Why Native Plants Are Important

Why Native Plants Are Important

When looking around at our beloved Garden Industry there is an abundance of variety! But, during one month of the year, we pay special attention to one particular variety of plants…Native plants! 

The month of April is Native Plant Appreciation Month and here at Plant Sentry™, we appreciate them tremendously!! 

However, we understand that amongst the multitude of varieties in the Garden Industry, sometimes native varieties can pale in comparison and appear lackluster next to the latest exotic variety. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and when it comes to native plants, they behold many more benefits than just their beauty.

As the fight against climate change continues, native plants have continued to gain popularity amongst gardeners. But, for some of the newer gardeners and industry members, the value that native plants have is not as clear to see. 

As active members of our community, Plant Sentry™ understands that it is not always easy to see the value in a plant, but sometimes takes a little more time. That’s why this month, in honor of Native Plant Appreciation Month, we are going to share why native plants are important.

What Are Native Plants

While how a native plant is identified can vary depending on who you’re talking to, they are generally acknowledged as plants that are native species to their ecoregion. However, we think that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services express it best as to what a native plant is, “A species that, other than as a result of an introduction, historically occurred or currently occurs in that ecosystem.” 

Native plants vary from ecoregion to ecoregion and what may be native in one part of the country, may not be native somewhere else. To assist you in identifying native plants in your region, the USDA PLANTS Database offers you access through their portal. You can find their database here:

If the PLANTS Database is a little overwhelming for you to work with, another simple and easy approach is to use the National Wildlife Federation’s “Native Plant Finder”. You can find the easy to use finder here:

The Value of Native Plants

Now that you know what a native plant is, and how you can find them for your area, it’s time that we get to the meat and potatoes of this post and share with you the value of native plants!

  1. Native Plants do not require fertilizers and most often do not require pesticides either. This positively impacts your local environment and decreases potential stormwater pollution.

2. Native plant species use less water than other plant varieties! This is another great benefit to your local environment, but also to your pocketbook. Less water usage saves money and resources!

3. Native plants contribute to cleaner air quality! These plant species do not require mowing and absorb carbon in the atmosphere helping combat global warming and ultimately climate change. 

4. Native Plants provide shelter and food for pollinators and other types of wildlife. This contribution is the greatest contribution! As the planet continues to face the increasing population of humans, maintaining a healthy pollinator and wildlife population will be the key to human survival. 

Pollinators naturally pollinate plants by a number incomparable to that which a human could accomplish without them. Implementing a native garden is a great way to help promote the wildlife and pollinator populations, which include keystone species like the North American Bumblebee.

5. In addition to promoting stewardship of natural habitats, native plants save money! Let’s face it, at the end of the day most of us are concerned about one thing, how much something costs. Native plants can help you save money through lower maintenance costs over other garden varieties.  According to the EMSWCD, over a 20 year period maintaining a native plantscape will cost $3,000 per acre versus $20,000 per acre for non-native plantscapes.

So there you have it, native plants can add value to birds and other animals, as well as your pocketbook!

Why Native Plants Are Important

As you can see from the list of values that native species can add to your garden, there is a number of reasons why they are so important. But, just in case any bit of why they matter so much, slipped through the cracks, we’re going to briefly recap.

As time continues to pass, and the world continues to change, humanity will continue to face choices that will positively impact the environment. Choosing to plant native species is one of those choices. It’s easy as a shopper to want the most unique and rare variety out there to make your garden look special. But, purchasing native plant varieties can add timeless beauty to your landscape while benefiting your environment. 

Native plant species are sustainable and offer beauty as well as low cost of maintenance. They can provide life and shelter for a number of species that need sustainable ways to survive. With extensive root systems that aid in water consumption and soil quality, what’s important about native plants is that they provide more than just their beauty.

Give your landscape the whole package, the better tomorrow, and the home for species who need it the most in the face of environmental disaster and plant native plants!






Plant Sentry’s Spring Checklist

Plant Sentry’s Spring Checklist

Ready to get your Spring planting underway? Us too!

There’s always a few important things that we like to remind ourselves of every Spring before we start planting and we thought this year, we’d share them with you.

When it comes to planting your spring garden, you can never be too careful. Despite the simple and relaxing act of gardening, there’s a lot more to it than that. As always, Plant Sentry™ focuses on more of the little things that can quickly impact your gardening efforts.

Here at Plant Sentry™, we know that the smallest changes can make the biggest impact on your garden efforts. That’s why we prioritize what we see as the BIG 3: Invasive Pests, Invasive Plants, and Plant Diseases.

These 3 categories require patience and due diligence in order to be successful. But just how do you know you’re looking for the right things? That’s why we’re here! 

So without further adieu here’s our Spring Checklist:

  1. Inspect the plant inside and out before you take it home! Check under the leaves and along the soil line for any pests.

2.Check for any possible signs of disease. This can include leaf discoloration.

3.Order plants for your growing zone. If you’re unsure what your zone is, visit the USDA’s website on growing zones

4.Before making any purchases, check your State’s local list of invasive species in your area. 

5.Plant with care and love! Plants are living just like you and me, a little bit of love goes a long way!

Wishing you happy gardening!


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6 “Must-Knows” About Japanese Barberry

6 “Must-Knows” About Japanese Barberry

As the temperatures get warmer, if you’re here, you’ve undoubtedly begun to think about what you’re putting in your garden this Spring. One plant to watch out for is the Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii).

This easy-to-spread invasive species originates from Japan and has been in the U.S. since 1875. The plant was first introduced as seeds to the state of Massachusetts and in 1896 was planted in the New York Botanic Garden. [1] 

Originally the barberry shrub was seen as an excellent substitute for the European Barberry (Berberis vulgaris). The European version was originally used for jams and dyes, throughout much of the U.S. 

It would be later discovered that this same popular version of the plant was a host for the Black Stem Rust found in the wheat crops. Looking for an alternative, the Japanese barberry was believed to be a positive solution to the problem of the European variety. Little did science know, this species would become one of the most invasive plants in the U.S.

