There are some things about planning your plant shopping list with the printed catalog that just aren't the same when using a website. A few are better, like the ability to search, but others are lost, like being able to see the little sidebars of information.
This article is the place where we've put all of those bits of information so we can link to them when needed in other places.
The meanings of some of our symbols are more obvious than others. There's a brief explanation of all of them on every plant page, but here are a few that require a bit more explanation, since we get asked about them the most often:
Part sun/part shade (here’s a short article on what that means)
Bird: The Audubon Society has endorsed a specific list of native plants that provide early spring food for birds.
Thermometer: These plants are cold-sensitive and need to be kept above 40°F or they will die or be very damaged. In spring, some may even be sensitive below 50°F.
Mr Yuk: This symbol means the plant is toxic to humans. Remember: plants without the symbol can still be toxic to other living creatures.
Every one of the plants in the Herbs and Vegetables sections is grown without chemical pesticides or herbicides, and from greenhouses operated with sustainable practices. We also carry a more limited line of herbs that are certified organic, which you can find by checking that box in Find Plants.
What’s a bract?
It’s not a petal or a leaf, but another part of a plant that’s sometimes showier than the flower, and that’s when we mention it. Here’s a helpful article about bracts.
A note on days
Many of our vegetable descriptions begin with a number and the word “days.” This is the number of days from when you plant it in the garden until you can expect to harvest a fully grown edible. Or if the plant is sold as seed, it’s the number of days from when it sprouts until harvest.
A general rule about vegetables and light
- If we eat the fruit, the plant needs 8+ hours of light.
- If we eat the root, it needs 5–6 hours.
- If we eat the leaves or stems, 4 hours will do.
- Indeterminate tomatoes are vining and tend to ripen fruit over an extended period of time. These are traditionally staked or supported.
- Determinate tomatoes tend to be bushier and to ripen their crop all at one time, a feature that canners and freezers might note. They are also better for container growing.
A note about reading the plant listings
Size: You can assume the plants are roughly the same width as the height shown unless noted otherwise.
Flowers and leaves: You can assume leaves are green and flowers are single and scentless unless noted otherwise.
Hardiness: We don’t list USDA hardiness zones because in our experience they can be misleading. Read the full explanation here. However, if the catalog says a perennial “needs winter protection” or “winter mulch recommended,” that means it’s less likely to be hardy here, though we know gardeners who grow it successfully. If the text says “very hardy,” that means the plant is known to be hardy north of the Twin Cities. If a plant has five stars ***** it is highly rated for success in the book Growing Perennials in Cold Climates.
Bulbs and bareroots: Any plant that says it's a bulb or bareroot is located in the Bulbs & Bareroots area, OUTSIDE near the Info Desk tent.
Be sure to plant your bareroot daylilies soon after purchase.
- Reblooms: Blooms again after the initial flowering.
- Extended bloom: Flowers last into evening.
- Tetraploid: Larger flowers on husky plants.
- Dormant: All of our daylilies are dormant in winter unless noted as semi-evergreen or evergreen.
- Early season: Late June/early July… Mid-season: Late July… Late season: Mid- to late August
Iris are clump-formers that grow from rhizomes. Sword-like upright foliage and intricate flowers.
About lilies (Lilium) in general
Most lilies prefer to be planted with their “heads in the sun, feet in the shade” in well-drained soil. They show off best in your garden planted in groups. Plant several groups with different bloom times for continuous show.
Peony bloom times
Peonies bloom over seven weeks in the Twin Cities, late May to early July.
- Very early: late May
- Early: June week 1–2
- Mid: June week 2–3
- Mid-late: June week 3–4
- Late: late June–early July
- Very late: early July
Planting in containers
Hardy plants from this section can be planted in containers, such as dish or trough gardens, but should be planted in the ground by fall if you want them to survive the winter outside.
Succulents are fleshy-leaved plants that store water and so are adapted to dry, well-drained conditions and containers. Heights are approximate. Succulents in general will grow smaller in small pots and larger in large pots.
B: Tendrils and leaf tendrils.
C: Aerial rootlets.
D: Twining leaves.
“If it blooms before June, don’t prune.” Find all the info on Group 1, 2, and 3 and pruning clematis here.
