Where Can I Get Native Plants?

Now that it's starting to get sunny, all gardeners are itching to get some plants, and get them in the ground fast. Regrettably, it's not always easy to find native plants, so this post gives some tips and includes some photos and a trip report from last Friday's visit to Gold Rush Nursery in Soquel.

But let's start with the big picture. When I want to buy some plants, and I know exactly what I want, I might check the availability list at some of my favorite nurseries.
  • Native Revival in Aptos and its sister nursery in San Jose has been one of my favorites for a long time. A great selection of exclusively native plants - right off the freeway. 
  • Yerba Buena nursery recently moved from off Skyline Boulevard to Half Moon Bay. I've always loved their old location, but hope to visit their new place some time soon. Lots of good information on their website!
  • My local Summerwinds nursery has a decent collection of native plants from Suncrest Nurseries.  You can check your local nursery - or ask them to order from Suncrest. 
  • Capitol Wholesale Nursery offers great prices and a decent number of natives in their inventory. Customer service can be spotty, and I've been told more than once that a plant was available only to find that a similar, non-native plant was available. But I'm happy that a wholesale nursery is so committed to natives and have bought quite a few plants there. 
  • If I just don't have time to drive somewhere, I go to Annie's Annuals & Perennials and use the California Native Plants in their Totally Useful Plant Lists. They've perfected shipping in an eco-friendly way, and I've been very happy with the plants I've bought from them. 
  • The California Native Plant Link Exchange is where I go when I'm running out of options. You can use their database to find out whether the plant you want is available in the trade, and where you might find it. Nurseries that participate seem to be the specialty nurseries; Summerwinds or Gold Rush Nursery are not making their lists available. 

But back to my visit to Gold Rush Nursery last Friday. Gold Rush Nursery offers plants wholesale and at special events such as the SF Flower and Garden Show, Spring Garden Market, and Going Native Garden Tour. Nicky, the owner, uses tables and shelves to display her plants. Most plants are in quart or pint pots, and very reasonably priced. They're also big, healthy plants and, as a frequent customer, I can attest to their above average survival rate.

I set out fairly early, hoping that I could by my plants and put them in the ground right away. Getting to the nursery, I was amazed by the size of the enterprise. I also enjoyed seeing a working nursery, and just walking amongst the rows of plants was too tempting. Fortunately, I'd brought a shopping list - and I'd promised myself to buy only natives. Nicky spent quite a bit of time helping me find the plants I needed and also had some good advice for my difficult dry shade locations.

With my shopping done (I had only picked plants from the Availability List so everything was actually available) I was sorry to leave, but happy to drive back home and put my plants in the ground. A few plants are experimental (Penstemon spectabilis), others tried and true (Heuchera maxima - how did I manage to kill that?). I'll let you know how it all works out.

I the meantime, I hope you'll have a chance to meet Nicky at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show or visit the nursery some day (they're open on Fridays or by appointment).

P.S. We're also hoping that you'll meet Town Mouse and Country Mouse at the CNPS booth at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show on Sunday.


Country Mouse said…
Great post - very useful reference, there Town Mouse! I'd like to add three more:

For mail order and a massively informative web site: Las Pilitas Nursery (laspilitas.com).

For restoration primarily - with plants sourced from a known location (and others): Central Coast Wilds, in Santa Cruz off of River Street (centralcoastwilds.com)

Also Probuild Garden Center on River Street, Santa Cruz has a decent section, and is a good source of other garden supplies for us coast-side gardeners.
ryan said…
I've bought plants from Gold Rush Nursery at past garden shows. Everything was really healthy and did well. Nice to see their growing grounds.

I would add the Watershed Nursery to the list, but then I consider Annie's Annuals a local nursery rather than a mail order one.
Jason said…
Because so many Midwest natives have become garden standards, you can find natives at most garden centers, though usually they are cultivars. More unusual species and straight species have gradually become more common. Also, several park districts and other groups sponsor annual sales with a focus on natives. I probably buy most of my native plants on-line.