1. Invading Your Space

Unfortunately for us, invasive species don’t currently have a ranking system, as they’re all very invasive. But, we’d bet our bottom dollar that chances are if there was a list, this plant would be at the top of it. 

Japanese barberry currently can be found in 31 of the 50 United States of America. 

As this plant is invasive to North America, it is quite literally invasive, everywhere that it grows throughout the U.S. 

What makes Japanese barberry invasive isn’t just its ability to rapidly spread, like wildfire. But, the plant is a woody plant variety that overcrowds the native plants of our landscapes compromising various natural ecosystems throughout the U.S. 

But, if that wasn’t enough, the species has adapted favorably to North American conditions and has proven incredibly resistant to biological controls that normally evolve to combat a plant like this. 

Normally diseases and other plants would adapt to drive out the invasive plant biologically, but due to the resistance of the Japanese barberry natural competition and biological controls have been unsuccessful.

2. Where It’s The Worst

From what we’ve told you so far, the barberry invasion occurs in 31 of the 50 states throughout the U.S. But, that doesn’t mean that the invasive threat is the same in all 31 of those states. 

Throughout the Northeastern part of the U.S. Japanese barberry is one of the most invasive plants in their environments. In states like New York, several cultivars of Japanese barberry are banned from sale and distribution to the state. 

From Maine to North Carolina, these evergreen shrubs displace many of the herbaceous and woody natives in their area and wreak ecological havoc. Within these states, growers and sellers can expect a zero-tolerance policy to any possibility of Berberis thunbergii crossing their borders.

But the toxicity of the spread isn’t limited to just the Northeastern portion of the U.S. Throughout the Midwest forested areas also struggle with the rapid spread of the Japanese barberry. The result too is heavy restrictions and education efforts to continually combat the invasive variety.

Patches of Barberry and their types of removal methods in a forest.

3. The Damages

We’ve mentioned it a few times already, Japanese barberry has some serious adverse effects on their environments in the U.S. But it isn’t just crowding out natives, and being resistant to eradication efforts. 

The cost to remove these plants from public and private landscapes ranges from $100-$200 per acre. This doesn’t include treatment or mechanical costs for removal. 

Japanese barberry is causing American taxpayers and landowners millions of dollars to control and remove.

In addition to all of the terrible things we’ve already mentioned about this plant, the leaf-litter from these plants, in large enough quantities, can change the pH level of the soil below them. 

Collectively, the Japanese barberry can change the environment by making the soil more basic through its foliage, crowd out native plants, and resist eradication efforts through biological factors. 

But if the biological effects weren’t enough, there’s even more damage that this invasive causes! Researchers have identified that areas with dense Japanese barberry populations also have a strong presence of black-legged ticks, known for transferring Lyme disease. [3]

4. Flight of the Berries

As with any invasive species, there are going to be challenges in removing the invasive from the environment. But, one challenge that makes removing this invasive from environments especially unique is how quickly it can spread. 

Japanese barberry grows bright red berries amongst their leaves as a part of their “bloom.” And as luck would have it, birds really love these red berries! 

One of the biggest challenges in preventing the spread of this species is that birds often eat the berries when they’re ripe and when they fly they poop the berry seeds back out and disperse them unknowingly. 

Other animals also enjoy the berries of this green leaved shrub and contribute to the spread of their seeds. This has allowed the spread of this invasive to make its way from its origin of the Northeastern part of the U.S. all the way to Washington state.

5. Goodbye and Good Riddance

As we’ve explained there are challenges in removing this invasive species. Generally speaking, it could have been expected by now that a disease would have come along and afflicted the species weakening its viability. 

Or perhaps evolution would have taken a stronger hold and natives within their heavily afflicted environments would have developed stronger resistance to the plant. But it appears that neither has occurred. 

So, how do you get rid of the Japanese barberry?

While the plants are young, they can be removed by hand. But, as the plant continues to grow the removal process becomes more difficult. Due to the sharp thorns of the plant, gloves should be worn to try and remove the plant by hand. 

According to the PennState Extension office, removal of the plant can be accomplished by lawn mowing, but professional equipment is required. As a pretty tough plant, even smaller varieties are not easily mowed over. [2]

Professional equipment will give you the power you need to be successful. The Extension office also recommends mowing the plant, should you choose this method, be done 3-6 times a year to successfully kill the plant. 

The Japanese barberry can also be dug up and pulled out, but also require additional treatment once the plant is removed. PennState Extension recommends Dicamba, 2, 4-D or triclopyr for foliar herbicides. They also recommend that in late August and early September that glyphosate and triclopyr can be used on the stumps and branches of the plant as treatments. 

At Plant Sentry™, while we support these recommendations, we encourage you to reach out to a professional for consultation and abide by legal labeling requirements.

It has also been identified by researchers that propane torches are an excellent tool in combatting and treating this plant. In areas where herbicides are restricted burning of the plant can reduce the size of the plant and decrease mortality

6.Not All Barberry Is Invasive

As our extensive article about all the terrors and traumas of the Japanese barberry comes to a close, we’d like to finish off on a more positive note. Despite the invasive status of barberry plants within the U.S., there is a silver lining that is beginning to grow for those who love the way the plant looks, without risking the environment.

In recent years botanists and researchers have developed barberry varieties that are classified as less invasive, or sterile. Such varieties that you can look for are the Crimson Cutie and the Concorde Barberry.

The Crimson Cutie is a sterile variety, while the Concorde Barberry produces little to no seeds. 

While the development and control methods surrounding Japanese barberry plants continue to change and grow, Plant Sentry™ encourages you to stay up to date with your regional restrictions and policies for the plant.

If you’re looking for a little help to identify whether or not the Japanese Barberry has spread to your state, be sure to visit USDA Map showing what states and areas have been affected by the spread of this plant.












