Midwest Natives Nursery

On Saturday, Midwest Natives Nursery in Lincoln, NE hosted its first plant sale of the year, which will continue each Saturday until the plants are sold out.

I started following Midwest Natives Nursery on Facebook and couldn’t wait to attend their opening event. I ended up purchasing a flat of native species including various milkweed, coneflower, aster and sneezeweed (all of which were in the ground by Sunday). While there, I asked Nathan if he would mind doing an interview for the blog and thankfully, he agreed!

Let’s jump right into the interview.

What is your background and how did you get started with Midwest Natives? Also, what drew you to native plants?
I graduated from UNL in May 2014 with a degree in Horticulture Entrepreneurship. In high school I fell in love with the idea of aquaponics, growing food sustainably using fish, after having kept aquariums with live plants and finding I had a knack for growing. I entered college with this
goal in mind and decided to work towards a degree in Horticulture. After my first year of schooling, going back home for the summer to my parents’ house in Bellevue, I wanted to do something that would benefit pollinators as Colony Collapse Disorder of honeybees was a growing concern at the time. My parents allowed me to plant a small wildflower garden in their backyard. I cared for the garden all summer and absolutely fell in love with the plants and the immediate increase in pollinator activity that they supported. I began studying more and more about native plants and their benefits in the landscape and shifted my focus from aquaponics to native perennials. Having taken many business and entrepreneurship courses through UNL’s Engler Entrepreneurship program, and with the help of the wonderful faculty and advisors, I founded Midwest Natives Nursery during my senior year as my Honors Thesis project. 

Why should people choose native?
The Tallgrass Prairie is one of, if not the, most endangered ecosystems on the planet. Less than 1% of native tallgrass prairie exists today due to habitat loss as a result of agriculture and urbanization. Growing native plants in the home landscape brings a bit of that ecosystem back to life, one backyard at a time. Native plants require no supplemental irrigation or fertilizer once established and are absolutely essential in providing food and habitat for struggling native pollinators and wildlife. Because many native pollinators have co-evolved with specific plants, when the plants are gone, the insects that rely on them for survival are gone too. When insects
are gone, the birds and small mammals that feed on them suffer, and a chain reaction occurs all the way up the food chain to us. 

How do you grow your plants?
We begin our growing season in January, when we stratify our seeds indoors. Stratification is the process by which you mimic the natural cold period that many native seeds require to germinate. After 60-90 days of stratification in the refrigerator, we plant our seeds in plug trays in the greenhouse in early March. By early April, the seedlings are big enough to transplant into their final pots and grow until mid-May when they are ready for sale. 

Do you use pesticides or fertilizers? 
We do use fertilizers to get our plants as big and healthy as possible prior to sale. We are currently working on trying out different organic fertilizers in the form of worm castings from a local composting operation and liquid fish waste from a local aquaponics operation. We use virtually no pesticides as there are typically no insect pests around during the bulk of our growing season and by the time we sell the plants, our greenhouse is opened up in a way that beneficial insects such as wasps can enter and take care of any mites or aphids that might find their way onto our plant material. 

What are your plans for the future? 
The growing interest in native plants has been wonderful for business. We are growing more and more plants every year and are working on expanding into a second greenhouse for the 2020 season! 

What is your yard like?
Unfortunately, I currently live in an apartment and don’t have the ability to plant what I’d like here in Lincoln. My original wildflower planting still exists in my parents’ backyard, however, and is growing every year! We now have over 50 species of native wildflowers and grasses thriving in only a 120 square foot area! 

50 species of native wildflowers growing in 120 sq. ft.

How can someone buy your plants? 
Our greenhouse is open to the public every Saturday in Lincoln, NE at 4200 S 1st Street. You can find our plant list for the season on our Facebook page. We also take orders for weekly deliveries to the Omaha area. Unfortunately, we are not currently set up to ship plants outside of those areas, but are working on that for next year! 

Here is a list of native plants that Nathan is growing, not all plants may be available at this time.

