Independent Garden Center Initiative


Demand for native plants is accelerating, according to the 2023 National Garden Survey. Purchases of native plants have increased 86% since 2019. Everyone is buying, but young people in particular want sustainable, drought-tolerant landscapes and Jersey native plants. And they want to buy them close to home.

By offering native plants, garden centers build loyal customers who come back again and again.  The Native Plant Society of New Jersey is developing programming and support materials to help IGCs expand their customer base and help gain widespread distribution of native plants across New Jersey.

What’s the number one complaint from native plant gardeners? Over and over, our members say, “I can’t find the native plants I want at my local garden center.”

In response, NPSNJ is embarking on a new mission: to encourage Independent Garden Centers (IGCs) to carry more native plants. The IGC “Go Native” Initiative was launched in January 2023 as part of a Rutgers Environmental Stewards certification project. Our goal: to gain widespread distribution of native plants in New Jersey IGCs. We want to help make native plants much more easily accessible to gardeners of all types, including those just getting started.

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IGC owners are business people who are concerned about sales revenue and the bottom line. In the past, some IGC owners may have resisted bringing in native plants because they weren’t sure their customers would buy them.  But things are changing quickly. Native plants are in the news, and IGC management is quickly becoming aware of the growing native market. 

Phase one of the NPSNJ IGC initiative was to build a business case that demonstrates the opportunity that IGCs are currently missing. The research shows that gardeners all over the state are currently purchasing thousands of natives from native plant sales, mail-order nurseries, and native plant nurseries, including many outside of NJ. There is a large and expanding market for native plants, and the committee plans to demonstrate that if IGCs stock natives, customers will come.  

The business case, which was compiled by a team of volunteers from NPSNJ with guidance from Rutgers professor Michele Bakacs, includes interviews with retailers and wholesalers, an anecdotal summary of the number of plants sold through non-profit organizations, a summary of key market research from several sources, and a large survey of native plant consumer buying habits conducted by NPSNJ earlier this year.

With the business case almost complete, the committee is entering Phase 2: Implementation. In this phase, we will be writing press releases and publications, pulling together Zoom events, researching and contacting industry organizations, and developing educational and promotional materials. If you would like to join this exciting and dynamic project, please contact