Planting advice

Getting started

If you are keen to begin your own restoration project, please consider applying for help from Te Ara Kākāriki by clicking the button below.

If you don’t qualify for assistance from us and would like to get started planting, we recommend employing an ecologist to write a restoration plan for your site. This would include analysis of the soil type, consideration of site conditions and characteristics, and give you a list of species suitable to plant at your site. Please feel free to contact us for ecologist suggestions.

If you don’t have resources to employ an ecologist but are still eager to plant, we suggest following these steps:

Find out your soil type

Locate your property or site on Canterbury Maps by entering your address in the top search bar. Select ‘add data’ from the blue bar on the top right –  it looks like a piece of paper with a plus symbol. Next, scroll through the options on the righthand side until you see ‘S – Map Data’, and click ‘add’. Close the Add data box, then click on your site location within the map. This will bring up a box of information. Use the arrows to click through the information until you see Long Soil Name – this is your soil type.

While this website is helpful, it is not always accurate and we recommend getting your soil tested professionally as well. 

Choose your plants

Now you have found out the soil type, you can find out which plant communities are most suitable. Planting is a big investment of time and money, so it is important to choose the right plants. Use DOC publication Native Plant Communities of the Canterbury Plains to find a list of species best matched to your site. We recommend leaving any ferns and climbers for later.

Order your plants

Contact your nursery to confirm they can provide eco-sourced, restoration grade seedlings, and seek their advice on the plants you have chosen. They may recommend planting hardier species first, and then others once the pioneer species are established. 

Place your order at least 9 months before you intend to plant, to ensure you receive all the species on your lists, and that they have strong root systems. We recommend RX90 or SOP plant sizes for best value and success. 

Prepare your site for planting

Prepare your site by removing all weeds, fencing it off from livestock if necessary and removing unwanted existing trees – although these can provide initial shelter for natives below or nearby. We recommend all restoration sites that begin from old pasture, dense grass or woody weeds should be sprayed out four to eight weeks before planting. If there is couch or twitch present spray twice. If you are farming organically, you will still need to remove all weeds in preparation for planting. Organic sprays can be used followed by a spread of weed mats or leaf litter to keep weeds down, but hand weeding monthly is advisable. 

We use ‘cultivation planting’ which is the technique of digging a hole bigger than the root ball and breaking up the soil with a spade at the bottom and sides of the hole to provide a friable rooting medium for rapid growth and penetration of the roots. For some sites, putting a slow-release fertiliser tablet with each seedling provides balanced nutrition for early development but make sure it isn’t directly touching the plant roots. A mat and plant guard for each seedling will protect them from grass competition, wild animals, maintenance herbicide and exposure to winds and frost.

Maintain and monitor

Regular maintenance of your planting is crucial to the survival, growth and performance of the planting. Eliminating weed growth in the best way to retain soil moisture which is essential for the survival and growth of your native seedlings. Thick mulching up to the plant guard can help, but only once all weeds are first controlled and make sure the mulch does not touch the stem of the seedling. Irrigation or hand watering can be used, but only once weeds have been dealt with.

To follow the progress of your planted area, set up a photo point from which you can take the same photo at regular intervals over time. You should also check for any plant losses and figure out what may have caused these so you can adapt any future planting plans and learn from experience.

Greendot tours

To see some examples of Te Ara Kākāriki restoration plantings and chat to other landowners who have planted their properties, please join our Greendot Tours which happen every April. The Friends of TAK meeting every July also provides an opportunity to meet like-minded people and learn from their planting experiences. 

Canterbury native plants by area

This is a resource from the Department of Conservation. They have a number of factsheets covering the different types of native plants you would find in various areas of Canterbury. 


Trees for Canterbury

Trees for Canterbury has some useful guides. They are strongly linked to the local community, providing environmental education and native plants, and undertaking plantings with community organisations and schools throughout Canterbury.

Trees for Canterbury is a not-for-profit community organisation that runs on public support of their nursery. 

Many of the native plants grown are utilised in community and revegetation projects; the remainder are sold at the nursery to fund community projects.

Let us know your ideas

We really value everyone’s input and support into helping us achieve our goals. Whatever you can do to help will be really appreciated and will make a positive difference.

Simply fill out the form and send us a message and we can then start the ball rolling.

Want to find out more?