardeners looking to bring in splashes of color and touches of texture. Native to New York, this perennial grass will transform gardens throughout summer as the foliage takes on its purplish-pink hues and airy reddish-purple flowers rising above it.
As a sun-loving plant, purple lovegrass also serves as a valuable food source for birds, bees, and many species of caterpillars that flock to New York’s native plants, making it more than just an attractive choice but also an important one.
Most invasive plants to control in New York
With nearly 500 invasive species of plants and animals in the state, it's no wonder scientists and officials are keeping a close eye on things. Here are some examples of pesky invasive plants that might be causing trouble in your garden:
- Golden Bamboo
- Japanese Honeysuckle
- Garlic Mustard
But why are plants like these so bad for the ecosystems in New York? Well, invasive species can take over and outcompete native plants for resources, leading to a loss of biodiversity and habitat degradation. That's why it's important to be able to recognize these invasive plants and take action to protect New York's diverse environments.
The good news is that you don't have to fight these invasive plants alone. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has plenty of resources available to help you identify and eliminate these species.
So if you're dealing with invasive plants in your backyard, don't fret! With a little bit of knowledge and work, you can help protect New York's native plant species and keep your garden looking beautiful.
Dos and don’ts of gardening in New York
When it comes to sprucing up the garden with the stunning plants native to New York, you should know a few do’s and don’ts. If you’re careful, you can create a paradise of vibrant colors and lush textures that support a thriving native ecosystem in your very own yard.
Here are some do’s and don’ts of gardening in New York state.
Do learn the difference between native and non-native plants
If you care about New York gardens and supporting biodiversity, it is essential to know the difference between native and non-native plants. Native plants are the ones that are naturally found in New York and form a unique ecosystem full of age-old natural heritage and history. When choosing your flowering shrubs or trees, consider going for something native that will happily grow in local conditions.
Of course, not all non-native plants are bad, and some can make exciting additions to enhance your garden design. However, they can never replace true New York native plants that grow here year after year!
Don’t have a lawn!
Lawns are overrated, not to mention they require plenty of effort and attentiveness. If you love an outdoor space but don't have time to take care of a lawn that needs mowing every week, why not turn your outdoor area into a stunning lawn-free garden instead?
By introducing native plants to the space, you can create a beautiful garden in no time. Plus, having a wilder New York garden gives back more than just curb appeal — native plants play an important role in supporting wildlife and providing natural pest control, something that’s not available with a typical lawn. There’s a reason why Garden for Wildlife supports the anti-lawn movement!
Do cluster your native plants
Native New Yorkers know that the state has some of the country’s most beautiful and diverse gardens. Gardening in New York does require unique approaches, but one constant is to cluster your native plants in groups. By grouping New York native plants, you are making it easier for pollinators such as bees and butterflies to find sustenance, allowing them to thrive in our gardens.
So while it’s essential to have space between our native plants, so they all have access to light and other resources, clustering groups of them together potentially offers extra benefits, so give it a try!
Don’t always trust YouTube
Gardening for the first time can be intimidating, and with all the resources available online, including popular gardening YouTube channels, it can be hard to know where to start. While YouTube is a great source of inspiration, local gardens and the native plants of New York should be considered when creating or improving your garden.
After all, New York's unique climates and environments means that even if a technique or plant worked elsewhere, it might not work here. Always remember that the location of your garden, how much sun it gets, and many other factors play a vital role in managing your garden. You don’t want to follow advice about gardening in Virginia if you’re growing plants in New York!
Do check on the Garden for Wildlife list
Taking the first steps towards creating a New York garden that’s ideal for native wildlife can be overwhelming. Lucky for you, Garden for Wildlife has you covered! Our list of native plants in New York is comprehensive and includes something for every type of gardener and homeowner.
Whether your goal is to tackle sustainability challenges, attract fireflies, or enjoy outdoor activity and fresh air, these collections of plants native to New York are the perfect option.
And if you have any questions, contact our team at Garden for Wildlife. We've got plenty of expertise in designing beautiful gardens that allow people to explore and enjoy nature!
Don’t use fertilizer or pesticides
When planting a New York garden, native plants do more than look great. One key benefit is that while these plants provide crucial habitats for local fauna and require fewer resources, you can also have success with them without using any chemical inputs.