5 Ways You Can Combat Invasive Species

5 Ways You Can Combat Invasive Species

Every year since 2010 the National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) takes place to encourage education and participation in efforts against invasive species throughout the U.S. The efforts are split into 2 weeks of the year so that NISAW has the opportunity to educate and practice 2 of the most important parts of battling invasives.

The first part of NISAW takes place in late February and focuses on legislation and policies surrounding invasive species and their management. During another week in May, the NISAW resumes, focusing on outreach and education efforts. 

During both weeks of NISAW, local community members and officials put their best foot forward in actions to remove invasive species and educate their communities on them. 

In keeping up with doing our part, this week (and every day)  Plant Sentry™ will also be focusing on invasive species education and efforts to combat them.

This leads us to here, in this wonderful blog where we’re going to cover 5 ways for you to combat invasive species in honor of National Invasive Species Awareness Week!

1. Preventing the Spread

When it comes to invasive species experts recognize that one of the best management practices is preventative measures. Too often invasives crowd out native plants and animals placing a strain on the natural resources of their environment.

A major resource in preventing the spread of invasives has been educating community members on the dos and don’ts of their environment. A top resource and educator in these preventive measures has been the Play Clean Go project [1].

Play Clean Go is an education program designed to bolster other education efforts in offering tips and tools (literally) to help prevent the spread of invasive species. PlayCleanGo recognizes that people spread invasive species and because of that, they can also help prevent the spread.

 As humans, we’re constantly on the go, and with the dirt and pieces of the environment that we move, so do the invasives with it. 

We often unknowingly transfer invasive species with our travel and transport of items from one place to another. 

Here’s How:

1. The bottom of your shoes! 

Say you’re up in the mountains hiking, but earlier that same week you were in a field full of invasive species. If you haven’t cleaned your shoes between trips, chances are you just transferred the invasive species to this mountain environment.

It’s easy to think of the dirt on your shoes as just that, but if you’re tracking serious amounts of mud and dirt, there’s a chance you could be carrying an invasive.

A great way to combat this type of spread is to clean your shoes between hikes, and every time you leave a different environment. Invasives cause tremendous amounts of damage in North America and it is up to each of us to do what we can to prevent their spread. 

Does your shoe have hard-to-clean grooves? PlayCleanGo sells easy-to-pack and carry brushes that are perfect for picking mud and dirt out of those hard-to-reach grooves [2]. 

2. Vehicle Tires!

Much like the bottoms of your hiking boots, tires are filled with nice little nooks and crannies that are perfect for picking up invasive plant seeds and insects. A great way to help prevent the spread of these nuisances is to avoid taking your vehicle on unpaved roads and into areas where invasives have been sighted. While it can be challenging to resist the urge to go off-roading, doing so can protect your environment from unwanted destruction. 

If you just can’t help yourself, be sure you clean the tires as well as possible before leaving the infected area.


This is a big one! Firewood is a leading cause of the spread of invasive species. So much so, that many National and State parks throughout the country will not let you bring your own firewood when camping.

Many invasive species are able to burrow and hide in cut wood and sustain harsh temperatures. As a result, when the wood is transferred to a new location, the invasives are given a new home and a new opportunity for destruction! 

When camping or wanting to use firewood, purchase locally! The opportunity to buy firewood is never going to be too far from the opportunity to hike and camp. Pick some up from a local or nearby store and prevent the risk of spreading invasives!

2. Identifying Invasive Species

Now that you know a few tips on how to prevent the spread of invasives, you might be wondering what it is these invasives look like. Well, that’s a great wonder!

The trouble with invasives is that they’re different for every state and every environment. Take Barberry (Berberis sp.) for example. While the majority of the Eastern part of the U.S. identifies it as a state-recognized invasive species, many states west of Indiana do not list it as invasive. 

Knowing the list of invasives for each of the states you visit should be on your list of things to do if you plan on spending some time outside. [5] If you’re hiking in California, take a look at their invasives lists. If you’re visiting Florida, take a look at their invasives lists.

Half the trouble with invasive species is that once they’ve arrived it can be challenging to locate each and every one of them roaming around their new environment. Identification and removal is a key effort in fighting invasives when they first arrive, so an extra set of eyes wouldn’t hurt!

Prepared with a list of what to look for, if an invasive species is spotted you can report it to the necessary agencies that can come and remove it. [3]

3. Educating Others

Another part of the challenge in fighting against invasives isn’t just that they compete with native plants and species, but it’s also letting other people know! These newly introduced species often take hold early on in their new environments and community members aren’t given enough information about them. 

Sometimes this is because we as a newly affected community don’t always know how they’re going to infect our environment, but also, because the word isn’t getting out.

When it comes to invasive species, always share the information! Tell your friends and family members about them and ask them to report them if they’re sighted.

Teamwork makes the dream for an invasive free habitat work! When in doubt refer back to the various experts that specialize in invasive species.

4. Legislative Action

As with anything that is going to affect your environment, some of the best actions you can take will be from the top of the regulatory food chain, legislation.

While many of us hate to see it come to legislative action, sometimes strict enforcement of policy is necessary to get everyone on the same page. Laws and regulations that have been passed surrounding alien species are put in place to protect U.S. land and citizens. 

When it comes to helping fight against invasive species, legislative actions can benefit your environment and make it more manageable for your local resources to beat them!

5. Kicking Them Out!

It’s pretty obvious at this point that invasive species just aren’t something that we want around. When it comes to getting rid of them, all the other steps before this will help in finding them, preventing them, and spreading them, but what about actually removing them?

Throughout the U.S. volunteer efforts are put together so that you can get out and help remove invasive species! 

There’s a number of different activities that you can participate in to help, but joining a local group or organization to clean up invasive species can make a big difference against invasives. Visit the USDA’s Take Action page for more information on getting involved in the removal of invasive species in your area.[4]

A Job Well Done

 Every year the battle against these species costs the United States taxpayers millions of dollars in corrective and preventive action. With the tips from this blog, you should feel empowered and able to positively impact your community and their battle against invasive species. 