Achillea millefolium – Western Yarrow 
Agastache foeniculum – Anise Hyssop 
Agastache nepetoides – Yellow Giant Hyssop 
Agastache scrophulariaefolia – Purple Giant Hyssop
Ageratina altissima – White Snakeroot 
Allium canadense – Wild Garlic 
Amorpha canescens – Lead Plant 
Andropogon gerardii – Big Bluestem 
Antennaria neglecta – Prairie Pussytoes 
Antennaria plantaginifolia – Pussytoes 
Apocynum cannabinum – Dogbane 
Arnoglossum atriplicifolium – Pale Indian Plantain
Arnoglossum plantagineum – Prairie Indian Plantain
Artemisia ludoviciana – Prairie Sage 
Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed 
Asclepias speciosa – Showy Milkweed 
Asclepias sullivantii – Prairie Milkweed 
Asclepias syriaca – Common Milkweed 
Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Weed 
Asclepias verticillata – Whorled Milkweed 
Asclepias viridis – Spider Milkweed
Astragalus canadensis – Canada Milk Vetch 
Baptisia alba – White Wild Indigo 
Baptisia australis – Blue Wild Indigo 
Baptisia australis var. minor – Dwarf Blue Indigo
Baptisia bracteata – Cream Wild Indigo 
Bidens coronata – Tall Swamp Marigold 
Blephilia hirsuta – Hairy Wood Mint 
Boltonia asteroides – False Aster 
Bouteloua curtipendula – Side-Oats Grama 
Bouteloua dactyloides – Buffalograss 
Bouteloua gracilis – Blue Grama 
Calamagrostis canadensis – Blue Joint Grass 
Calamovilfa longifolia – Sand Reed Grass  
Campanula americana – Tall Bellflower 
Carex brevior – Plains Oval Sedge 
Castilleja sessiliflora – Downy Painted Cup 
Cephalanthus cccidentalis – Buttonbush (shrub)
Chamaecrista fasciculata – Partridge Pea
Chasmanthium latifolium – River Oats 
Chrysopsis villosa – Hairy Golden Aster 
Cirsium altissimum – Tall Thistle 
Cirsium discolor – Pasture Thistle 
Cleome serrulata – Rocky Mountain Bee Plant
Coreopsis lanceolata – Lance-Leaf Coreopsis 
Coreopsis palmata – Prairie Coreopsis 
Coreopsis tinctoria – Plains Coreopsis 
Coreopsis tripteris – Tall Coreopsis 
Dalea candida – White Prairie Clover 
Dalea purpurea – Purple Prairie Clover 
Dalea villosa – Silky Prairie Clover 
Desmanthus illinoensis – Illinois Bundle Flower
Desmodium canadense – Showy Tick Trefoil
Dracopis amplexicaulis – Clasping Coneflower 
Echinacea angustifolia – Narrow-Leaved Coneflower
Echinacea pallida – Pale Purple Coneflower 
Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower 
Elymus canadensis – Canada Wild Rye 
Elymus hystrix – Bottlebrush Grass 
Elymus villosus – Silky Wild Rye 
Elymus virginicus – Virginia Wild Rye 
Eragrostis spectabilis – Purple Love Grass 
Eragrostis trichodes – Sand Love Grass 
Eryngium yuccifolium – Rattlesnake Master 
Eupatorium altissimum – Tall Boneset 
Eupatorium perfoliatum – Boneset
Euphorbia marginata – Snow On The Mountain 
Euthamia graminifolia – Grass-Leaved Goldenrod
Euthamia gymnospermoides – Great Plains Goldenrod 
Eutrochium maculatum – Joe Pye Weed 
Eutrochium purpureum – Sweet Joe Pye Weed 
Gaillardia aristata – Blanketflower 
Gaillardia pulchella – Indian Blanket 
Gaura longiflora – Large Flowered Gaura 
Geranium maculatum – Wild Geranium 
Helenium autumnale – Sneezeweed 
Helianthus grosseserratus – Saw-Tooth Sunflower
Helianthus maximiliani – Maximilian’s Sunflower
Helianthus mollis – Downy Sunflower 
Helianthus pauciflorus – Showy Sunflower 
Heliopsis helianthoides – Early Sunflower 
Heuchera richardsonii – Prairie Alumroot 
Hibiscus laevis – Rose Mallow 
Hypericum pyramidatum – Great St. John’s Wort
Ipomopsis rubra – Standing Cypress 
Koeleria macrantha – June Grass 
Lespedeza capitata – Round-Headed Bush Clover
Liatris aspera – Button Blazing Star 
Liatris mucronata – Bottlebrush Blazing Star
Liatris punctata – Dotted Blazing Star 
Liatris pycnostachya – Prairie Blazing Star 
Lobelia inflata – Indian Tobacco 
Lobelia siphilitica – Great Blue Lobelia 
Lobelia spicata – Pale Spiked Lobelia 
Mentha arvensis – Wild Mint 
Monarda fistulosa – Wild Bergamot 
Oenothera biennis – Common Evening Primrose
Oligoneuron rigidum – Stiff Goldenrod 
Oxalis violacea – Violet Wood Sorrel 