Even if your soil isn't perfect and you don't think they'll be able to survive without a bit of help from fertilizer and pesticides, rest assured that as long as you give them plenty of sunlight and water, New York native plants will thrive with practically no effort. Planting and caring for native species is your best bet for easy gardening success this season in New York!
New York garden insect pests: The good, the bad, and the brilliant
In gardening, it is essential to know the insects in your garden and identify which are harmful, which are beneficial, and which are brilliant pollinators. Harmful insects can cause damage to your garden and may even cause plant health problems. On the other hand, beneficial insects play a critical role in pest control and pollination, so you don’t want to get rid of them needlessly.
Although small, the minute pirate bug packs a punch. It makes up for its tininess with astounding pest management capabilities due to its diet, which primarily consists of small, soft-bodied pests like spider mites, thrips, and aphids. Even if they're much smaller than the pests they feast upon, their impressive skills allow them to speedily gobble them up and help control their populations in our gardens. So don't underestimate these minuscule pirates — they could be your key to a pest-free garden!
Green lacewing larvae are one of nature's champions for keeping a garden healthy! These tiny insects are highly effective predators that voraciously feed on various soft-bodied pests, like aphids. Each green lacewing can consume up to 600 aphids during their development! Green lacewing larvae are abundant in the gardens of New York, making them an excellent ally for any gardener looking to control garden pests. Plus, they're an entirely natural way to eliminate annoying garden pests.
Ticks are annoying pests that can threaten the health of humans and animals alike. It's easy to miss them, too, since they’re small and use an anesthetic that numbs people when they bite. It’s crucial to be aware of the risk posed by ticks and take action to keep oneself safe.
Fortunately, it's not too hard. In addition to general outdoor protection measures such as wearing light-colored clothing (helping make ticks more visible) with long sleeves and pants tucked into socks, seek information on how you can control ticks without resorting to harmful pesticides. With the right knowledge, you’ll be ready for those healthy garden days ahead.
Spotted lanternflies have caused quite a stir in recent years, not only for their eye-catching wings but for the economic and lifestyle trouble they can bring. Categorized as an invasive species, these pests feast exclusively on outdoor vegetation, including agricultural products such as grapes and stone fruits, severely impacting businesses in the area.
Then there’s the spongy moth. It may be small, but this little creature can provide a very uncomfortable experience for some people. An increasingly common invasive species, the innocuous-looking moth (formerly known as the gypsy moth) causes an itchy, red rash that can spread if not quickly treated.
One thing's for certain: it's not something you’re going to want in your garden! Thankfully there are plenty of ways to eradicate these unwelcome bugs from your home quickly and efficiently. Make sure that your garden is tidy, plant pollinators to attract birds that will feed on the moths, and cover any woodpiles so that the moths can’t access them. Get these basics right and you won't have to suffer with a spongy moth infestation!
Pollinating insects such as the iconic black swallowtail butterfly are essential for maintaining garden health in New York. These beautiful creatures play an important part in plant fertilization, helping blooms to reach their full potential and produce an abundance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
If you want to attract pollinators like the black swallowtail butterfly to your garden, planting nectar-rich native New York flowers will serve as an excellent dinner bell. Once they descend upon your garden, sit back and admire these flying works of art out there doing vital work without complaint!
The goldenrod soldier beetle is also an absolute must-have for any vision of the perfect New York garden. Famous for its brilliant metallic gold-colored carapace, the species is easy to recognize and enjoy! It's also an incredibly beneficial bug to have around your garden.
These beetles feed on other pest insects like aphids, making them a great friend to have if you're looking to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Best of all, they frequently feed on nectar and pollen from fragrant goldenrod flowers, a group of stunning New York native plants (and some of our favorite native plants).
Making your New York yard sustainable
Are you looking to turn your New York garden into something sustainable and beautiful? If so, good news! Even minor adjustments to our gardens can greatly impact the environment. Not only will it benefit the planet, but it will also make your garden look gorgeous with minimal effort. Here are some tips for getting started.
If you’re looking to create a more sustainable garden in New York, then using a variety of native plants is the best way to go! Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions in New York and can provide the food sources that nurture local butterflies, insects, birds, and other animals.
The advantages of using native plants are plentiful. They will add color, texture, and beauty to your New York garden, and require far less maintenance than common non-native plant varieties. You can also enjoy wildlife viewing as the number of birds and butterflies increases with the new habitat created for them with the introduction of native plants.
