How To Find Good Deals on Native Plants
Native plants are beneficial to birds, bees and ecosystems. They're also often cheap or even free. Here's how to find the best deals.
What Are Native Plants?
Native plants are the ones indigenous to your region. They’ve evolved over thousands of years with other plants and animals and adapted to your area’s climate, so they thrive without a lot of fuss.
“Incorporating them into your yard and garden not only creates beauty, but also supports wildlife and benefits the ecosystem,” says Sam Hoadley, manager of horticultural research at Mt. Cuba Center.
Native plants are beneficial because they:
- Require less water, fertilizer or pesticides, which benefits the ecosystem, protects clean water and saves money;
- Provide nectar for pollinators like butterflies, bees and hummingbirds;
- Attract birds, who depend on their seeds, as well as native insects;
- Give shelter to birds, mammals and other wildlife;
- Require less time and effort to keep healthy;
- Stand up better to drought, flooding and storms;
- Control erosion;
- Boost biodiversity;
- Are proven in some cases to sequester more carbon than exotic species.
“Overall, native plants are a win-win for both gardeners and wildlife,” says Hoadley.
Because they’re so beneficial, lots of people are enthusiastic about getting them into your hands and ultimately into your garden. That means it’s often easy to find deals on native plants. Here are some good options.
Kanokwalee Pusitanun/Getty Images
Follow Nature Groups
Many conservation organizations, public gardens, nature clubs, and native plant societies host giveaways and sell plants to the public. Generally, these organizations are nonprofits with plant cultivation programs run by volunteers, so their plants are more affordable than those from retail stores.
Join their email list or follow them on social media to receive notifications on giveaways and other events.
Network With Fellow Gardeners
Get social. Make connections with other native plant gardeners via social media or in-person events. Then you can swap seeds, cuttings, plant tales, and native plant garden growing tips.
“This is a great way to connect with your community and potentially learn some native plants that you may not have grown before,” says Hoadley.
WLADIMIR BULGAR/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images
Start With Seeds
A whole pack of seeds is usually cheaper than one plant. And while it takes more effort, patience and knowledge to raise plants from seed, it’s also fascinating and rewarding to watch them sprout and grow into full-fledged bushes and flowers.
Seeds are an especially good way to start a landscape of native grasses. Your local nursery may have seeds, or you can order them from regional companies like Western Native Seed.
Jordan Lye/Getty Images
Local Nursery Discounts
Get to know the people who work at your nearby nurseries and they may give you a heads-up when a sale is around the corner. Some nurseries also give discounts for purchasing larger quantities of plants. That’s a great option if you’re just starting your garden, or if you want to pool resources with your neighbors.
Plus, Hoadley says, “Purchasing native plants locally is a great way to support both a local business and the ecosystem.” Looking for more? Check out this Keystone plant, which nurtures an incredible amount of bird, insect and wildlife diversity.
Xavier Lorenzo/Getty Images
For those without quality local nurseries, there are thriving native plant sources online. Most companies will also help you figure out which plants are truly native and will thrive in your area.
Some good places to start are the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife (which also offers some good off-season deals), Mt. Cuba Center’s nursery and your local Audubon chapter.
Angela Auclair/Getty Images
To encourage more native gardens, the National Forest Service and other public lands sometimes offer permits to collect native plants for personal use. If you go this route, be sure to actually get a permit and learn where and how to most carefully dig up plants.
Never poach wild plants. It’s a growing problem that greatly harms, if not all-out destroys, sensitive and endangered plant populations and their ecosystems.
Catherine McQueen/Getty Images
If you see an upcoming construction site, ask if you can relocate native plants before they break ground. Even during active construction, it may not be too late to rescue a few.
When a new road was built near our house, workers plowed up a lot of native plants and left on the side to die. We scavenged a couple of salvageable piñons and wild current bushes and brought them home. Two years later, they’re still doing well.