A note about hardiness in shrubs and trees
We don’t list USDA hardiness zones because in our experience they can be misleading. Read the full explanation here.
However, if the catalog says a tree or shrub “needs winter protection,” that means it’s less likely to be hardy here, though we know gardeners who grow it successfully. If the text says “very hardy,” that means the plant is known to be hardy north of the Twin Cities. If a plant has four or five stars ***** it is highly rated for success in the book Growing Shrubs and Small Trees in Cold Climates by Lonnee, Rose, Selinger, and Whitman (2011 edition).
Why are apples grafted onto rootstocks?
An apple tree grown from seed will not have the same traits as the parent tree, so desirable varieties must be propagated from cuttings. Grafting the cutting onto selected rootstocks allows us to control the size of the tree, which is good for urban gardeners. In the 2021 sale, we have only semi-standard and semi-dwarf rootstocks.
EMLAIII 15–24’h, no staking needed
Geneva 890 up to 15'h
M7 (Malling 7) 12–20’h, may need staking in early years
Dwarf (need staking)
G11 (Geneva II) 6–10’h
Bud9 (Budagovsky 9) 6–10’h. Extra cold-tolerant.
B.10 (Bud10) Up to 10–12’. Extra cold-tolerant.
Our recent snowy winters remind us: Bark is tasty
Protect your fruit trees and shrubs from rabbits and other nibblers using chicken wire, hardware cloth, or wrapping.
SPACE…the final frontier
If you want to look into pollenization and spacing among fruit trees and shrubs, check out this page with pollination charts for fruit-bearing trees and shrubs.
Which plants get the Minnesota Native symbol?
We use www.plants.usda.gov as our source to determine whether a species is native to Minnesota. If you’re looking for plants native to North America but not Minnesota, you’ll find them in the Perennials section.
Native plants are marked with the native symbol ˜ and the source of the plant stock or seed used to grow these plants is given. Those without the Minnesota symbol are selections or cultivated varieties bred from the Minnesota species, sometimes called “nativars.” In those cases, the term “cultivar,” “selected,” or “selection” is used.
Many of these plants are first-season seedlings that will stay small this year as they develop their root systems, not blooming until their second season in the garden.
Plants marked with the bird icon are endorsed by the Audubon Society as providing food and habitat for birds, especially in early spring when food is scarce.
No more Aster
All of the U.S. native plants named aster used to also have the scientific name Aster. The botany experts decided to change the genus of the U.S. native asters to a couple of other, much more complicated names.
Most grasses and sedges are showiest in late summer and fall. Many grow in attractive clumps and provide winter interest as well. They can be used to replace spikes in containers and provide vertical, mounding garden accents.
We mark some plants in the catalog with a Mr. Yuk sign. These are plants known to be toxic to humans in some way. We do this because we care about your health, but the issue is complex, so please read the full-length article about this on our website, www.FriendsSchoolPlantSale.com/poisonous-plants.
There are, however, a few plants in the sale that are particularly poisonous and capable of causing serious illness or death to humans:
- Angel’s Trumpet – Datura A004
- Foxglove – Digitalis P158–P161
- Monkshood – Aconitum P274
It is generally a bad idea to chew on ANY plant that is not clearly for human consumption, Mr. Yuk sticker or no. We get expert advice on this issue, but individuals vary, and experts do not know everything.
What about medicinal plants?
Never assume that a medicinal plant is safe or nontoxic. Many highly poisonous plants or plant parts contain medicinal compounds that are extracted from them in specific ways, and some highly toxic plants are also medicinal. Friends School Plant Sale does not recommend the use of any plant marked as medicinal for self-medication or treatment of others.
Friends School Plant Sale is committed to doing everything we can to bring you plants grown without the systemic pesticides called neonicotinoids. Until neonics are banned, we will continue to ask about neonic exposure in the plants that we order and to refuse to sell any plant we have concerns about.
Because neonics stay in plants and soil over time and the nursery business and growing practices are complex, we cannot absolutely guarantee that every plant at the sale is free of neonics. We can, however, guarantee that we have done the necessary background research, and that we will never knowingly sell you a plant that has been neonic-exposed.
For a more in-depth look at how we research the sources of plants we sell, see www.FriendsSchoolPlantSale.com/neonics