Whether your area is fighting the Asian carp, the African snail, the brown tree snake, or the Asian longhorn beetle, there’s a way for you to stop their spread. 

Throughout the next week and the warmer months to come I hope the tools we’ve given you today will encourage you to reach out in your community and fight invasive species, just like us at Plant Sentry™!








For the Love of Plants: How Regulations Protect Your Garden

For the Love of Plants: How Regulations Protect Your Garden

It’s no secret that we love plants around this place. Everything that Plant Sentry does is for the love of plants! 

But in some parts of the world loving plants is a secondary task. Too often the regulations set out to keep the very plants we love safe, take a back burner to the threats that surround them.

There’s a lot that goes into protecting different plants and their well being! Did you know that some plants are so harmful that they can’t be in the same environment as other plants?

As a means to try and protect plants from the threat they pose to one another, regulatory officials prohibit and regulate certain plants in certain parts of the country in hopes to protect natural ecosystems.

Much like the efforts of Plant Sentry™, decision-makers keep the threats of invasive plants, pests, and diseases at the forefront of their considerations of what plants are safe, and which ones are not.

So what goes into prohibiting a plant? How do regulators and officials decide which ones are safe and which ones are dangerous? 

In today’s blog, we’re going to find answers to this very question.

Identifying Invasive Relationships

First thing is first when it comes to determining whether or not to prohibit a plant, officials have to determine whether or not the plant is an invasive species. 

Invasive species overcrowd healthy plant populations and suppress their ability to grow successfully.

By prohibiting invasive species regulators and growers are better able to protect current plants from their exposure. Invasive species have costly damages that no one wants to pay.

Identifying invasive species quickly and early can save a whole lot of trouble later on. 

Sometimes growers don’t realize that the plants they’re selling may be invasive. Sometimes, the consumer may not realize the plants they’re buying are invasive.

If you’re unsure what plants are and aren’t invasive to your local environment visit the USDA Invasive Species Information Center.

This site provides access to all 50 states’ lists of invasive species [1]. The more you know about the rules surrounding these species, the better you can protect your garden!

A Negative Attraction

Trying to predict the future and see if something could be prohibited later on? A great way to predict what plants may be up for new regulations is to keep an eye on the pests.

While it is incredibly uncommon, plants can be prohibited or removed from environments simply because an invasive pest really likes them. 

While it most certainly seems unfair to plant lovers, the harsh reality is that without stringent protection from these pests the plants we love would be lost anyway. As a result, many states will either discourage or prohibit the planting of certain species of plants in hopes of starving out the pests.

Before the USDA moved to remove Federal Regulations on the Emerald Ash Borer, states spent millions of dollars combatting it!

Many states kept a watchful eye on the pest, hoping to protect their beloved Ash trees and prevent an invasion of the EAB.

In the state of Nebraska, one action of protection was to discourage the sale and movement of Ash trees within the state. The hopes were to slow down the spread of the invasive pest by limiting their resources. and still, keep the trees within the state.

However, after the damages continued Nebraska decided to remove a lot of the trees. In many parts of the state, the damage has been so extensive that treatment isn’t possible and removal is the only option.

Now, Ash trees in Nebraska are often removed throughout the state in efforts to starve out the EAB and hopefully regrow the Ash trees at a future date.

Keeping a watchful eye on how pests affect plants can give you indications of whether or not you’ll want to purchase these plants for yourself. 

With quarantine federal deregulation, it will be important to keep up with the state by state measures for the EAB that will develop over the next coming years.

To learn more about how you may combat the Emerald Ash Borer and other invasive pests visit the USDA’s APHIS page [2].

A-Noxious Behavior

Another category that gets identified in lists of plants that can be prohibited is Noxious Weeds.

Noxious weeds are identified as weeds that are harmful to the environment or animals. In the U.S. each of these weeds participates in the USDA’s APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine Risk Assessment. 

In this program, the APHIS PPQ evaluates each of the species of weed for their abilities to spread, establish, and cause harm to the U.S. environments. The assessments can be conducted for really any reason that may suggest a threat to the U.S.

For many of these plant species, they overcrowd the native plants and radically change the local ecosystems. Many states independently identify Noxious Weeds within their environments and prohibit their sale or distribution within their borders in hopes of preventing their spread and threat. 

To learn more about the plants on this list, and who’s on it visit the APHIS page for Noxious Weeds [3].

Helping Healthy Plants 

While many plants are restricted throughout the U.S., it doesn’t mean that they aren’t still sold or distributed. In the gray area of the Garden Industry, somewhere between not knowing better, and not caring, these plants are still sold to communities nationwide.

As officials continue the uphill battle against these plants, some of the best methods of combat are community education and programs like Plant Sentry™.

Much like the regulatory officials working hard to protect your environments, at Plant Sentry™ we know the damage these plants cause. We know that it takes a community effort to prevent the spread and sale of these species. This is why we work tirelessly to provide our clients with the tools and insights they need to protect themselves from these plants.

Now that you understand a little bit more about why plants get prohibited, we hope that you too will share with your community to help prevent their spread!

Important Resources:






The True Cost of Low Priced Plants

The True Cost of Low Priced Plants

Earlier this morning I was reading my morning news and I came across an article that immediately piqued my interest. I found it so interesting in fact, that it got my wheels turning, and my fingers tapping. This article gave me a range of emotions! I’m still unsure as to whether they’re better identified as angry or as interested.

You see, the article that I had read this morning was about my industry, my day in and day out reputation, that I take great pride in. So, understandably I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered that someone was attempting to provide guidance to our customers, or if I was just annoyed that they had done such a poor job at trying to do so.

The article I had read was about the differences between low cost $5 plants and more expensive ones from garden centers. While they tried to help the many customers struggling with empty pocketbooks amidst the raging pandemic, the article both insulted the industry and the consumer. 

Even the most amateur gardeners would read this article and surely see that the writer of this piece missed a lot of important parts of buying plants.

But, what I did appreciate about this article, was that it proposed a very important question, that both the writer of the piece and myself at times have asked. 

