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Dreaming of spring flowers? Guide lists 1600 native plants and how to grow them in Virginia

White flowers with pink markings inside. Mountain laurel is a plant species native to Virginia
Courtesy Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
Mountain laurel is a plant species native to Virginia

This time of year, many gardeners are dreaming of warmer days, and perhaps are already making plans for spring. If you’re looking to plant more native flowers this year, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) recently updated their online native plant guide.

Kevin Heffernan is a biologist with DCR and helped create the free guide, which was originally released in 2014 but was recently updated. Since the pandemic, he said they’ve seen a growing number of people interested in replacing parts of their lawn with native plants, but not all nurseries sell these plants or seeds. “There’s a much higher demand than there is supply,” Heffernan said.
He said both hobbyist gardeners and landscape developers increasingly want these plants, partly because they attract birds, bees and butterflies. He grows them himself in his own yard. “We began seeing butterfly species we’d never seen in the yard before.”

Plus, he said, many native plants, like black-eyed susans, milkweed and blue mistflower, are relatively easy and need little attention.

“Under the shadow and doom and gloom feeling you can get thinking much about climate change, planting a native plant is something you can do that has a very positive effect,” Heffernan said.

The Virginia Native Plant Finder has information on which nurseries and seed companies in Virginia grow and sell 600 varieties of native plants, including wildflowers, paw paw and persimmon trees. 1600 plants in total are listed in the guide, though many are not available to purchase at this time.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.


Roxy Todd is Radio IQ's New River Valley Bureau Chief.