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California Native Plant Society

Santa Clara Valley Chapter

The Life of a CNPS SCV Nursery Plant

When you buy a plant at our nursery, you’re getting the result of a year or more of careful nurturing by our volunteers.

Our plants are grown from both seeds and cuttings, which we obtain from our stock area, commercial growers and CNPS members. We don’t focus on a specific area of the California Floristic Province, so we grow plants for a wide variety of environments from many regions of California – in addition to a wide variety of local natives, we also raise plants from the mountains, deserts and wetlands.


Both seeds and cuttings start their journey in small pots where they are carefully monitored in our greenhouse. Seed pots are watched for germination and plant size once germination has occurred. When the seedlings are large enough to be transplanted, volunteers use a special tool to gently separate them before transplanting them into two inch pots, also known as rose pots.  The seedlings then return to the greenhouse to grow into their new digs.

Cuttings are a little more complicated. They need a strong root system before they can be moved into their own homes. We encourage that growth with a quick dip in root hormone before putting them in growing medium. Some plants try to fool us by keeping nice green leaves for months, even though they don’t have roots.  Other plants seem to send out roots the instant they touch the soil. It takes practice to know when a cutting has transformed itself into a self-sustaining plant, and we’re fortunate to have volunteers who have been tuning these skills for many years.

With both cuttings and seeds, there is attrition – some seeds don’t germinate, and some cuttings never send out roots. We try to start enough plants, so that there will be enough for members to get the plants on their shopping lists at our sales – but plants don’t always cooperate. That’s why some plants cost more than others – they are the ones that need extra coddling.Coffeeberry roots

Once the young plants have reached a size where they can survive outside the greenhouse, they are transplanted into slightly larger pots and moved into a section of the nursery under shade cloth. To help them along, they are given a little time-release fertilizer when they are transplanted. Some plants can linger under the shade cloth for many months, while others quickly push out new roots and leaves. When a plant pokes a tiny tendril of root out of the bottom of the pot, or when the new growth on top of the plant is bursting from every stem, it’s time for the plant to move into a one gallon pot. With slower plants, it can be up to a year from the time the plant was started before it’s ready to move into its “sale” pot.

Depending on the plant’s preferences, it may go into a sunny section of the nursery or remain in the shaded area until someone takes it home. Meanwhile, we continue to monitor them – If they get too large, we’ll divide and repot them, so that they remain healthy.

We hope that plants will be purchased within a few months of going into their sale pots – that way we know that roots still have space to grow if the plant doesn’t go into the ground immediately. We adore our plants and we hope you will too. Stop by and meet them – we have member’s sales almost every month and public sales twice a year. We’d love to see our plants go home with you!

New volunteers are always welcome, so if you’d like to be part of the life of a CNPS SCV Nursery plant, please join us.




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