A Good Garden Center

March 29, 2021

While we are offering spring plants like flowers, herbs and vegetables this spring (currently available for pre-order here), we still go to garden centers for special items and native plants. Many visitors to Saint Louis are amazed at our green city, and artfully landscaped homes. Maybe it’s our world-renowned botanical garden, or our long growing season. Either way, especially this past year, it seems like people are gardening more than ever. So we wanted to share how we choose a good garden center. One we love to go back to. Shocker: It’s also a case for shopping for native and pollinator-friendly plants. 😉  So here are some of the big things that affect my purchasing power at a garden center.

  1. They feature native plants and support native plant growers. Truly local native plant growers are even better – Missouri Wildflowers Nursery and Grow Native! both sell to local garden centers, so look for their tags. (Bonus: these plants have been grown and collected locally and are more conditioned to our specific area, compared to an eastern redbud grown in Philadelphia and shipped here, that is also considered native.)
  2. They have staff who are knowledgeable about their products. HOWEVER it’s also worth doing a little of your own research before you go, especially if you are looking for plants to go in a certain space. Missouri Botanical Garden’s online Plant Finder is an amazing tool to help you find the right plants for the right place. Looking for a native plant go to in full shade with poor drainage? There’s a filter for that.
  3. They do not sell invasive plants. This is difficult to determine and find, but once you know, you know. If you notice a favorite garden center is selling invasive plants for your area, ask them to consider not selling them. They are contributing to that plant’s invasion and overtaking of native species and areas, and many people never consider if something is invasive, just if they like it. Check out Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force info here.
  4. Maybe a no brainer, but plants at a good garden center look healthy. This includes their roots. If plants do not look healthy or are overly rootbound, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount or what the refund policy is.
  5. They feature certified organic or natural gardening products. OMRI is a national organic certification, but Oregon Tilth and others are also good. Remember, just because it’s certified for organic production, does not mean it is 100% not harmful to pollinators or people, particularly with pesticide sprays.

Hopefully this list is helpful to you. While on your gardening adventure, it’s always good to reflect who the garden is for. I hope the little creatures around us are included. <3