And because these New York native plants are already adapted to their local environment, you won’t have to expend nearly as much energy fussing over them. That means less water needs to be used during irrigation and less time working hard. So start bringing some beautiful native plants into your New York garden today!
Grow more, mow less
New York gardens can be made much more sustainable by letting your grass grow more and mowing less! The benefits of reduced lawn mowing include cleaner air (since gas-powered mowers emit pollution at similar levels to cars), supporting pollinators (with tall grasses providing nesting sites), and saving time and money.
Planting native grasses and mowing less often will also make your lawn a far better environment for fireflies. During the day, fireflies like to rest in tall grasses while they get cozy amid the blades of grass. So if your lawn gets chopped down too often, you won't be doing much to help the firefly cause. Take some time this summer to support our local firefly populations. You'll feel great knowing you've done something good for species that are an important part of our local wildlife.
New Yorkers looking for a more sustainable garden should always consider going chemical-free. Organic lawn care is much healthier for New York gardens and your plants. Working with nature instead of fighting against it lies at the core of organic gardening.
This includes creating habitats that support New York’s native birds, bees, and butterflies while protecting waterways by reducing the use of fertilizers and other chemicals that can run off or leach away. Going chemical-free also has many benefits like producing healthier soil and grass, making it safer for humans and pets. New York gardens are unique, so why not let them be both beautiful and clean?
And if you do decide to use fertilizers, watch out for New York's strict laws. It's a big no-no to apply any fertilizer that contains nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorus between December 1 and April 1 or if you're within 20 feet of any surface water without a vegetative buffer of at least 10 feet. And don't even think about tossing that fertilizer onto sidewalks and roads. If it runs off into storm drains or nearby waterways, you could be in big trouble. So, be a responsible pest warrior and follow the law.
Sustainable water use
As a New Yorker, you may be interested in how to create a more water-sustainable garden, especially given the state's history of water scarcity during dry spells. But we do love to waste our water when we’ve got it! Did you know that one-third of all residential water in the United States irrigates our landscapes? An estimated half of that water is wasted due to evaporation, misdirected watering, and over-watering?
But don't worry. There are ways to ensure your garden is water-sustainable. The single best way is to choose appropriate plant choices, favoring regional native plants that are adapted to your area. If possible, you can also reduce or eliminate your turf grass lawn and replace it with regional native plants.
To ensure you're watering your garden efficiently, water in the early morning to allow plant leaves to dry off during the day. Hand-watering is the best way to give each plant exactly the amount of water it needs on the roots. If you can’t water by hand, opt for soaker hoses or a drip or micro-drip irrigation system for your plants. Try to resist the urge to use a timer if you have an irrigation system, as deep, infrequent watering is far better for plant health than frequent shallow watering.
What can I plant right now in New York?
Gardening with native plants in New York can be a great way to bring the season’s beauty to your outdoor space all year round. Planning and getting to know your plants and the best times for planting them is key!
Planting perennials during mid-spring or mid-autumn helps ensure that they can develop a robust root system for healthy growth, so timing is essential! And when it comes to watering, young plants will need extra support as they adjust to their new environment, so make sure you only give them as much water as needed. With a bit of knowledge and some TLC, you can watch your garden thrive and come alive throughout spring and fall!
In a New York summer, you can add a little extra cheer and beauty to your garden with the Summer Songbird 6-Plant Collection. Our carefully selected mix of blue wood aster, purple coneflower, and oxeye sunflower will bring color and diversity to your outdoor haven. Not only that, these plants bloom across three seasons and come back every year, drawing an array of pollinators like bees and butterflies in search of nectar while also providing sustenance for songbirds. All you need is a sunny spot with well-drained soil, and you'll have an inviting oasis for yourself and your feathered friends!
Winter can be harsh in New York, even outside NYC, so it’s not wise to plant during this season. The cold air makes it difficult for plants to take root, and the ground is often too frozen to properly develop roots. However, that doesn’t mean there aren't any gardening activities you can do during this time of year!
Winter is the perfect opportunity to spruce up your garden and tidy up. Or why not just enjoy your garden? Nature has a knack for allowing us to relax, no matter the time of year.
Start your garden in New York today
Now that you know all about native plants and why starting a garden with them is important, what are you waiting for? New York is home to some of the most beautiful gardens in the country, and yours could be next. Check out our plant collections designed for New York gardens. We’ve got everything you need to start your gardening journey today.
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