autumn fall planting native plants garden

How fall planting is great for your garden

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As the trees shed leaves and darting chipmunks gather walnut shells, fall planting is finally upon us. The onset of autumn signals it’s planting season again. While spring the customary time for planting, fall is one of the best times (maybe better) to plant your native perennials, grasses, and shrubs. The days shorten, and the temperature starts to drop, especially in the evening, presenting the perfect root establishment conditions. If you’re used to spring planting, here are a few tips and ideas to keep in mind during your autumn plant installation.

Timing is key

For the Mid-Atlantic region, late summer to early fall extends from August to September or early October. This time is the sweet spot for fall planting. The further north you live, the earlier you should plant. You want to aim for getting plants in the ground at least six weeks before the ground freezes solid. Why? Most of the action is happening underground as roots need time to become established. Fall is also an excellent time to divide any existing perennials that are spring and early-summer bloomers. Plan and time your plant orders accordingly.

Soil temperatures benefits

This time of year, the soil temperature is warmer than it is in spring. The soil temperature is warm enough for active root growth. Since plants are usually dormant and not producing flowers, they have more energy for root establishment.

Plant spring ephemerals in early fall

Spring-blooming perennials thrive when planted early in the fall season. Spring ephemerals like white and yellow trilliums, shooting stars, rue anemone, bloodroot, trout lilies, and jack-in-the-pulpits are entirely dormant in fall. No growth appears above the roots. Other spring or early summer blooming plants will also look spent as they finish their growth cycle. In the fall, the soil should still be warm to give the roots time to establish. With well-established roots, spring ephemerals and other spring to early summer bloomers will emerge the following year with a stronger start and appear more floriferous.

Watering and rainfall

Before planting, be sure the plants are water thoroughly and give the roots time to soak up the water entirely. Given the combination of lower temperatures, lower sun angles, and the shorter days, you need to water less in the fall. Typically, regular rainfall returns this time of year. However, if rains are scarce, water deeply, up to an inch of water each week.

Frost and avoiding frost heave

Frost stops the plant growth aboveground. It doesn’t kill the plant. The plant’s roots should continue to grow until the ground freezes solid. In late fall to early winter, the freezing and thawing cycle of the soil results in a frost heave. Frost heave is the upwards swelling of soil due to its expansion from freezing. Plants not fully rooted rise from the ground and risk the plant dying due to cold temperatures. Early fall planting reduces the chance of frost heave.

Wait to mulch

Wait to add mulch to new plantings. New growth benefits from the sun warming the soil through October. Once the cold weather sets in and night temperatures are consistently 32 degrees or lower, apply mulch, leaf litter, spent plant material, straw, etc. Once the soil is completely frozen, a layer of straw or mulch will keep the ground from thawing around the plants. Later, remove the winter mulch in the spring after the freeze-thaw cycles have ended.

Perennials planted in fall will be more floriferous and uniform next year than those planted in spring. Give your plants more time for their roots to be established and plant them in fall. Contact Keystone Wildflowers today and get your fall planting order in before the ground freezes.

bee on goldenrod pollinator week 2020

Celebrate Pollinator Week by planting a pollinator garden

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Get ready to toast to bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, beetles, and flies (yes, flies) and bats! National Pollinator Week is June 22-28, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate these hard-working animals, who provide a service vital to the maintenance of our plant communities.

Did you know, in their 1996 book, “The Forgotten Pollinators,” Buchmann and Nabhan estimated animal pollinators account for the reproduction of 90% of flowering plants and one-third of human food crops? Hard-working pollinators, like hummingbirds, bats, bees, beetles, butterflies, and flies, carry pollen from one plant to another as they collect nectar. Without them, most plants can’t produce seeds and fruit. As you may know, fruits and seeds are an essential food source for not only people but also wildlife. 

Pollinators are considered to be in a state of decline due to habitat loss and degradation, and they need our help. The decline in pollinator health is a threat to biodiversity, global food webs, and human health. In fact, pollination may be less resistant to extinction in the future.

