Have you ever salvaged a native plant to plant back on your own wild homestead? This can be a great way to get free native plants but there are some basic guidelines you should follow.
This week’s blog post—How to Salvage Native Plants for Your Wild Homestead—dives into both the guidelines to follow but also some tips to make sure your salvaging is successful. The post also provides some advice on other ways to salvage where you don’t actually dig up the plant.
Check out the blog post to learn more but let’s dive into the basics here too.
Tips for Salvaging a Native Plant
Native plants don’t like to be dug up and then replanted. But there are some simple things you can do to make this more likely to work.
1. Salvage small plants over big ones.
2. Wait to salvage a plant until it goes dormant in the fall or winter.
3. Plant your salvaged native plants as quickly as possible (or pot them up).
4. Avoid species with big taproots or plants with expansive rhizomes.
5. Keep track of which native plants are easy to salvage and which aren’t (You can get a free tracking spreadsheet on the blog post).
If you follow these steps your salvaging efforts will likely be more successful. If you do want to salvage native plants with taproots or rhizomes then try to get them when they’re very young—you want enough roots to actually support the top growth.
Often with plants that spread by rhizomes you will find what looks like a small young plant but it will actually be connected to a nearby plant. If there aren’t any roots growing from the small plant separating it from the nearby one will likely kill it. And of course plants with taproots are vulnerable to their main root being broken or damaged.
This is why these type of native plants tend to be harder to salvage.
Being Responsible When Salvaging
I want to leave you with some last tips on how to be responsible when salvaging native plants. You don’t want to damage natural areas just to get plants for your own place.
The best thing you can do is salvage plants from areas that are going to be developed. Construction sites often clear an area of land before starting. If the timing works try to salvage native plants from those spots first.
Since the plants will be killed anyways you digging them up won’t cause additional negative impact. This can also be a good chance to learn how to salvage native plants and which are easy to salvage.
The next best choice is to look for plants growing along the side of roads or trails. Places where they will likely be cut down as they get bigger or mowed. These plants likely won’t do well and won’t provide much habitat for wildlife.
Finally, if you do go out to natural areas limit how much you take and don’t repeatedly visit the same area over and over. Look for small seedlings that are coming up too close to other plants to thrive.
There are some more things you can do to reduce your impact that are covered on the blog post. Please check it out and also leave a comment sharing your experience with salvaging native plants or any questions you might have.
Great post Daron. I agree completely. I've been mainly roadside salvaging and managed to get a lot going at my place. Trying to place it in the same environment has helped enormously. So if stuff is growing wild on rocky soil, look for the same rocky soil and other circumstantial features, like sunny/shady/wet/dry/acidy/sandy soil etc. I never take something if i just see one of them. I like to see lots in a cluster or clusters and then take small ones from the center if possible. Over time plants that really done well for me started to spread too much , i like to guerilla plant the seeds in similar niches.
I've had some rare plant pop up on my terrain once, it had these kind of balls that stick to your clothes. Suddenly it went mad at my terrain and it had thousands of seeds, i've given a box to my nieces and nephews to throw around at the camping site. I was hoping it would pop up at different camping sites all over because kids throw them on each other and then move from camp site to camp site. But my nephew decided to throw them all in his sisters curly hair. Took his mom all day to get them out. Luckily she is very open minded and calm.
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Many years ago I rescued many varieties of plants that were about to be destroyed by a timbering operation. In the twenty years since, they have naturalized very nicely. I made sure to baby the plants for at least two weeks and suffered little loss.
Roadside foraging is also a great way to build a collection of heirloom flowers, shrubs and roses. Many times these plants have survived years of neglect yet keep on growing, proving their hardiness.
Hugo – Thank you! Great tip about trying to put it back into a similar environment as you found it. I’ve salvaged a bunch of sword ferns and I’ve noticed that when I put them in an area that is sunnier than they’re used to they tend to lose all their existing leaves but then regrow and do fine. But if I put them in an area that is shady then they keep their existing leaves. As you said if possible your much more likely to have success if you can match the conditions the plant was growing in.
Lol, thanks for sharing that story! When I volunteered in England for a group that focused on getting kids out in nature we played a game with “sticky weed”. Basically tag where you tossed the plant at each other and if it stuck you were it. Fun times with nature! 😊
Great tips and thanks for sharing!
Michelle – Thank you! Great to hear that you were able to salvage so many plants and that’s awesome that they’ve naturalized since then. I’m hoping to have something similar happen on my wild homestead with miners lettuce and several other plants.
Thank you for the tip about roadside foraging! I’ve salvaged some snowdrop bulbs from the road along my property. Someone planted them years ago and then they got overwhelmed by blackberries. But when the blackberries got cut I found them and I moved some to my property where they now provide some great early spring blooms.
Thanks for sharing!
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posted 1 week ago
Thank you Daron. Oh yes, snowdrops... I guess because I've been home full time this spring, I noticed them popping up in several places about twenty feet from where I originally planted them. Mine actually came from outside of a cemetery. The caretaker told me I could take all I wanted as long as they were outside of the fence. Unfortunately the only way to get to them was to climb the chain link fence and I couldn't get a foothold in the fence with my boots on, so off they went. Sure gave the caretaker a chuckle.
ive never salvaged fern before, but interesting. i wonder if a clipping would root. (i have rooted dead sticks before !!) im mostly a seed collector. when i see a plant i like, i make note where it is & monitor. it takes a little patience. once blooms are gone, i collect the seeds. if you want mature plants, check into plant rescue. often, if a site is going to be cleared for construction, they dont mind if you dig them out. i got a beautiful winter honeysuckle that way. over 6 feet tall and 8 feet around.
We're going to be doing some digging at our new place for ponds and earthworks to manage water, planting a bunch of nut and other trees, also eventually footings for buildings when we get around to building houses (the work to get a functional farm up and running will come first, housing can wait!). As we unavoidably disturb areas that are essential for the development of the farm, we will go through first and salvage plants that can be moved to areas where we want to maintain or restore the native flora. We might be able to take cuttings or seeds from plants that for whatever reason can't be moved.
Location: Salt Spring Island BC (zone 8-ish, yes really!)
Depending on previous land use and level of disturbance/contamination, the same sites where you might salvage native plants can also be good places for harvesting edible or medicinal plants. Especially if these are plants that wouldn't survive a move or if no one has a new home to offer them, you could harvest them harder than you might normally consider sustainable, if they are doomed anyway.
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