Panicum oligosanthes – Panic Grass 
Panicum virgatum – Switchgrass 
Parthenium integrifolium – Wild Quinine 
Penstemon digitalis – Foxglove Beardtongue 
Penstemon gracilis – Slender Beardtongue 
Penstemon grandiflorus – Large-Flowered Beardtongue
Phlox pilosa – Prairie Phlox 
Physostegia virginiana – Obedient Plant  
Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium – Sweet Everlasting
Pycnanthemum tenuifolium – Slender Mountain Mint
Pycnanthemum verticillatum var. pilosum – Hairy Mountain Mint
Pycnanthemum virginianum – Mountain Mint 
Ratibida columnifera – Long-Headed Coneflower
Ratibida pinnata – Yellow Coneflower 
Rosa arkansana – Prairie Wild Rose 
Rosa blanda – Early Wild Rose 
Rosa carolina – Pasture Rose 
Rosa setigera – Illinois Rose 
Rudbeckia fulgida – Orange Coneflower 
Rudbeckia hirta – Black-Eyed Susan 
Rudbeckia laciniata – Wild Golden Glow 
Rudbeckia subtomentosa – Sweet Black-Eyed Susan
Rudbeckia triloba – Brown-Eyed Susan 
Ruellia humilis – Wild Petunia 
Ruelia strepens – Smooth Wild Petunia 
Salvia azurea – Pitcher Sage 
Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Bluestem 
Senna marilandica – Maryland Senna 
Silphium integrifolium – Rosin Weed 
Silphium laciniatum – Compass Plant 
Silphium perfoliatum – Cup Plant 
Solidago canadensis – Canada Goldenrod 
Solidago flexicaulis – Zig Zag Goldenrod 
Solidago gigantea – Late Goldenrod 
Solidago graminifolia – Grass Leaved Goldenrod 
Solidago missouriensis – Missouri Goldenrod 
Solidago nemoralis – Old Field Goldenrod 
Solidago speciosa – Showy Goldenrod 
Solidago ulmifolia – Elm-Leaved Goldenrod 
Sorghastrum nutans – Indiangrass 
Spartina pectinata – Cord Grass 
Sporobolus compositus – Rough Dropseed 
Sporobolus cryptandrus – Sand Dropseed 
Sporobolus heterolepis – Prairie Dropseed 
Stipa viridula – Green Needle Grass 
Symphyotrichum cordifolium – Heart-Leaved Aster
Symphyotrichum drummondii – Drummond’s Aster
Symphyotrichum ericoides – Heath Aster 
Symphyotrichum laeve – Smooth Blue Aster 
Symphyotrichum lanceolatum – Panicled Aster
Symphyotrichum lateriflorum – Calico Aster 
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae – New England Aster
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium – Aromatic Aster
Symphyotrichum oolentangiense – Sky Blue Aster
Symphyotrichum pilosum – Frost Aster 
Symphyotrichum praealtum – Willow Aster 
Symphyotrichum sericeum – Silky Aster 
Tephrosia virginiana – Goat’s Rue 
Thalictrum dasycarpum – Purple Meadow Rue 
Tradescantia ohiensis – Ohio Spiderwort 
Tridens flavus – Purpletop Grass
Verbena hastata – Blue Vervain 
Verbena stricta – Hoary Vervain 
Verbena urticifolia – White Vervain 
Verbesina alternifolia – Wingstem 
Vernonia baldwinii – Western Ironweed 
Vernonia fasciculata – Common Ironweed 
Vernonia gigantea – Tall Ironweed 
Vernonia missurica – Missouri Ironweed 
Veronicastrum virginicum – Culver’s Root 
Zizia aurea – Golden Alexanders

What are some good plants for shade?
Full shade: Pussytoes, wild garlic, jack in the pulpit, hairy wood mint, tall bellflower, sweet joe pye weed, wild geranium, wild golden glow, zig zag goldenrod, lions foot, heart leaved aster, calico aster, drummonds aster, wingstem, silky wild rye, bottlebrush grass, plains oval sedge. 

Partial shade: hyssops, asters, plantains, sages, milkweeds, baptisia, coreopsis, clovers, coneflowers, sneezeweed, sunflowers, mallows, liatris, lobelia, monarda, penstemon, obedient plant, mints, wild roses, Silphium, Maryland senna, vervain, golden alexanders, and culvers root.

How can someone get in contact with you?
Interested customers can find our information on Facebook or they can contact me directly at
duffynathan95@gmail.com or 402-682-2955. 

Thanks Nathan for agreeing to do this interview, we will be watching to see how you grow the businesses and continue with your mission. I can’t wait to share photos of my native plants and how they look after a few season. Questions? Leave a comment below!

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