Home and Garden

How to source native seeds and plants

Neighbours gardening together

Local seeds and plants have the added benefit of being adapted to the area. (Photo: NeONBRAND via Unsplash)

Many native plant species are easy to grow and make beautiful, hardy additions to your yard and garden.

Whether you’re creating a vegetable garden, pollinator paradise, wild bee sanctuary or butterfly garden, there are many creative — often free — ways to source native seeds and plants.

Seeds can be organic (grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides), non-GMO (cultivated through pollination, not in a lab), open-pollinated (pollinated by nature e.g., insects, birds, wind, humans), heirloom (with an open-pollinated heritage) and rare. Local seeds have the added benefit of being adapted to the area!

Eight ways to source native seeds and plants

Seedy Saturday event

Seedy Saturdays

Often starting in February, these local events happen throughout Canada. They bring together garden enthusiasts, seed suppliers (big and small) and many host seed swaps.

Photo: Debbie Gascoyne via Flickr

Seed library

Seed libraries

Each seed library is unique but most borrow, save and share seeds. They may be independent, hosted by a non-profit or partnered with a local library. Most are free and some are mobile. Learn more about community seed libraries and search by city or province to find one near you.

Young man digging up a wild plant

Salvaged plants

Many municipalities (e.g., Saanich, B.C.) work with landowners and developers so volunteers can rescue plants at risk of damage. The plants aren’t sold. They go onto public and private restoration projects.

Native plant study group

Native plant study groups

Join a local chapter in your area.

Neighbours gardening in their community

Neighbours

Ask your neighbour (or local community garden, faith group, school etc.) if they want to trade or swap plants.

Butterflyway Ranger training at Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre

Courses

Take a local native plant course, workshop or seminar. You’ll take home new knowledge and maybe seeds or a plant!

Local plant nursery

Nurseries

Many specialize in native plants adapted to your area. (Ask your favourite nursery to supply more native species and to stop selling invasive species.)

Woman collecting seeds

Collect

As your garden becomes established, learn how to collect, dry and store native plant seeds. Check out online videos, library books or take a workshop. Don’t collect wild seeds. (Note: Indigenous People may have rights to collect wild plants and seeds.)

What to plant

We’ve curated a list of native plants to attract butterflies in Western and Eastern Canada.

When to plant

Spring is a great time to get seeds and plants in the ground but fall is also ideal!

Wildflowers drop their seeds at the end of their blossoming cycle — often in fall. That’s why the best time to plant most native wildflower seeds is late fall, six to eight weeks before the first frost. Not too early! You want them to stay dormant in the soil over winter and then germinate in the spring.