Why is it that some plants cost more, and what exactly are you paying for?

The Garden Industry

Before diving right into the answer of why some plants cost more and what exactly you’re paying for, I think it’s important to understand a little bit about the Garden Industry and what we do.

Much like other agricultural fields, this work requires exposure to the sun for long hours through the hottest days of the year. It asks you to get your hands dirty, and not just lightly, but nails stained from the constant exposure to the dirt, kind of dirty. Not to mention the exposure to chemical treatments, insects, and other unsavory pests.

Nursery and Greenhouse professionals work exceptionally hard to deliver beautiful plants that will bring each customer years of joy and happiness. 

It’s not easy, it’s not cheap, and by no means, is it a job for everyone. 

But despite the stressful nature that this industry can have, many growers, sellers, and workers are still some of the kindest people you can do business with. 

This industry is surrounded by the joy and beauty that these plants bring to people!

Fundamentals of Cost

Now that you know a little bit more about the work that goes into our industry, we can look at a couple of important factors that affect the cost of the plants you see at your favorite plant shops. 

As a customer, one of the best ways you can support your green thumb and the Garden and Nursery Industry is by having a good understanding of what the pricing means.

1. You get what you pay for:

I was raised on this important philosophy during a time when you really did get what you pay for. While times have changed, and the cost of goods overall has risen, for the most part this is still true.

 2. You only pay for quality once:

My boss said this to me earlier this past year, and it was the only time I ever needed to hear it. Simply because it’s incredibly true.

When it comes to plants, quality plants are a gift that keeps on giving. They can save you extra costs on everything from root booster to pesticides.

3. Bigger isn’t always better:

Sometimes bigger seems better, but this idea isn’t always true. When it comes to getting your money’s worth, size does matter. But, what is sometimes missed is that the “more” you may be getting is not what you expected.

When it comes to buying plants the “more” could mean a variety of things. It could mean taking home pests, or diseases that could very well cause damage to the rest of your landscape. In other ways the more you could be getting is an unhealthy plant that led you on to believe that because it was bigger, it would be better.

Quality growers will often take the extra steps to prune or cut back plants so that they can regrow the following year with more body. When this step is skipped, it can actually impact the growth of the plant negatively. 

Sometimes this means that the plant will need more time to grow full, but if it’s good quality, it will be worth the wait!

4. Bulk buys receive discounts:

This is true throughout the market in more than one industry. The more that a vendor buys from a supplier, the more savings a vendor can pass along to their customers. Acknowledging this global truth of market exchanges is where you’ll be able to compare big box store discounts and small business achievements.

What’s In the Cost

There’s a lot to take into consideration when you’re purchasing plants. Your landscape is an investment in yourself and your home. If you’re going to spend the time on it, you’re going to want it to look nice.

Buying cheap plants can mean you’re compromising quality. The plant could be short on nutrients, or root hardiness causing it to die faster. But, buying the most expensive plants can easily keep you from completing your gardening goals. 

When deciding on new plants and how much they’ll cost here are the factors that will impact the cost of your plant and what you’re getting for your money:

On Staff Experts: 

When it comes to the quality of plants, there is one key ingredient that really makes a difference in the cost, the people.

These days, the human impact can be easily overlooked in identifying quality and cost. But for my industry, the human touch really makes all the difference.

Companies that invest in their employees will have happier employees, and that trickles down to the quality of care they give to their plants.

Insightful experts and careful employees can quickly impact the quality of the plants that a company sells. The natural human attention to detail is important when it comes to growing and selling plants. Staff members must have the knowledge and the skillset to give the care that plants need to thrive. 

Knowledgeable staff can also quickly solve problems that often arise in the Garden Industry. Quick and informed decisions can be the difference between making a season flourish or closing their doors.

Boxing and Packaging

Believe it or not, this has a huge impact on the overall health of your plant. Many plants are shipped from larger wholesale growers to smaller nurseries and sellers throughout the country. Cutting costs on boxing and packaging can mean exposing the plants to harsh weather conditions that can ultimately impact their health. 

Pests and Disease Treatments

The overall health of a plant before it gets to the customer starts with the grower. Using effective and proven methods to keep the plant healthy from harmful pests and diseases is fundamental to the overall health of the plant. Each state sets out different requirements for treatments against pests and diseases to protect their local environments and plant communities. If a grower does not adhere to these regulations, it often comes at a greater cost to everyone involved. 

We know that the best growers use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plans, and certify their operations in compliance with their state and federal regulations. That’s why we take the extra step and time for every piece of inventory to be sure that it has been certified to ship to your area.

Quality Variety: 

Like many industries around the world, the Garden Industry is continually developing new and beautiful varieties for their customers. But, keeping up with the latest trends comes at a cost. 

Many new varieties have patents and trademarks to their creators. Suppliers, like Nature Hills Nursery, are willing to sell these new varieties, but often have to pay additional fees for royalties, marketing, and rights to sell the variety. 

Good Roots: 

When it comes to starting a healthy plant, it comes from the ground up! Strong and plentiful roots give plants the access they need to nutrients throughout their lifetime. 

The foundation roots create for strong and robust plants is something that is often skipped over when it comes to giving it the detail and attention it deserves.

When looking at low cost plants, this is something to be wary of. The soil of your plant should be wrapped within the roots and visibly abundant when it is removed from the cell it was purchased in.

Next Time You’re Buying Plants

The next time you’re out buying plants, I genuinely hope that you’ll consider more than just the price tag that you see. I’ve done the groundwork for you here, in hopes that the next time you’re comparing costs, you have a ready idea of what it represents.

Remember your fundamentals of, you get what you pay for and that you only pay for quality once. Bigger doesn’t always mean it’s better, and that bulk buying usually comes with greater discounts. 

These basic purchasing rules will help guide your review of costs. But, these weren’t the only tips I gave you!

The Garden Industry is a busy, constantly revolving machine. From the time the plants go into the ground to the moment they’re sent out on a truck, growers who provide quality plants really do put their best foot forward for their customers. 

