Q: I just read the question and answer regarding the plants that attract butterflies and other pollinators. I love the butterflies and I would like to plant some of the milkweed and black cohosh to increase the habitat that would attract more to our yard. I live in Moose Lake. Where do you suggest I go to buy or order online the above plants you suggest. I don’t seem to ever see any in my local garden shop.
A: It can be difficult to find some native plants, especially as greenhouses in our region have been closing, but there are some local nurseries that handle them, and it’s usually possible to order things online if you can’t find them here.
The Minnesota DNR provides a list of native plant suppliers by region here: dnr.state.mn.us/gardens/nativeplants/suppliers.html. You can also search for nurseries by specialty at plantinfo.umn.edu.
When I can’t find things from local suppliers, I’ve had good luck just googling the plant’s botanical name. Usually, the name of a company that wants to sell me one is in the list of hits. Swamp milkweed is Asclepias incarnata. Black cohosh is Actaea racemosa.
I’d also recommend the local perennial plant sales that are put on by various garden groups — including the St. Louis County master gardeners — in the spring. Our sale is June 6 at Peace Church, and master gardeners are currently raising swamp milkweed to sell. There will also be native pollinator plants for sale at this year’s Monarch Festival, June 13 at the Coppertop Church (First United Methodist).
Another source of perennials is other gardeners. When you see something you like in someone’s yard, it’s worth asking the gardener there if he or she is willing to share plants when it comes time to divide them. Many gardeners would also be happy to share seed from their plants with you. Milkweed is easy to start from seed indoors as long as you give the seeds a cold, moist treatment before planting them. An easy way to do this is to put the seeds in damp paper towels in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge and leave them for at least three weeks before planting. The time of year to do that is now, so that you can plant indoors in April.
Written by U of M Extension Master Gardeners in St. Louis County. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.