FloraKansas FAQs

For long-time members and newbies alike, FloraKansas is an exciting time. The thrill of finding the perfect plant, the joy of meeting like-minded gardeners, the rush of fear that we might sell out of your favorite species; it can all be a lot to take in! Though we make small tweaks each year, there are a few things you can plan ahead for.

Our greenhouse gets quite full during the plant sale, and we are happy to see these plants go to new homes!

Member Day

The Thursday of Florakansas is always member day. This means ONLY members can purchase plants that day. If you are not a member and would like to come on that day, you are welcome to purchase a membership at the same time as your plants.
FAQS:

  • “Can I bring a friend who is not a member?” Yes, if you are a member or planning to become one, you may bring a guest.
  • “How do I know if my membership is current?” There are 3 ways to find out: Search your email for a renewal receipt, find the date on your membership card, or contact our office.
  • “Do I need to bring my membership card?” No, but it sure is helpful for our staff!
Member day is a busy time. It is a great time to mingle with plant experts and enthusiasts as well as first-timers. Staff and volunteers are always nearby to help!

Organization

So much to see, so little time! Grasses, trees, shrubs and vines are in the gravel area outside the greenhouse while the herbaceous plants are inside the greenhouse. Each aisle in the greenhouse is labeled by category, and a full explanation of each category is available here. We have a shade aisle for native and non-native plants that prefer 7 hours or less of direct sun, an adaptable aisle full of non-native garden favorites that grow well in our region, and a Natives for Sun aisle jam packed with true natives from Kansas and our bordering states. Using our native plant guide will help you find what category, and therefore what aisle, your desired plant will likely be found. And of course, staff and volunteers are always happy to help!
FAQs:

  • “Why include plants native to other states?” Over thousands of years, native species ranges have shifted and continue to do so based on the changing climate. Plants don’t care about state lines, so we do our best to offer a diverse set of plants from the Great Plains and Ozark regions that work well in many microclimates and garden types while still adding to a healthy ecosystem.
  • “Why do you carry non-natives at all?” There are many plants not native to our area that still perform well in our climate and add great beauty and habitat to the garden. Offering these adaptable plants, as we call them, ensures our customers can continue to purchase familiar and reliable garden favorites along with lesser known natives as they expand their gardening knowledge. Since FloraKansas is our largest fundraiser, offering a wide selection of plants allows us to absorb the higher cost of growing and purchasing those hard to find natives.

Pre-Order and Pick Up

This is a map from our 2020 plant sale procedures, but it remains fairly accurate. While we don’t need 5 pick up spots now that the pandemic lockdowns have lifted, we still ask that folks who are picking up follow this flow of traffic and stop near the greenhouse for staff to assist.

Members get the added benefit of pre-order service (closed as of April 11). This means you can send us your order before the sale via our online order form and staff will box up your plants for pick up. No shopping or waiting in line! You may pick up your plants as soon as you receive the invoice via email, or you may come to the sale in person. If you decide to shop the sale in addition to pre-ordering, please keep your new purchases and your pre-order separate. This cuts down on confusion at the cash register. FAQs:

  • “How do I know my order has been received?” Once you fill out the form on our website, you will see a prompt that thanks you for your order. This is the only confirmation you will receive until your order is processed.
  • “How do I know when my order is ready?” When you order is processed and ready for pick up, you will receive an email. This is an invoice, with directions for pick up times and procedure. Once you see this in your inbox, your plants are ready for you!
  • “Can I order plants for someone else who is not a member?” As long as a current member is the one filling out the form and paying for the plants, yes. This is a great time to encourage your friends to become members as well!

BYO?

Boxes: We provide cardboard boxes to shoppers, but you are welcome to bring you own! Volunteers spend weeks helping us collect discarded boxes from local grocery stores. If you bring your own, we can cut down on our collection time.

Pots: Do you have pots from last year you would like us to reuse? If so, bring them with you! We will happily accept OUR POTS ONLY, since they match our pricing and storage systems.

Consider bringing these other items to help your FloraKansas shopping trip go smoothly: your membership card, measurements and pictures of your landscape site to show a staff person, a wagon or cart for your plants. Wagons will be provided, but we occasionally run out during busy times!

FloraKansas is as exciting for staff as it is for our patrons. We get to see our longtime friends and meet new faces. Staff can hear about the progress of gardens we helped design, and smile at the stories of wildlife enjoying the habitat these plants create. We can’t wait to see you all there!

