Helping Consumers Find the Best Native Plants at Retail


Mt Cuba, Cavanos Top performer line Web

Photo: Mt. Cuba Center

This spring, home gardeners can take the guesswork out of purchasing native plants thanks to a collaboration between Mt. Cuba Center, a native plant garden and research facility in Delaware, and Cavano’s Perennials Inc., a leading perennial wholesaler in the mid-Atlantic region. The new purple Top Performer tag designates native plants that received the highest scores during Mt. Cuba’s rigorous multi-year plant trials.

Mt. Cuba began studying native plants and related cultivars for its horticultural and ecological value in its Trial Garden in 2002. Since then, the botanic garden has evaluated and published 14 reports on various plant genera, including the latest report on Amsonia. Other trialed plants include Carex, wild hydrangea, Echinacea, Helenium, Phlox, Monarda, Baptisia, Coreopsis, Heuchera, and asters. All reports are available for free on Mt. Cuba’s website.

“We study native plants to inform home gardeners and the horticulture industry about plants that are most likely to succeed in gardens and provide attractive food sources for wildlife,” says Jeff Downing, Mt. Cuba’s Executive Director.  “Our Top Performer retail initiative is meant to take the guesswork out of plant shopping by identifying plants that have performed well over several years of close observation.”

In addition to their horticultural and aesthetic value, native plants support healthy ecosystems by providing habitat and food for wildlife, as well as helping to prevent water run-off and improving air quality. Additionally, they are specially adapted to local growing conditions, meaning they often require less watering, soil amendments, or pest management.

Tips and Tricks for Perennials Production

Cavano’s approached Mt. Cuba with the idea for a collaboration in 2022 after seeing consistent growth in the native plant category. However, homeowners were still having trouble identifying superior native plants for gardens while shopping at their local independent garden center. Discussions between Mt. Cuba Center and Cavano’s Perennials continued, and the “purple tag” evolved.

“Research that institutions like Mt. Cuba Center provide is vital to determining the best plants to use within the mid-Atlantic, for both gardeners and professionals,” says Taylor Pilker, Vice President of Cavano’s Perennials. “The attention to detail, scientific methods, and varying growing conditions allows for a comprehensive evaluation for gardener success with native plants.”

Top Performer native plants will be available at independent garden centers throughout the mid-Atlantic starting this April. For more information, visit mtcubacenter.org/TopPerformer.



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