How can you help? By planting a pollinator garden. To be considered a pollinator garden, your garden should include various nectar-producing flowers, a shelter for pollinators, avoid the use of pesticides, and place similar flowers close together. Here’s why these points matter:

  • Choose plants flowering at different times of the year. Different plants ensure nectar and pollen are available throughout the entire growing season.
  • Plant in clumps. We recommend groups of at least three plants. A grouping of plants has a better chance of attracting pollinators than a single plant. If a pollinator can visit the same type of plant, again and again, it doesn’t have to relearn how to enter the flower. Instead of wasting pollen on unreceptive flowers, the pollinator can transfer pollen to the same species.
  • Diversify your garden’s colors and shapes. Mixing a variety of flower colors and shapes can attract different pollinators. For example, scarlet, orange, red, or white-colored flowers with large, funnel-like shapes appeal to hummingbirds. Be sure to also consider various heights for establishing pollinator shelter from weather and predators.
  • Choose native plants. This should be a given since Keystone Wildflowers only sells native plants. Native plants attract more native pollinators. Natives also serve as larval host plants for certain pollinator species. Host plants provide food and shelter for larval development.
  • Tolerate a little mess. Resist the urge to maintain a totally manicured lawn and garden. Leave dead snags and leaf litter for insects. Offer some bare dirt for ground-nesting bees and minimize tillage.
  • Minimize or eliminate pesticide use. Pesticides are generally toxic to pollinators. We always caution against pesticides. However, if you decide to use them, be sure to strategically apply pesticides only for problematic target species.

If we do not protect pollinator habitats or create new habitats, the lack of pollination will significantly impact humans. A pollinator garden is an excellent way to protect pollinators so they can continue to pollinate plants around the world. For more information about pollinator gardens and selecting plants, please contact Keystone Wildflowers.

Pollinator Week was created by the Pollinator Partnership and designated by the U.S. Senate in 2007. The mission is to celebrate and promote the health of pollinators through conservation, education, and research.

virtual plant sale 2020

Announcing our Virtual Plant Sale

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This year is our 20th anniversary, but all our plant sales are canceled. So we decided to get creative and try something different. For April 13-19, we’ll be hosting a Virtual Plant Sale on our Facebook page to sell our overstock plants at a discount.

What does that mean?

Each day this week we will post photos of our overstock plants for sale with the price and container size. Please submit an order request form with the plant names and quantities you’re interested in purchasing. Sales will be first-come, first-serve based on form completion time. We’ll tally up sales and send invoices via email. At that time, we will ask you to schedule an appointment for contactless pickup. 

Pickup is available Thursday – Sunday, 9 am – 2 pm. All orders must be picked up by Sunday, April 19 at our nursery at 675 Hill Road, Robesonia, PA.

Follow us on Facebook for more information.

keystone wildflowers virginia bluebells

Spring update due to coronavirus

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Keystone Wildflowers is committed to keeping you and our family safe during this time. Please see the following note sent to our customers and friends via email on March 18, 2020.

Hello friends,

We hope you are doing well despite the unusual start to spring. With the spread of COVID-19, we find ourselves in a time of global uncertainty. In many ways, we are rather lucky we live on-site at the nursery, and our plants are grown nestled in the woods, far away from crowds. Our heart goes out to small businesses, and people everywhere impacted.

The health and safety of you and everyone in our family is our priority. So, here is our plan for handling the upcoming season:

  • Appointment only – Typically, our business operates by appointment only to give each individual our attention and care. This will not change. 
  • Events – Our event schedule will likely change as the season progresses. If our scheduled outdoor plant sales are canceled, we plan to open the nursery on weekends.
  • Our 20th anniversary – As of now, we are celebrating our 20th anniversary on Saturday, April 18, from 9 am to 2 pm. We have increased our stock and have many new plants available this year. While we do not expect a large crowd, we will be encouraging attendees to practice social distancing. We will no longer have food available due to government direction to limit food sharing. Please check our Facebook event for updates.
  • Contactless plant orders – Our availability list is now available online. You may download it and submit an order via our contact formemail or phone at 610-750-4186. We will confirm your order and request payment via PayPal. Upon receipt of payment, we will assemble your order. You can then pick up your plant order with minimal in-person interaction at our nursery.
  • Distancing – We will greet visitors verbally, but will not shake hands. We will also maintain a safe distance of 6 feet as we interact with you.
  • Hygiene – We will be washing our hands often to keep ourselves and others safe.

Our hope is Keystone Wildflowers’ continued operation will help you safely enjoy the outdoors and give you respite from social isolation. We understand this situation brings a lot of anxiety due to its rapidly changing nature. We are closely monitoring its status and will do our best to share only necessary updates if things change. We’re all in this together. Please stay safe.

Wishing you the best,

Bill Hofmann and family

New native perennials for 2020

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For gardeners, it can be one of the most exciting times of the year. As growers announce new plants arriving in the spring, gardeners puzzle out where to squeeze in one more shrub or a few more native perennials. If you’re seeking out new native plants that work for your area, consider the native perennials we’re adding to our offering.

Asimina triloba, Paw Paw

Asimina triloba, Paw Paw, is a 15-foot, native shrub or small tree that produces a sweet, large yellow-green to brown fruit tasting of custard. Paw Paw is the largest edible fruit tree or shrub native to North America.

