What are the reasons you should buy native plants from a nursery rather than a box store?


Can you help me explain why native plants from a nursery are better than native plants from box stores? The buy local topic is already understandable. I’m thinking more of quality of plants or other possible factors. 


Rebecca Long, Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture Professional

We want to encourage people to use whatever is the most accessible source of native plants they can! If someone has the capacity to investigate their plant sources more deeply, these are things to consider:

Avoid purchasing plants treated with systemic neonicotinoid pesticides that can get into pollen and nectar and impact pollinators. Ask the nursery if the label doesn’t indicate where or not they have been used.

When possible, look for straight species plants and not “nativars” (cultivated varieties of native plants). More info on nativars here. This topic is still being researched but there is preliminary evidence that nativars may not be as useful for wildlife. I don’t frequently see straight species options in big box stores, they are more often showy cultivars.

-Plant from local sources (not just grown locally, but ideally the seed was originally collected locally) are ideal because even within a species you can have “ecotypes” which is “a subset of a species that possesses genetic adaptation to local growing conditions.” Buyers for large box stores often make decisions for an entire region, meaning selections may not be as customized to your local climate as a more local source.

-Make sure the seller uses sustainable seed or plant sources that are collected ethically and not poached.
In fact, the most accessible and affordable way to add more natives to your garden might be growing them from seed yourself. More info on growing natives from seeds is available in our Gardening with Natives Webinars On-Demand bundle.