They invest in their staff members because they know that the return is more than a machine could ever replicate. They establish strong IPM plans to protect their plants from pests and diseases they didn’t see coming. They pay a little bit more so that you can have branded quality varieties. They start good roots so that your plants have access to all the necessary nutrients. And they carefully select packaging that they know costs a little more on their side but means you’ll get a healthier and stronger plant.

So while the lower priced plant may look more appealing to your pocketbook, the slightly more expensive plant can give you so much more.

Pages To Visit:

Normally in this section of our blogs, we would include our citations. However, this week we focused on in house experts from our 3 companies! So instead of the usual citation, here are pages to our other 2 companies that help keep Nature Hills Nursery going. 




5 Important Topics For The Garden Industry In 2021

5 Important Topics For The Garden Industry In 2021

It’s officially a new year and the highly anticipated Spring season is just around the corner! Here at Plant Sentry™ this new year means a fresh start, full of new opportunities. That’s why we’re diving into the new year head first to look at the “5 Important Topics For the Garden Industry In 2021”. 

1. Integrated Pest Management Plans:

 We wouldn’t be who we are today, if this wasn’t the first conversation that we asked you to have with your teams. Integrated Pest Management plans are the backbone of a grow operations pest management efforts. The efforts are both effective and environmentally sensitive. [1] They consider the life cycle of pests that threaten their stock, and how to best combat them. 

Every growing season brings new challenges, and this year will be no different. Before and after the grow season sit down with your team that manages your IPM. Ask them how effective and efficient their efforts were before the big growing season, and what changes could be made now that it’s over.

Having a strong plan in place is how the best IPMs succeed!

2. Regulatory Compliance: 

Not to be outdone by the importance of a quality IPM, Regulatory Compliance comes in at number two. While it may appear second ranked in this article, it could arguably have been number one. Regulatory compliance efforts are essential for any business in the green and garden industry. 

Whether or not most buyers realize it, regulatory compliance is set out as rules and guidelines from the Federal and State governments [2]. Each of these regulatory bodies monitor and regulate invasive plant, pest, and disease movement throughout their lifetime within the U.S. As time passes they’ll pass rulings that can ban certain plants from moving from one place to another based upon their vulnerability. 

Each part of the country belongs to a different ecoregion. Sometimes, the ecoregion will also be determined by government bodies as to what plants will do best in those areas. All of these tools guide and tell growers where their plants can and cannot be shipped or sold. However, it is the responsibility of the growers and sellers to seek out and apply these regulations.

Proper following of these regulations can have HUGE impacts on a company’s bottom line. If plants are shipped or sold by someone and they have rulings around them that say otherwise, officials will burn and destroy the entire lot of those plants. These damages can result in the loss of thousands to millions of dollars.

This is why Plant Sentry™ [3] is so important! We’ve developed a database with consistently maintained regulations for compliance to help growers and sellers from losing their plants.

3. Scalability: 

Coming in at number three is the topic of Scalability. While the previous two topics were more focused on management systems for a business, we know that both of them play a bigger part in how successfully your business can grow.

2020 was a mad dash to pivot and create increased success from a booming opportunity within the green and garden industry. With a little bit more time for preparation this year, scalability should be easier to achieve for the expected influx of business. 

But, the pivots and foresight for growth shouldn’t end with the Spring 2021 season. Scaling your business can continue to grow well after the season has ended as you put together the pieces for the next growing season. Topics that you might want to focus more closely on, if you haven’t already, are going to be E-Commerce developments, curbside pick-up and shipping opportunities, and increased labor to pace the growth of your business. 

4. Sustainability:

If Sustainability wasn’t on your radar before, it most certainly should be in 2021. Across every sector and industry of the economy, businesses are pivoting in a greener direction. For much of the green and garden industry this idea of sustainable development has already been a large part of their practice. 

But there are still many who haven’t quite made it that far. If you’re one of the many businesses looking to buff up the sustainability of your business, there’s a few things to consider.

While much of the efforts towards a more sustainable future focus solely on greener actions, that’s not the only part of being sustainable. When developing ideas that might be best adapted for  your practices you should consider the longevity of your business as well. Greener efforts within your business should contribute to higher returns long-term. 

Some sustainable ideas worth adapting might include container recycling programs, selling more native plants, using more compostable materials, and many more. We recommend you take some time to chat with your team, ask their ideas, and then see what could work best for your business.

5. Trade Shows and Conferences

With the exciting arrival of vaccines for COVID-19 it’s starting to look like there very well could be some Trade Shows and Conferences this year. We’re not sure about you, but we’re pretty excited about possibly seeing our colleagues again!

Trade show season is always fun, but can also be a little overwhelming if you’re new to the business. There’s so many! 

Determining how many trade shows your business will attend should be a part of your business and marketing strategy for the year. If not every trade show will be feasible or possible due to other attendance barriers, look at attending trade shows that are going to have a maximum return for your attendance. 

Things you’ll want to consider are the demographics of the show and ask if they’re your target audience. Look at how many people will be attending for the best brand visibility possible. Work with what is going to be the best price with the best quality to really make your trip worthwhile.

While this year is almost guaranteed to be better, let’s not hedge our bets! Consider these important topics throughout the year to help improve your practices and your business.






The 5 Most Challenging Invasive Species of 2020

The 5 Most Challenging Invasive Species of 2020

(For the Garden Industry)

For months, I’ve been publishing content hinting at the end of the year. Well, it’s finally arrived, the actual end of the year. So here I am, participating in the annual moment of reflection for perhaps the most controversial and difficult year in recent history. As l look back, all I can think of is how much we’ve overcome. 

This year was nothing short of a challenge and being here today feelings like nothing shy of a miracle. But, looking back at all of the hard work our industry put in to thrive and stay afloat it’s not surprising that more growers and sellers saw upsides rather than downs.

