Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Why Can’t I Buy Tennessee Native Plants…..or Can I?

 Asclepias incarnata


I have often complained that my local greenhouses sell very few plants native to Tennessee, and I hear my gardening friends make the same complaint.   I wonder how suppliers can ignore the beauty and benefits of our native grasses, flowers, trees and shrubs.  Perhaps if they knew our interest in these plants they would stock more?

At the same time, I have been working on the Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plant Database, slowly making my way through our many species of native plants.  Recently I decided it was time to update our count of total number of plants in the database, and I discovered that we now have 750 species!  To top it off, any plant in the database is there not only because it’s a Tennessee native but because it is for sale commercially!  Granted you will find very few of these plants for sale at your local greenhouse, but they are available from a wide variety of vendors online.  Who would have guessed that we have such an awesome wealth of opportunities to purchase our native plants!   I think I am going to have to stop complaining and start doing more buying.

Now is the perfect time to plan for spring plantings.  For your convenience,  I have included what we have found for online suppliers  (https://tynnativeplants.wordpress.com/buying-native-plants/) on our Buying Native Plants page.   Maybe local nurseries will start to take notice that these are desirable species.  Until then, use this resource as a way to incorporate more native plants into your landscape!

4 responses to “Why Can’t I Buy Tennessee Native Plants…..or Can I?

  1. terrie young January 20, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    The plant in the picture is beautiful. Can you tell me what the name is and also perhaps, where it is available to purchase? Love the strong pink color and the shape of the leaves.

  2. joystewart January 20, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    This plant is a Red Milkweed (also called Swamp Milkweed), Asclepias incarnata. I took this photo inside my hoop house, and the off-white background of the fabric really set off the color of the flowers, an unanticipated outcome. It is an easy to grow plant and does well in ordinary garden soil even though it is technically a wetland plant. It is one of my favorites too. Just as a helpful observation, it is prone to aphids which can sometimes infest the plant to the point of making it unattractive. I find the best defense is a healthy plant in good soil with good moisture, and then it seems to be able to naturally repel aphids.

    It is often available as a plant at the larger garden centers and almost always available as seed in flower catalogs. If you buy seed, keep in mind that it needs 30 days of cold, damp stratification in order to germinate well. You can mix the seed with a little damp soil and put it in your refrig or out in the garage during winter for 30 days. I am not sure where you live but you can also just get on the Internet and do a search for “asclepias incarnata for sale” and a lot of vendors will come up.

  3. Deborah Champion February 7, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Help. I have purchased 5 acres of wooded land in Sumner Co., TN. My goal is to allow the land to be natural. No mowing, weeding, no insecticide or herbicide. Where do I get native wild flower seeds and plants that will thrive in shade with a moist soil

    • joystewart February 10, 2018 at 2:33 am

      It sounds like you have an exciting project and some beautiful land. There are some different ways you can approach this project. The easiest way is to directly contact a specialist at one of the native plant nurseries, explain your project and what you want to do. My favorite native seed/plant nursery is Prairie Moon Nursery. Just dial their phone number (866 417-8156) and ask to speak to a specialist. Prairie Moon sells special seed and plant packages specifically designed for shade. It will really be worth your time to get professional guidance, and the advice is free.

      I have never tried to do what you are aiming for, which is a large area without using any herbicides. However, based on my experience, I will offer some observations. With some exceptions, it will be pretty difficult to start new plants in that setting by just using seeds. Seeds or even little starter plants are going to have a hard time competing with all the plants that are already there, which probably includes quite a few exotic, invasive species. This is especially true because many woodland plant seeds are not easy to germinate and have double or triple dormancies (especially the more desirable ones).

      If I were you, I would start off by planting a select few native plants that are very competitive and can hold their own in this setting, and I would put in established plants using either bareroot or larger potted plants. Then I would give these plants time to get established and start taking over some of the space from the less aggressive exotic weeds. It would be a gradual transition but fun to watch. It wouldn’t be that expensive if you did it gradually. I would do a combination of perennial wildflowers, grasses and shrubs. I can make some suggestions on specific species if you want to e-mail me at joylarry@btes.tv and I might even be able to mail you some plants.

      Good luck! You have a great project in mind!

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