Everything You Need to Know About Prairie Hardy Plants

Ken Wright, owner of Wright Nursery, shares his prairie hardy plant expertise

For Ken Wright, plants have been a lifelong passion. You could say it’s in his blood given that his parents were plant people who traveled around specifically to follow wild flowers.

“My folks were always going where the wild flowers were,” says Ken Wright, owner of Wright Nursery. “They were always looking for what was blooming next. I definitely have the same interest in plants as my parents did. 

That interest first grew into education with the completion of a Bachelor of Science specializing in Botany from Montana State University, and eventually blossomed into a career. In 1988, Ken and his wife Pam opened Bow Point Nursery which he operated for 30 years before selling.

In 2015, they opened Wright NurseryLocated in Caroline, Alberta, this wholesale nursery supplies native seed sourced plugs and seedlings. 

“At Wright Nursery, we are dedicated to plant selection, seed collection and propagation of plants important to the markets of southern and central Alberta,” says Ken. “We were the first nursery in Alberta to specialize in prairie hardy plants and make them available for sale. 

But what exactly is a prairie hardy plant? They’re plants that can withstand adverse growing conditions like Alberta’s hot and dry summers, chinooks, and cold winters. They survive year after year and look good 365 days of the year, no matter the season.  

“Big box stores often sell plants that look great at first, but they don’t survive Alberta’s climate,” says Ken. “One of the reasons we use prairie hardy plants at Wright Nursery is because customers can be confident that their product will survive and look like they see in pictures. It’s survival of the fittest – prairie hardy plants specific to Alberta will survive in our unique climate. 

If you want to use prairie hardy plants in your landscape, Ken believes there are a few things to keep in mind: 

Find a supplier you trust.

No matter where you go, ask if someone has experience in prairie hardy plants, has worked with seed plants and knows the source of the seeds. Make sure all your questions are answered, so youre confident in the plants youre buying.

Consider your budget. 

Don’t worry if you’re doing your project on a budget. Consider using more smaller prairie hardy plants than larger ones. They establish quick and grow out to catch up with bigger plants – plus they will look beautiful in your landscape. 

Stop watering. 

Prairie hardy plants don’t need to be watered excessively; that’s why they do well in Alberta’s dry climate. These plants grow well with limited water. 

Use mulch. 

Mulch is the difference between success and failure. When using mulch, Ken recommends only watering prairie hardy plants once per month.  

Incorporate compost. 

Compost enriches and lightens soil, and helps plants grow faster. Use a little when planting your prairie hardy plants, but be careful to not put the compost deeper than the root bulb. 

Consider function. 

Depending on your landscape, you may want a prairie hardy plant to provide shade or shelter from the wind. Talk to someone who specializes in prairie hardy plants to determine which plants will meet your objectives. 

Limit pesticides. 

Prairie hardy plants are pest and disease tolerant because they evolved with local pests, fungus and bacteria. Using these plants will cut down on the amount of pesticide you need, as well as the time you will waste trying to fight disease. 

Let go of control. 

By nature, we try to control everything. Prairie hardy plants have a high ornamental value, and they thrive when they have the opportunity to grow into what they naturally are supposed to be. Try to not trim themInstead, relax and enjoy their healthy, natural beauty.  

Whether it’ a home garden, reclamation site or an urban landscape – prairie hardy plants can and will make the difference between success, marginally successful, or failure in your landscape.  

If you’re interested in learning more, take a drive out to Wright Nursery. Ken’s goal is to teach everybody about plant material and native plants. With advance notice, Wright Nursery can produce the plants that will give you the desired results you’re looking for and help fulfill your vision. Contact Wright Nursery now.  

Want some prairie hardy plants now? Call Wright Nursery to place your order and pick them up from OnGrowing Works in Cochrane. View plant availability at Wright Nursery now. 


Prairie hardy plants

The Paskapoo Poplar: a dwarf native Balsam Poplar prairie hardy plant.


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