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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.

High angle view of man watering flowerbed in gardenCOLDSNOWSTORM/GETTY IMAGES

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.

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Texas spring wildflowersKanokwalee 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.

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Female farmers talking while working in community gardenMaskot/Getty Images

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 and cuttings, along with plant tales and 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.

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Planting a seedWLADIMIR 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.

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Employee doing their part to build a more sustainable worldJordan 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.

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Close up woman hands using credit card to buy online on laptopXavier Lorenzo/Getty Images

Shop Online

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.

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Native Plants of Sanibel in Southwest FloridaAngela Auclair/Getty Images

Public Lands

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.

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skid steer loader used for earth moving landscaping on recently cleared landCatherine McQueen/Getty Images

Construction Projects

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 piƱons and wild current bushes and brought them home. Two years later, they’re still doing well.

Karuna Eberl
Karuna writes about wildlife, nature, history and travel for magazines, newspapers and websites including National Geographic, National Parks, Discovery Channel, Atlas Obscura and the High Country News. She's also produced a number of independent films and directed the documentary The Guerrero Project, about the search for a sunken slave ship. She and her husband, Steve, wrote an award-winning guidebook to the Florida Keys and are currently completely renovating an abandoned house in a ghost town. She holds a B.A. in journalism and geology from the University of Montana. Member of OWAA, SATW.