With the ever present threat of invasive species, disease, and pests learning from this past year’s challenges will be just what we need to tackle 2021.

Let’s take a look back at this year’s 5 Most Challenging Invasive Species

#1. The Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire)

This pest officially became so widespread this past year, that the USDA has ruled to roll back the quarantine efforts of the invasive species.

This pest officially infests all but 13 states of the contiguous United States of America.

Despite best efforts to quarantine and control the pest, the spread of the beetle has left many states with no other option but to remove the coveted Ash trees from their lands, and discontinue efforts of regulations. 

The new USDA approach hopes to reserve funding and efforts currently used for quarantining the Emerald Ash Borer, so that more effective management can be developed and executed. [1]

#2. Asian Citrus Psyllid (Diaphorina citri Kuwayama or ACP)

This particular pest is always at the top of our list when it comes to terrible, no good, invasive species. As we’ve discussed in some of our previous blogs, the Asian Citrus Psyllid spreads the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, also known as Citrus Greening, that currently has no cure.

Citrus Greening is responsible for a 21% decline in the fresh citrus fruit market, as well as a 72% decline in the production of oranges as of 2019. [2] The pest and its disease is currently found in 9 states throughout the contiguous United States, all residing within the citrus belt of the U.S. 

The ever growing threat of this pest and the disease it carries is the root of the numerous citrus agreements, certifications, and licenses that are necessary for the Green Industry. Maybe in 2021 we’ll finally be able to get rid of this sucker for good!

#3. Gypsy Moth (Asian & European) 

Besides being my least favorite invasive pest to look at, this pest sure is a doozy!

 It has many technical names. The Asian Gypsy Moth is scientifically identified as “AGM, including Lymantria dispar asiatica, Lymantria dispar japonica, Lymantria albescens, Lymantria umbrosa, and Lymantria post¬alba[3]. The European Gypsy Moth is scientifically identified as “lobesia botrana or EGVM” [4].

See? A doozy. 

But what’s more frustrating about this pest is the way that it invades its host trees and does just enough damage before leaving and making way for more dangerous diseases and pests to kill it off. Some of their trees of choice are Oak trees, Sweet Gum trees, Willow trees, Birch trees, Apple trees, and Boxelder trees. However, there are plenty of other trees they seek. The Asian variety of the gypsy moth eats both evergreen and deciduous tree varieties, while the European variety only targets deciduous trees.

But as if their damage wasn’t enough, these apparently evolved species of moths also are difficult to prevent and control. Their unique “ballooning” method of transfer that their egg sacs can have, allows for them to be carried by wind instead of just flight. 

It was estimated back in 2011 that for the 20 years prior this pest had caused $30 million dollars in damages A YEAR! [5].

#4. Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula)

If you follow us on social media @PlantSentry, or frequent our blogs, you’re probably familiar with this pest!

This pest has been around since it was first found in Pennsylvania in 2014. Since then, management efforts against the pest have been challenging to say the least. Part of the difficulty in managing this pest is that their eggs, larvae, and adults easily travel undetected through contaminated material. These materials can include your shoes, firewood, and really anything else they can attach themselves to.

Educational efforts such as Play Clean Go help provide guidance to many of us who unknowingly transfer this pest in our outdoor activities. 

This pest favors grape vines, hardwoods, and fruit trees, but will devor just about any plant. The fruit industry has been particularly impacted by this [6]. So far their cost in damages has resulted in a $50 Million dollar decline throughout the state of Pennsylvania. [7]

Part of this economic decline as a result of the pest has also been 500 jobs lost throughout the state of Pennsylvania. [7]

#5. Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata)

Ah, finally #5, Kudzu! Now here’s a real handful of an invasive species. This guy has been in the U.S. for years, all the way back to 1876, and was an introduced species originally used to help control erosion. Since its arrival this invasive species has become perhaps the most invasive plant species in the U.S.

This plant currently inhabits mostly the Southeastern portion of the country but can be found in 30 states throughout the U.S. 13 of the 50 contiguous states currently list this plant as a noxious weed, although it is no longer a federally listed noxious weed. [8]

With the ability to overgrow even trees in a forest, this plant overcrowds existing vegetation and prevents healthy growth of native species in their regions. It is currently estimated that this plant covers about 20,000 to 30,000 square kilometers of land throughout the U.S. [9]

Nationwide this invasive species contributes to roughly $500 million dollars lost in cropland and control efforts. [9]

Looking Forward in 2021

So there you have it, the 5 most challenging invasive species that we faced in 2020 throughout the Garden Industry.

It’s difficult to look at this list without concern for the future and wonder what combative steps we might take as an industry against these species. At Plant Sentry™ we ask these same questions and we have these same concerns. This is why as a company we’ve set the standard to provide the best possible guidance not just for ourselves, but for those we serve in resolving the challenges that invasive species bring. 

Our company, Plant Sentry™, started out as a small idea, but it has turned into a component for much greater change. Throughout our industry companies and clients are showing more interest in working to resolve the challenges and issues that invasive species bring. As we greet the new year of 2021, we’re confident that our community will continue to encourage a brighter future with less invasive species.

Until then,

Happy New Year from Plant Sentry™












Oh Christmas Tree!

Oh Christmas Tree!

Nothing says “ ‘Tis the Season” like a decorated evergreen variety adorned with Christmas lights and Christmas ornaments from top to bottom. Beautifully needled branches are carefully coated with decorations, and tucked with presents and tree skirts around their trunks. Just one of these sparkling trees adds a touch of holiday cheer to your home. Internationally this tree is recognized as a symbol of Christmas and annual Yule tidings.

But, what many don’t realise is that before it becomes a Christmas tree, this beautiful symbol of joy and togetherness is just a tree in a forest or on a farm.

A Brief History

When Christmas trees first began their journey as these beloved holiday symbols, it was the 16th Century and things were very different then. It wouldn’t have been uncommon for someone to simply chop down their own tree and haul into their village or home. 