Baptisia alba, White Wild Indigo

Baptisia alba, White Wild Indigo, is a 2-4 foot, long-lived herbaceous perennial with an easily recognizable spike of white flowers. White Wild Indigo grows rapidly in the spring, towering over many other plants.

Gentiana flavida, Cream Gentian

Gentiana flavida, Cream Gentian, is a slow-growing but long-lived native perennial, growing 2-3 feet tall with showy white blooms. Bumblebees are the primary pollinators of Cream Gentian as they are one of the only insects strong enough to pry open the nearly-closed flowers.

Hamamelis virginiana, Witch Hazel

Hamamelis virginanum, Witch Hazel, is a 15-20 foot, native woody shrub with yellow fall foliage and fragrant yellow flowers. The leaves and bark can be used to create an astringent as a cooling agent for skincare to ease various ailments.

hierochloe odorata sweet grass

Hierochloe odorata, Sweet Grass, is an aromatic, vanilla-scented native grass, growing 1-2 feet. Sweet Grass creeps slowly to form a nice grass patch. Many North American indigenous cultures burned Sweet Grass during ceremonies to invite the presence of good spirits. 

Hypoxis hirsuta Yellow Star Grass

Hypoxis hirsuta, Yellow Star Grass, is a unique, one-foot, perennial wildflower producing yellow flowers shaped like stars. Relative to the Amaryllis, Yellow Star Grass grows best in full to part sun and dry to wet-mesic soils. 

Liatris ligulistylis, Meadow Blazing Star

Liatris ligulistylis, Meadow Blazing Star, is a 3-5 foot, native perennial producing magenta-purple blooms, making it the ultimate monarch magnet. The flower heads generally bloom at the same time, making this species an excellent fresh cut flower for an arrangement.

packera aurea golden groundsel ragwort

Packera aurea, Golden Ragwort, is a 1-2′ tall, herbaceous perennial for average, medium to wet soils in full sun to shady sites. Golden Ragwort or Golden Groundsel is valued for its ability to thrive in moist shady locations, naturalize rapidly, and produce a long spring bloom.

Phlox pilosa, Prairie Phlox

Phlox pilosa, Prairie Phlox, is a 1-1.5 foot perennial with pink blooms and slight fragrance that prefers fertile, moderately dry to moist soils and full to part sun. Prairie Phlox has flat, broad petals that serve as excellent landing areas for butterflies and moths, as well as deep and narrow tubes in the center for their tongues.

pycnanthemum incanum hoary mountain mint

Pycnanthemum incanum, Hoary Mountain Mint, produces clusters of tiny white flowers from July to August, growing to a height of 3 feet. The flowers are a favorite of butterflies and moths, and the plant emits a strong, spearmint scent when crushed.

Rosa carolina, Pasture Rose

Rosa carolina, Carolina Rose, is a three-foot, native shrub with fragrant pink flowers in early summer. Carolina Rose grows best in open, sunny locations, and the fruit (rosehip) can be eaten raw or cooked.

smilacina racemosa false solomon's seal

Smilacina racemosa, False Solomon’s Seal, is a two-foot perennial with white flowers appearing in late spring to early summer, followed by red berries. False Solomon’s Seal makes an excellent plant for woodland gardens or a shady border.

Solidago caesia, Bluestem Goldenrod

Solidago caesia, Bluestem Goldenrod, grows to a height of 2-3 feet and prefers moist, well-drained soils in part sun to shade. Bluestem Goldenrod produces small clusters of bright yellow flowers in the leaf axils along the length of the stems.

Thalictrum dasycarpum, Purple Meadow Rue

Thalictrum dasycarpum, Purple Meadow Rue, is a 3-5 foot, herbaceous perennial with purplish-white flowers. The mass effect of the Purple Meadow Rue can be quite striking and prefers full to part sun in medium to moist soils.

verbena stricta hoary vervain

Verbena stricta, Hoary Vervain, is 2-4 foot, native perennial with lavender flower spires, preferring full sun in dry to medium well-drained loamy soils. Hoary Vervain gets its common name from the white pubescence on its gray-green leaves and stems.

hybrids cultivars vs native plants

Cultivars and hybrids vs. native plants

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Let’s talk about what you’re planting in your garden! Cultivars and hybrids offer gorgeous, elaborate flowers. Plus, they are readily available at your local retail nurseries and big box stores. You probably already have quite a few in your garden. These plants are intentionally bred by horticulturalists to enhance a desirable trait: size of flowers, height of plant, color, growing habitat, disease resistance and fruit or nut size. A lot of these plants are alien species from other countries. Many of these plants have become invasive pests, outcompeting native species and degrading habitat in remaining natural areas.

