The Business of Native Plants

by Carolina Native Nursery

Our pollinator garden has become a hit attraction. We use it to demonstrate how many bugs you can attract when you plant natives. Although it is relatively new here at Carolina Native Nursery, it reflects what we emphasize now verses some of our ideals when we first opened years ago. Because of our experience in organic lawn and shrub care, we knew that native plants would require fewer pesticides than your normal exotic and highly cultivated garden center plants. We were right about that. But now our emphasis, besides the beauty of indigenous plants, is on the birds, bees, butterflies, and wildlife that help bring the garden alive.

It is part of our mission to provide as many native plants as possible to gardeners everywhere. Carolina Native has certainly evolved over the years. Our original plant list contained less than 100 native shrubs and small trees. We have grown to become a midsized wholesale nursery. We currently are the home of approximately 100,000 native shrubs, perennials, grasses, and ferns, consisting of over 200 species of plants indigenous to the eastern U.S. Our wholesale clients cover the eastern U.S. from Atlanta to Maine. Our plants can be seen in The Atlanta Botanical Garden, The Biltmore Estate, Mt. Cuba, Central Park, Winterthur, landscapes and back yards everywhere. We think native azaleas are the true gems of our indigenous plant palette.

The plan was to propagate as much of our stock as possible from cuttings and seed. We also were searching for other nurseries that could supply us with liners and other starter plants. It was always a problem to find a reliable, consistent source for quality native azalea liners. Plus we wanted to grow all the species native to the eastern U.S. It was all very frustrating.

At the beginning of 2017 we implemented a new strategic plan. We would use all 3 propagation houses, 9000 sq.ft., solely for native azaleas, rhododendron, leucothoe. These are the plants not readily available in the horticulture industry in the U.S. Currently we have over 40,000 liners, 15,000 one gallon, and 8,000 3 gallon native azaleas on the ground. Now we are the largest grower of native azaleas in the U.S.

Finally, this year is our best year ever. From Carolina Native’s perspective, all the attention brought to bear from many organizations outside horticulture on native plants and their overriding benefits is taking hold. The Pollinator Partnership, The Audubon Society, The National Wildlife Federation, The Xerces Society, and more insist on native plants in the landscape and gardens. We see the results. And look for more great news in the future. Our business depends on it.

Published 05/11/19