But as time has passed, our processes for scouting and cutting down trees have changed significantly. No longer is it permissible to simply walk into the woods and bring home the perfect sized tree.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association roughly 350 Million Christmas trees are grown on tree farms throughout the United States. Out of all these trees sold, about 25 to 30 Million of them are real trees! [2]

Year after year as the holiday season approaches tree growers throughout North America prepare for some of their busiest selling seasons. The state of Oregon is recognized as the number one grower and seller of Christmas tree varieties in the United States. [3] While they produce and sell millions of evergreen trees a year, there are still people who seek the historical route of cutting down a tree in the forest. 

Finding the Right Tree

While seeking out a real Christmas tree has a lower carbon footprint than artificial trees, before walking out into the woods for yours, there’s a few things you should know. 

First, as we mentioned carbon footprints, you should think about yours. While an artificial Christmas tree may last longer, you would need to use it for about 12 years in order to begin offsetting its carbon footprint. Many artificial trees are manufactured overseas and must travel before arriving at the stores for consumers to buy. Whereas a natural and real Christmas tree has a significantly lower carbon footprint.

If the environmental factors of a Christmas tree matter to you, consider composting or recycling the tree after the holidays to decrease the carbon footprint.

The second nugget of information for you to consider is that purchasing from a local tree farm is a great way to support your local economy! While Oregon produces the most Christmas trees nationwide, there are plenty of other states that grow them too. Look throughout your local community for a grower reasonably close by and have the type of trees you’re looking for. Buying local is also a great way to prevent the spread of pests and disease that can occur in interstate plant shipping. 

Trees that are shipped from overseas must be certified from pests such as the Pine Shoot Moth, and the Phytophagous Snail. Other serious pests of concern are the Mountain Pine Beetle and the Southern Pine Beetle that have ravaged a number of pine environments within recent years. Much like the transferring of firewood, evergreen trees, our beloved Christmas trees, pose real threats to the environments that they move into. Shopping local helps keep your local ecosystems safe and your environment healthy. [5]

The third and final bit of information that is important for you as a Christmas tree lover is that if you want to cut down your own tree in the forest, you’re going to need a permit. While technically the forest is public land, much of it is protected by parks and forestry services.

If you’re looking to cut down your own tree, reach out to your local forest services office to obtain a permit and cutting instructions. Your local forest department will also provide you with the specific dates, times, maps, and accessibility information needed for cutting down your tree.

The Star On Top

There are a few more tips that you should consider before heading out to cut down your own tree and they are:

-Most permits for holiday trees are issued in November

-Always tell someone exactly where you’re going and have a backup plan for safety.

-Err on the side of caution and pack emergency supplies including food, water, insulating materials, and first aid supplies before heading out to chop down your tree.

-The tree you select must be at least 200 ft. away from main roadways, campgrounds, and recreational areas.

-Check with your local forest department before heading out for your chopping for road closures, weather warnings, and potential fires. [4]

There are several more tips to be aware of before cutting down your own tree in the woods, be sure to visit the U.S. Forest Service’s website for more information.

With the wonder of the Christmas season all around, we wish you all the best luck in finding your perfect tree!

Have a safe and happy holiday season!


Plant Sentry








We’re Grateful

We’re Grateful

2020 has been a wild ride, and as things start taking on a sparkle of hope, we remain excited, yet apprehensive for the future. This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States and it looks a little different than last year. What is typically the beginning of a warm and rejuvenating American holiday season, this year will be a holiday tradition for many filled with less. 

As dismal as that idea may be, this holiday season may be just what we needed here at Plant Sentry™.  2020 was an unprecedented year! You’ve heard this a dozen, if not hundreds of times, in the media this year. But seriously, it was unprecedented.

How It Changed Us

This year has required great strides in character from all of us, but from our industry even more so. Nursery Management Magazine conducted a survey this past September and found that 47% of their readers in our industry had experienced a sales increase. They also found that 23% had experienced a sales decrease. [1]

We’ve heard growers use the terms “mad dash” and “challenging” probably more this year than ever before. But, what’s amazing is that not a single one of them ever saw these challenges as something that couldn’t be overcome.

So while many of us are still working to fulfill inventories for 2021, we’ll always remember this year as the first season that really showed us just how far we could go.

The Impacts

Like so many other industries we faced the challenge of keeping our employees safe, while continuing to meet the demands of our customers. COVID reignited a fiery passion for plants for many of our customers that created a demand for some companies beyond what they could carry. 

In other parts of our industry companies like Sakata Seed America were donating masks and gloves to medical workers within their areas.[2] AmericanHort headed up efforts on H-2B visas and relief efforts for horticulture. With so many additional hoops to jump through, growers and industry supporters throughout the country showed support and compassion wherever they could, even if it meant donating their orchids to hospitals. 

Some growers saw loss, losing inventory and not being able to pivot to an online storefront fast enough also became a challenge for many. The face of horticulture changed continually throughout the year as e-Commerce took demand and many of the ways we connect with one another were postponed or cancelled.

There’s not a doubt in our minds that 2020 changed our industry for the better but just how much is something we’ll continue to see in the months to come. 

Reflection & Gratitude

Fall leaves in a pile with a lot of color

The challenges of this year were nothing short of extraordinary, yet we overcame them. 

At Plant Sentry™, as we sit down with our family members in our bubble tomorrow, we’ll be reminded of all the moments of gratitude that this year brought. 

We’ll reflect and feel incredibly grateful for each and every one of our clients that allow us to continue to assist in shipping safe and healthy plants. 

We’ll say “thank you” for another year in this industry, and another year to come. 

We will remind ourselves that while so many this year are struggling simply just to keep a roof over their heads, we have been fortunate enough to keep ours. 

In a world that is constantly changing and moving at the speed of light, we’re especially grateful for this time of reflection, and the opportunity to say “Thank You.”

If you’re looking to tighten up your shipping efforts through regulatory and compliance efforts, be sure to drop us a message in our “Contact Us” box below, and let’s see how we can help.

Happy Thanksgiving From Plant Sentry™