Sourcing Native Plants: It takes legwork

Before You Shop

Before I direct you to some sources for local plants and you go shopping, keep the following points in mind. *

  1. Make sure you know the complete botanical name for the plant you seek. For example, someone might ask me where to get a native wood fern. There are many types of native wood ferns. Therefore, you need to know both the Genus Dryopteris (all wood ferns) and the specific epithet cristata (crested wood fern). Dryopteris cristata is a Crested Wood Fern. Information about native plants in Georgia can be found in publications such as this one about ferns by the University of Georgia Extension, Native Plants for Georgia II: Ferns. (Link to:,appreciate%20a%20moist%2C%20shaded%20habitat)

Found across much of eastern North America, the Crested Wood Fern likes swamps, swampy woods, or open shrubby wetlands. It is one of hundreds of types of wood ferns, so having the complete botanical name of the plant will ensure that you obtain the plant that is best adapted to your setting. Credit: Dryopteris cristata (L.) A.Gray observed in United States of America by Matt Stansberry (licensed under

2. Buy from a nursery that grows the plants themselves or buys them from a local grower. Ask them where they get the plants. It is important that the plants not be harvested from the wild. Plants need to be grown in a radius of approximately 175 miles of our physiographic region. For instance, a native perennial from the coast of Georgia will most likely not do well in our North Georgia mountains. Differences exist from region to region even in the same plant species, due to differences in climatic conditions between distant locations.

3. Your mission should be to encourage local nurseries to carry native plants. Once there is a demand, the growers will respond. So, go out there and create the demand!


The Georgia Native Plant Society (GNPS) is a natural place to turn. GNPS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the stewardship and conservation of Georgia’s native plants and their habitats. One of the many resources they offer is a list, Sources for Native Plants. (Link to: GNPS does not endorse the sellers on the list, urging the user to ask pertinent questions of the seller before purchasing.

While information about native plants is widely available, locations to purchase them are few and far between. The Georgia Native Plant Society is an educational and service-driven, member-based organization that offers a wide range of assistance to native plant enthusiasts.

GNPS suggests that small, local plant sales in the spring and fall can be a source for buying natives. One such sale is coming up Saturday, April 15 at the Sautee Nacoochee Center in White County. Their Environmental Stewardship Program offers two native plant sales each year. For details about this opportunity to not only buy local natives but also support a great organization, visit

It is important when shopping native plant sales, such as the ones offered by the Sautee Nacoochee Center, to follow the same three steps described above: know the botanical name, ask about sourcing, get on their mailing list for information about the next sale.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s Georgia Native Plant Initiative (GNPI) is a great resource to learn about and take steps to integrate native plants into our landscapes. It is a networking program that links growers and gardeners in an effort to transform gardens roadsides and landscapes. Included in this initiative is a list of recommended nurseries. (Link to: As noted, the University of Georgia has no financial incentive to list these nurseries.

“Retail nurseries that produce high quality native plants according to ethical guidelines get special promotion from the GNPI, and projects where native plants have been successfully incorporated are showcased, be they home gardens, roadside plantings, agricultural settings, commercial landscaping or habitat restorations.” Credit: State Botanical Garden of Georgia

The Audubon Society also offers guidance on sourcing native plants. Their Native Plants Database not only identifies plants native to our region, it lists regional Audubon Societies and regional nurseries and gardens. (

While Art of Stone Gardening works with all kinds of plants, if you know us, you know we love to promote the use of and install native plants in our landscaping projects. You can track down and plant your own natives, or you can ask us to help introduce you to them. Either way, “going native” is one of the best things you can do to support native fauna and improve the habit for all living things.

*These three points are taken from a piece, Purchasing Native Plants: Considerations and Nursery Sources, created by the Marine Extension Georgia Sea Grant, University of Georgia. (Link to:

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