Native plants, on the other hand, occur naturally in a region in they evolved, providing genetic diversity and supporting local ecosystems. Since they are best adapted to local environmental conditions, they are low maintenance, requiring less water and improving air quality. Native bees, honey bees and other pollinators are facing serious challenges. With true open-pollinated native wildflowers, your garden can attract and provide nectar and pollen resources for pollinators.

You don’t need to rip out all your cultivars just yet. Instead, slowly start adding a variety of native plants, so your garden is in bloom over a wide period of time. Better yet, plant in floral clumps, or circular groups of at least three. Rather than just one of a lot of different plants, try planting with an odd number of the same kind of attractive plant. This gives the appearance of a more natural grouping.

If you want to sustain biodiversity, you just need to be more mindful of the ecological function of the plants you’re planting.

Our new perennials for 2019

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Spring is finally here! After a long winter, we’re excited to share the new additions to this year’s native plant offerings. Many of these perennials would make excellent additions to your pollinator garden.

20 percent off native plant sale

Save 20% off select native plants

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We’re clearing out the greenhouse here at Keystone Wildflowers to make room for next season! Naturalize your meadow or garden with native plants that support pollinators, and save 20% off select native plants for a limited time only.

Plant varieties available for a limited time only

  • Cardinal Flower
  • Showy Goldenrod
  • White Aster
  • Boneset
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Wild Petunia
  • Virginia Mountain Mint
  • Dog-Toothed Daisy
  • Yellow Coneflower
  • Evergreen Goldenrod
  • Blue Mist Flower
  • Smooth Blue Aster
  • Sweet Black-Eyed Susan

  • Old Field Goldenrod
  • False Aster
  • Foxglove Beardtongue
  • Hair Penstemon
  • Great St. John’s Wort
  • Doll’s Eyes
  • Turtlehead
  • New Jersey Tea
  • Brown-Eyed Susan
  • Spotted Joe Pye Weed
  • Lance-leaf Coreopsis
  • Showy Mountain Mint

Discounted native plants are available in various container sizes: 72 or 30 count trays, trade gallons or quarts. 

For more details or to place an order, please contact us at

wildflowers for rain gardens

Improve water quality with rain gardens

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These small maintainable gardens replace lawn areas with native wildflowers and grasses and soak up rainwater runoff from your roof, driveway, or lawn. The rain garden fills with a few inches of water to slowly filter into the ground rather than allowing pollutants in your yard like fertilizers to runoff to storm drains, streams, ponds and lakes. Compared to conventional lawns, rain gardens soak up to 30 percent more water. They also reduce local flooding and soil erosion. Want to learn more about the benefits of rain gardens and which plants you should use for your site?

Many of the plants found in a rain garden provide seeds and shelter for birds, as well as pollen and nectar for countless species of butterflies and native bees. Over the years, I’ve also found rain gardens promote an abundance of biologically beneficial insects to balance the local ecosystem and ward off damaging insect pests.

Here are some of the many native flowers and grasses you can use to create a rain garden in a sunny site: Purple Coneflower, Liatris, Bergamot, Smooth Penstemon, Sweet Joe Pye Weed, Cardinal Flower, New England Aster, Little Bluestem and Switch Grass.

The best wildflowers to attract hummingbirds

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It’s no secret here at Keystone Wildflower that we love hummingbirds. There is something magical about watching the tiny, dramatic creatures hover and flit about from plant to plant dressed in magnificent, iridescent plumage.

Hummingbirds prefer native plant nectar with high sugar content. Usually, the plants pollinated by hummingbirds produce flowers in shades of red, orange and bright pink, but hummingbirds accept nectar from all ranges of colored plants. So, which native plants are the best to attract hummingbirds? We compiled a short list of a few of our favorites:

  1. Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis
  2. Columbine – Aquilegia canadensis
  3. Bradbury Monarda/Bee Balm – Monarda bradburiana
  4. Butterfly Milkweed – Asclepias tuberosa
  5. Eastern Blazing Star – Liatris scariosa
  6. Foxglove Beardtongue – Penstemon digitalis
  7. Great Blue Lobelia – Lobelia siphilitica
  8. Indian Pink – Spigelia marilandica
  9. Marsh Blazing Star – Liatris spicata
  10. Monkey Flower – Mimulus ringens
  11. Northern Blue Flag Iris – Iris versicolor
  12. Purple Coneflower – Echinacea purpurea
  13. Turtlehead – Chelone glabra
  14. Wild Bergamot – Monarda fistulosa
  15. Wild Lupine – Lupinus perennis
  16. Wild Petunia – Ruella humilis