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Selecting a Suitable Supplier

This directory has been compiled to make it easier to find businesses that sell native plants or seeds and provide professional landscape or consulting services. Use the search options below to find help for your native plant needs or click here to add your business to the directory. Associates offer Wildflower Center members a discount on merchandise or services.

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Introduction

It is an ideal situation if the expertise, equipment, and staff are available to produce propagated native plant material or native seed on site for the restoration project. However, this is usually not feasible. Often a suitable supplier must be chosen to perform the work. Native plant material is available from retail or wholesale nurseries or specialized growers. Native seed is available from commercial seed suppliers. Some nurseries, growers, and seed collectors may specialize in native plants and some may only include them as part of their business. Choosing a supplier who specializes in native plants and seeds is desirable, but is not always an option.

TIMING is extremely important in this phase of project planning. It is virtually impossible for suppliers to keep a giant inventory of native plants and seeds on hand at all times. Suppliers try to anticipate needs for variety and quantity of native plants and seeds, but it is difficult. Also, it can take several years to grow plant material or collect seed for a specific project. This is very important to remember as you are searching for a supplier that can help you acquire the plants or seeds that you need.

Plant Materials

Select nurseries or plant growers that have experience working in your ecoregion and carry plant materials or can collect plant materials from the area in which you are doing the project (within the same ecoregion). The supplier should have staff knowledgeable about local native flora. If specific plants are to be grown for the restoration project, interview the grower about their knowledge of propagating all planned species. Ask them to send catalogs and/or price lists if available.

Find out where and how the plants they are selling have been grown. Plants may have been grown in a very different part of the country and would thus not be well-suited for the restoration site. Make sure plant material has never been dug in the wild and removed from its natural habitat. Unfortunately, this practice does occur and has negative far-reaching effects on natural systems and native plant populations. Nursery owners and growers should assure the customer that all plants have been "nursery propagated." This means that staff have collected only seeds or cuttings from the wild, and have not removed whole plants from the wild. You should also ask the supplier for information about the original location of the parent plant material so you can determine how locally adapted the plants might be. Good native plant nurseries will have this type of information on record. If plants have been salvaged, ask the staff person where and how they were salvaged. Ethical salvage occurs when plants are removed before some type of construction or destruction takes place and always with the landowners' permission.

Plan to visit the nurseries. Nursery grounds should be clean and orderly. Survey plant material for general vigor and health. Note the presence or absence of weeds on the grounds or in container plants. Some weeds are acceptable, since it is extremely difficult to control weeds in nurseries. Many nursery operators are trying to reduce their pesticide use and may therefore be weeding everything by hand, which is time-consuming. Note how well equipment on site is maintained and cared for (e.g. tractors, greenhouse systems, irrigation systems, etc.).

Nurseries and growers may advertise membership in professional trade organizations such as the American Association of Nurserymen, International Society of Arboriculture, or their state Nursery and Landscape Association. Although these trade memberships are not required for operation, they show that the owners care about keeping abreast of current issues, regulations, technology, product improvement, etc. in the nursery trade.

Seed Suppliers

Many of the considerations for choosing plant material suppliers also apply to choosing seed suppliers. Again, try to choose a seed supplier that operates in the same geographic ecoregion as the restoration site, as that supplier is most likely to have native seed suitable for that area. There are companies which specialize in native seed collection and processing, and these individuals can have a wealth of knowledge about native plants and seeds. Ask them to send catalogs and/or price lists if available. It is helpful to become familiar with several terms when ordering seed to assist you in making informed decisions. Please review seed terms by visiting the Seed definitions page.

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