FloraKansas Greenhouse Guide

When you visit the greenhouse during our FloraKansas fundraisers, you may notice some signage hanging over the aisles: Shade, Adaptables, Natives for Sun. This post will help you make sense of how we organize the species so you can find exactly what you want and start planting!

Use the aisle markers to help you navigate the greenhouse. You may also find it helpful to bring your Native Plant Guide with you,
helping you remember the names and attributes of the plants you are interested in. Photo by Amy Sharp Photography.

Shade

In the north aisle you will find shade plants, both native and adaptable. These plants will appreciate all day dappled sun or less than 6 hours of direct sun per day. By nature, many of these plants like a bit more water than their sun loving counterparts. There are lots of great options for dry shade, however, which is common in Kansas’ suburban neighborhoods. Use your native plant guide or the placard over each species to know which plants like it dry or moist, and help you select the right plants for your site.

Shade Garden
The native columbine Aquilegia canadensis thrives in the Arboretum shade garden.
This is one of many shade-tolerant species you can find at FloraKansas.
Geranium maculatum ‘Crane Dance’ is a hybrid of two parent G. maculatum types. This plant can tolerate droughty shade and has excellent fall color. Photo courtesy Walter’s Gardens

Adaptables

Heptacodium, also known as Seven Son Flower, is a shrub from northern Asia. While it is not native here, our butterflies sure do love it!
Hardy and drought tolerant, it has become one of our favorite adaptable shrubs.
Monarchs on Seven Son Flower at Dyck Arboretum, 9/20/2020 – Photo by Gerry Epp

The center aisle is for Adaptables. This is our catch-all term for non-natives that still deserve to be included in our sale. Maybe it is because they are a well-known garden classic, like peonies or hibiscus. Perhaps they are new and unique, appealing to the adventurous gardeners in our customer base. No matter the reason they initially caught our eye, we consider the following before we add them to our inventory:

  • do they reliably preform well in our area?
  • are they known to be non-invasive?
  • do they still benefit our local pollinators and birds?
  • are they particularly water-wise or hardy?

We research every plant that goes into this aisle to make sure these species deserve a spot at our sale, and have something special to offer our shoppers.

Natives for Sun

Lastly the Natives for Sun aisle is by far the most jam packed and diverse of the three, alphabetized by latin name for all those botany nerds out there. These plants are native to KS and our bordering states. We research the historical ranges for these plants. We also research which horticultural varieties we carry are naturally occurring or intentionally hybridized by breeders. Information is always changing on this topic! When considering whether it is ‘native enough’ for this aisle we also consider factors like how the flower form and leaf color has potentially been changed by humans, which can affect its function in the ecosystem.

Ratibida columnifera is a native prairie plant you would find in our Natives for Sun aisle.
It loves hot summer days and open spaces! Photo by Emily Weaver.

Our greenhouse was built in 2008, and has changed the way we operate our fundraiser in a big way. Before we had a greenhouse, Florakansas was held in the parking lot! I am so glad those days are gone and that our greenhouse is the permanent home for Florakansas, a center of activity for volunteers, and a warm place to escape to in late winter. We hope to see lots of you enjoying the greenhouse at our spring sale!

Preparing for FloraKansas

The Arboretum greenhouse is warm and alive this time of year, beginning to fill up with stock for FloraKansas Native Plant Festival. FloraKansas is our largest fundraiser, and takes a lot of prep work. Luckily, I relish my time spent time in the greenhouse, so it is a welcome change of pace from the snow-shoveling and office work of winter. Here is a behind the scenes look at how it all comes together in just a few short months.

Each spring we receive about 15,000 plants. Many plants come to us as plugs — pre-grown plants that are transplanted into sale-size pots. This is an economical and user-friendly way for us to plant thousands of plants without the risk associated with caring for tiny seedlings. We order plugs from lots of native plant nurseries around the country and around the state to ensure a nice variety for our customers.

Plugs are small and have fragile foliage, but also have well formed root systems.
Photo of a small plant, a newly transplanted plug.
Plug plants arrive with very few leaves on. With a few days of sun and moisture, they begin to leaf out and grow quickly.

Sometimes we seed our own plants with seed we have collected or purchased from a trusted source. Though this is very tedious and time consuming, it is so rewarding to see those little sprouts poking through the soil! We then use a fork to tease apart the tiny roots and plant them into individual pots.

Tiny seedlings are so sensitive to changes in temperature and moisture, so I try not to seed more than I can take care of! In previous years, Scott and Brad seeded much more of the nursery stock than we do today.

We heat the greenhouse with industrial heaters during the cold nights of February and March and vent with large fans during the day. Keeping plants at optimal growing temperature helps them green up in time for the sale. Surprisingly, during a sunny day in spring, temperatures in the greenhouse can reach 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit quickly, even though it is cold outside!

