Shrub Seedlings

Jeanne Grunert
Seedlings are economical

Fall is a great time to plant shrub seedlings. The cool temperatures encourage strong root development while reducing demand for water. If you're considering a new landscaping project or adding shrubs to your garden, seedlings provide an economical alternative to container-grown and sold shrubs.

Shrub Seedlings

Garden centers and nurseries sell shrubs in a variety of ways. Container-grown stock consists of shrubs grown in large plastic pots or containers. Gardeners enjoy larger plants, yet these are the costliest shrubs to purchase. Seedlings provide tiny young plants at a fraction of the cost of a container-grown plant. Best of all, many state agricultural departments and some national non-profit organizations sell seedlings to encourage homeowners to plant native species that benefit birds and wildlife.

Shrub Varieties

Most shrub seedlings are one year old or younger, and haven't had a chance to develop many roots. Some nurseries use root control bags when growing shrub seedlings. These bags encourage root growth and development without allowing roots to entangle or break through the bags. Transplanting shrubs grown in root bags may be easier, since you simply slip the seedling out of the bag and into the soil.

Shrub varieties that grow well from seedlings include:

  • Buddleia (Butterfly_Bush): These shrubs need full sun and attract butterflies, bees and the occasional hummingbird. They bloom throughout the summer in shades ranging from regal dark purple to white.
  • Boxwood: With their glossy green foliage, boxwood make great screening plants. They grow quickly and can be left in their natural shape or trimmed into the desired shape.
  • Forsythia: You can't beat the showers of golden blossoms for spring cheer. Forsythia grow easily from seedlings. They require full sun, but aren't terribly fussy about soil.
  • Hydrangea: Hydrangea are old-fashioned garden staples that easily grow from seedlings.
  • Lilac: Another old-fashioned favorite that is right at home in Grandma's garden or a modern landscape, lilac seedlings are sold by many nurseries, making it easy to experiment with different varieties at a very low cost.
  • Viburnum: With their clouds of white flowers, viburnums provide welcome summer color. Some produce heavenly scents, too. There are many different virburnum varieties to choose from for the home garden.

Where to Buy Shrub Seedlings

The best part of choosing seedlings is that they are frequently sold by non-profit organizations and state nursery associations to encourage people to plant native species. Many states have spring seedling sales, and sell native and useful tree and shrub seedlings. Some even provide them free of charge to encourage planting certain types of shrubs or in particular locations, such as riparian restoration programs. State forestry offices, state conservation offices, and sometimes state agricultural offices typically handle seedling sales. The list below provides one national and several state-managed seedling sales programs. If your state or gardening zone is not included in the list, check with your state forestry department, agricultural department or local cooperative extensive office for more information.

  • The Arbor Day Foundation "inspires people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees." To raise money for the foundation, they sell a plethora of ornamental, fruit and nut tree and shrub seedlings through their website. Choose from among 45 varieties. The seedlings tend to be small and many are bare root. If ordering seedlings through the Arbor Day Foundation, you may want to brush up your shrub planting techniques. Learning to heel-in shrubs is a useful skill. Heeling-in refers to a process of temporarily planting trees and shrubs to keep them healthy until you can move them to their permanent location. If you're ordering a lot of seedlings, this techniques comes in handy, especially if you don't believe you can plant everything on the day they arrive.
  • The Department of Environmental Conservation of New York State offers seedlings for sale. Their Saratoga, New York nursery offers homeowners bulk sale of conifer and native shrubs. There are more than 50 varieties available. Ordering typically takes place in April each year, with shipments April - May. They also offer free shrub seedlings to schools in New York. Inquire about free shrubs for schools through their website.
  • The Iowa Department of Natural Resources provides a long list of Iowa-based nurseries that sell seedlings. Some have websites. Please check with each one to see if they sell wholesale only or to the public.
  • In Texas, the Texas Forest Service sells shrubs. If you're looking for a large selection of shrubs for a conservation program or to reforest a pasture, they provide bulk sales.
Shrub Seedlings