Dear Miss Floribunda,

I have just finished reading Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Douglas Tallamy, and I am so fired up my kids are calling me “The Green Panther.”  I have decided to get rid of my alien species plants and replace them with native plants this spring. Because you have supported pollinator-friendly gardens in the past, I’m wondering if you can tell me where to find native plants, preferably locally, or some online company that is reliable. Perhaps your cousin Parsimony can tell me how to grow native plants from seed because I am on a budget. Also, is it too late to start the seeds indoors? How difficult is it? I usually start my tomato plants from seed, but I’ve heard that starting most natives can be tricky.  Would you or Parsimony provide some guidelines?

Green Panther on Gallatin Street

Dear Green Panther, 

First of all, let me say how delighted I am that you are joining such an ecologically important trend among home gardeners. Though you are poised to pounce, I might caution you to spare those aliens that are not invasive. Research them individually to see if they feed or harbor any beneficial insects or birds before eradicating them, and consider the architecture of your garden if they are shrubs or perennials. Not many native plants have long blooming seasons and it will take a while to establish a plan in which different plants flower seamlessly in succession. You do need expert advice before doing anything drastic.

Although neither my cousin Parsimony nor I is sufficiently competent to teach you, the Hyattsville Horticultural Society has invited an expert, David Roeder, to conduct a native plant home propagation workshop on Saturday, March 16 at the Hyattsville Municipal Center, 4310 Gallatin Street.   

Mr. Roeder has spent years volunteering at Chesapeake Natives (, a highly regarded native plant and wildflower nursery, and was leader of the seed propagation program there for an extended period of time. He has also propagated thousands of native plants from seed at his own home. He currently volunteers as a habitat advisor for the Audubon Society

Because it is indeed more difficult to grow native plants from seed than it is to grow tomatoes or other vegetables, he will inform you which seeds require cold treatment before planting, and demonstrate the scarification — scraping or nicking — that speeds germination when a seed coating is very hard. He will give you guidance also on how to collect seeds directly from native plants. 

You are correct that it is much more cost effective to plant from seed than it is to buy plugs or, especially, large established plants. Native plants grow very densely in the wild, and you need to plant more than just a few to approximate their beauty. Mr. Roeder will let you know what to expect from different native plants, most of which are perennial and somewhat slow to establish. They also need more care at their early stages than the plants you are probably accustomed to growing. In addition to showing you how to begin planting indoors, he will demonstrate how to start plants in outdoor containers as well. 

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It is much more cost effective to plant from seed than it is to buy plugs or, especially, large established plants
Photo Credit: UNSPLASH

At the March 16 meeting, Mr. Roeder will provide a slide presentation and a light setup to accompany an explanation of the various lighting options available. Samples of suitable seedling containers are also part of the demonstration. Informational handouts and other freebies will be provided, including — best of all — native seeds already cold-treated and ready to plant! 

I might mention that there will also be coffee and light refreshments. You will meet other gardeners who share your concern for the environment and for the beautification of our community. 

Miss Floribunda writes about gardening for the Life & Times. You may email her at