Our director, Scott, waters mature shade plants in our greenhouse. Too much water can mean mold and rot for our plants, but too little can also be deadly!
Photo of greenhouse in bloom, mature plants after many weeks of growing and care.
After many weeks of care and worry, my little plant babies are all grown up!

FloraKansas would not be possible without volunteers. They transplant, water, sweep greenhouse isles, load and unload trucks, and so much more. I couldn’t possibly do all of those tasks by myself! And that doesn’t even include the many volunteers who help us on the days of the event, cashiering and helping customers to their cars. FloraKansas is a great time to be an Arboretum employee — surrounded by enthusiastic volunteers who support our mission, it makes the job easy. If you would like to volunteer at FloraKansas or otherwise, click here for more information.

I hope to see lots of our blog readers at the spring sale! It is a wonderful time to talk face to face with our members and supporters. Come see us soon, and pick up a few native plants while you are at it.

New Shrubs, Big Color

Each year Scott and I scour catalogs and websites to find new and interesting plants to offer at the spring and fall FloraKansas plant sale fundraisers. New shrub varieties are, in my opinion, the most fun to hunt up. We are looking specifically for species that have some, if not all, of the following qualities: attractive habit, beneficial to wildlife/pollinators, heat and drought tolerant, good performance record, unique or unavailable in our area, or important for conservation.

I am so excited about the new plants available at the upcoming fall sale, I can’t help but share a few with you early! Enjoy some quick profiles about my favorite new shrubs as well as companion plant suggestions to help blend them into your landscape. Some of these are completely new to us, and others are simply better performing varieties of our old favorites.

Tandoori Orange has stunning fall color and beautiful berries, offering multi-season interest. Photos courtesy of Proven Winners – www.provenwinners.com

‘Tandoori Orange’ viburnum

This viburnum will be a big hit as a garden border plant. It has all the qualities we love in a viburnum (shade tolerance, deer resistance, attractive leaves), but it is the first to boast a true orange berry and leaf in fall. The ripe, peachy-orange berries add mid-summer interest and the white spring bloom is not to be missed! At 6-8ft tall it is suitable as a hedge, privacy screen or back-of-the-garden border. To ensure fruit production, plant ‘Cardinal Candy’ viburnum nearby for pollination.

Companion plant:
 The bright yellow fall foliage of Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) offers a stunning contrast to Tandoori Orange. They both produce berries that are edible to birds, turning your yard into a bird banquet banquet hall!

 

The red berries of ‘Berry Poppins’ coupled with red leaves and twigs of ‘Red Rover’ create quite a show in late fall and winter. Photos courtesy of Proven Winners – www.provenwinners.com

‘Berry Poppins’ deciduous holly

Just as cute as its name, this dwarf holly, only 3-4 feet tall, is easy to plunk into the landscape in any open space. Its habit of heavy fruiting gives a great winter show when other things in the garden are brown and dormant. The berry-laden branches are great for cutting, and for making crafts and Christmas decorations pop. Plant in full to part sun and with a pollinator plant such as ‘Mr. Poppins’ to ensure fruit production.

Companion plant: Red Rover dogwood (Cornus sp.) brings another pop of red with its bright, fiery twigs in winter. Very upright and structured, it’s a great partner to the similarly shaped holly.

 

Pugster Blue butterfly bush and ‘Gone with the Wind’ Dropseed mix well because of their similar habit but contrasting leaf shape. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners – www.provenwinners.com (left) and Walters Gardens, Inc. (right).

‘Pugster Blue’ butterfly bush

This one has my hopes up as a replacement for some other underwhelming dwarf buddleias out there. All too often the bush’s diminutive size also means smaller blooms – not for Pugster! Big true-blue blooms don’t quit until frost on a plant that only grows 2ft tall. Perfect for a tight spot that needs big color and butterfly appeal.

Companion plant: Prairie Dropseed ‘Gone with the Wind’ (Sporobolus heterolepsis) complements and mimics the compact, rounded shape of this butterfly bush. Sporobolus heterolepsis adds tremendous movement and texture to any garden. Surrounding ‘Pugster Blue’ with this grass or mixing them together in a border will create a natural, flowing aesthetic.

Come visit us at the September plant sale fundraiser and get a peek at these unique plants. Fall is an ideal time for planting; your new shrubs will thank you for the cool autumn temperatures during their establishment. Arboretum staff will be available to make suggestions, helping you find the best fit for your landscape.