Rhody Native: Propagation for Sustainable Landscapes

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $122,333.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: Rhode Island
Project Leader:
Vanessa Venturini
URI Outreach Center

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: native plants, ornamentals


  • Education and Training: extension, networking, workshop, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: wildlife
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, community services, employment opportunities, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Training offered through the Rhody Native project will facilitate the efforts of twenty nurseries to diversify their businesses by growing locally sourced native plants. Each year, Rhode Island environmental organizations and state agencies oversee habitat restoration projects throughout the state. Native plants are an integral component of the restoration, but are often sourced from states other than Rhode Island,and are not adapted to the local climate. This is due to the limited availability of native plants grown in Rhode Island (Save the Bay and NRCS 2010). At present, approximately eight native plant species are grown from local material. The limited number of species available does not meet more than the most basic needs of habitat restoration, as they do not provide restoration ecologists with the necessary floristic diversity to replicate a given habitat. Additionally, consumers are increasingly interested in gardening

    with native plants and seek nurseries within the state who sell plants native to Rhode Island (URI Gardening Hotline 2010). Many local nurseries express an interest in growing natives, but lack the necessary knowledge.

    The Rhody Native initiative coordinators, including an extension educator, a botanist and a university professor will work with five local nurseries to develop a hands-on training program specific to grower needs. Over the course of two, annual training programs, thirty-five growers will be trained to produce locally-sourced native plants fit for habitat restoration and landscape plantings. Growers will be trained in the environmental and economic benefits of native plants, identification techniques and native plant propagation and cultivation. Workshops will be structured as a collection of industry best practices, bringing in propagation experts including local nursery professionals, non-profit propagators, seed company experts and university scientists. Trainings will also include a networking component, where other members of the green industry, habitat restoration practitioners and land managers will be invited to join the conversation and increase the local demand for native plants. Each potential grower will receive a training manual and access to an online database and Rhody Native plant tags. After the program, nurseries will have access to a supplemental supply of locally-sourced native seed collected by the RINHS Botanist and Rhody Native volunteers to facilitate the adoption of a new growing practice. Personal consultations will assist growers in implementing new growing practices, with final surveys completed one year post training.

    As a result of this project, 15-20 growers will each produce 2,500 plants, resulting in the availability of 50,000 plants to meet demands for native plants. Restoration projects scheduled for the 2011 growing season will require a total of 70,000 plants (Rhode Island Natural History survey 2010). Native plants grown as a result of the Rhody Native project will include a combination of 20 grass and perennial species, and 30 tree and shrub species, resulting in a total of 50 native plants, all grown from locally collected seed and stem cuttings. The average net increase in sales at each nursery/business will be $25,000.00.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    400 Nursery professionals will be notified in of an upcoming seasonal training seminar on growing native plants through listings in the RINLA newsletter, mailings through the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, targeted networking and mailings.

    Growers and garden center professionals will receive donations of Rhody Native plants that had been contract grown in 2011 for sale in their garden centers. They will be given promotional displays and asked to track sales in 2011 to inform future training programs and growers. All growers receiving donations will be informed of the upcoming training program and asked to attend.

    Notice of a seasonal, October & December 2011/February 2012 training seminar will be sent to 100 interested growers, with registration details and seminar outline.

    20 growers will attend part one of the educational seminar offered in the fall of 2011. Growers will first learn about the native plant industry with a local focus including case studies from landscape designers and native plant nurseries. They will learn native plant identification and seed collection techniques in a field session. October trainings will teach seed cleaning, seed dormancy (stratification and scarification)considerations, cleaning and storage techniques and outdoor seed propagation in the format of a grower round table. Each grower will receive a training manual and access to an online database and will generate a collection of native plant specimens for identification purposes.

    The 10-20 trained growers who indicate a willingness to grow Rhody Native plants will receive site visits from program coordinators, assisting them in selecting native plants for cultivation and evaluating farm conditions for the growth of different species during the fall/winter of 2011.

    10 growers total begin propagating and cultivating 2,500 locally sourced native plants each, in the fall of 2011 through 2012.

    January trainings teach indoor seed propagation with hands on seed flat production and a panel discussion on sources of demand and marketing of native plants. Growers will be notified of their need to track native plant sales for later reporting.

    The theme of the January, 2012 RINLA Winter Meeting will be native plants in the green industry. Rhody Native coordinators will present a one-hour seminar to 30 – 60 growers, on the Rhody Native program and the benefits of growing native plants. The upcoming 2012/2013 workshop series will be highlighted.

    100 growers from Rhode Island and the surrounding communities receive notice in July of 2012, regarding the 2nd training seminar offered in October and December 2012/February 2013, with registration details and seminar outline.

    In the summer of 2012 the trained growers are surveyed about the effectiveness of the 1st training program including what they incorporated into their business practices from the training and what additional information they would need.

    15 separate growers attend part one of the educational seminar offered in October, 2012. Program contents are updated based on comments from growers. Growers will be notified of their need to track native plant sales for later reporting.

    10 trained growers who indicate a willingness to grow Rhody Native plants will receive site visits from program coordinators in the fall/winter of 2012, with similar assistance provided to that listed above.

    The 10 growers from the original training will fill out a survey in November 2012 describing the effect of the program on net farm income over the first year of growing.

    10 growers will each begin propagating and cultivating 2,500 locally collected native plants in the fall of 2012 – winter 2013.

    The same 10-15 growers attend the educational workshops offered in January 2013. Growers will learn native plant marketing tips and local sources of demand, winter cutting propagation, greenhouse and seed bed culture.

    20 growers will fill out a survey in November 2013 describing the effect of the program on net farm income over the first year of growing.

    Over the course of three years, twenty nursery professionals will diversify their skill set to include native propagation by each growing 2,500 plants, native to Rhode Island, for a total of 50,000 plants. All plants will have been collected from Rhode Island seed or stem cuttings and propagated locally. A total of 50 native plant species will be available to the consumer, including trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials. The average net increase in sales at each nursery will be $25,000.00.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.