Snohomish Conservation District Red-flowering currant.

Snohomish Conservation District Red-flowering currant.

Annual plant sale kicks off Snohomish County gardening season

  • By Jessi Loerch Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, February 9, 2016 12:45pm
  • LifeMonroe

Outside, plants are starting to show the first signs of life. The days are getting longer and warmer. The first buds are appearing on bushes. It’s a good time to think about gardening plans for the upcoming year.

The Snohomish Conservation District’s annual plant sale is Feb. 27 in Monroe. It’s a sort of kick-off to the local gardening season, especially for those with an interest in native plants.

“Now is a good time of year to plant anything, especially if you don’t want to water much,” said Ryan Williams, plant sale manager.

The sale offers easy access to native plants, Williams said. Growing native plants offers advantages for local gardeners and the environment. The plants are adapted to our climate, which make them easier to grow. Additionally, native animals here already know how to interact with native plants. They can provide excellent sources of food for local wildlife, including pollinators.

The plants sold at the sale are what Williams called “conservation grade.” “They’re not as pretty,” he said, “but they’re cheaper.”

These plants might not be as visually pleasing like a well-pruned bush in a gallon pot, perhaps, but once planted and with a bit of time, they will grow and fill out nicely. The plants are mostly bare-root. “It’s a bunch of sticks with a bunch of roots,” Williams said.

If planted in February or March, when it’s still rainy, the plants will have enough time to develop a strong system of roots. Then, once the dry days of summer arrive, the plants won’t need as much coddling to make it through the summer.

Plants can be ordered in advance online, and then picked up the day of the sale. Some plants do sell out, so if you want something specific, ordering online is your best bet.

One popular option is a pollinator packet — a packet of mixed flowers and grasses that will attract local pollinators. The packets come in two sizes, to cover 250 square feet ($8) or to cover 500 square feet ($15).

New this year, people can donate money to provide plants to schools working on restoration projects. Shoppers can buy plants for Mukilteo Elementary School, Everett High School or Sultan High School. Students will use the plants to work on restoration projects.

If you go

The Snohomish Conservation District’s native plant sale is 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 27 in the Commercial Building at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds, just off U.S. 2 in Monroe. Plants can be pre-ordered until 5 p.m. on Feb. 17. Get more information and order plants at Rain barrels and plant protectors are also for sale.

Volunteers are needed to help prepare for the sale on Feb. 22-24 and at the sale Feb. 27. Volunteers earn specialty native plants that won’t be available for sale. Get more information and sign up at

Help schools: To donate to a school project, go to

Rain gardens: If you’re interested in planting a rain garden, the conservation district has put together a palette of plants that work well in rain gardens. Handouts with the information, for rain gardens in sunny or shady locations, will be available at the sale.

Plants to consider


This shrub will grow to about 4 to 5 feet tall. It’s great for erosion control. It has green leaves, pink flowers and, in the winter, white berries. Bumblebees love the flowers and birds eat the berries. Sometimes it will bloom twice in a year. It’s a good generalist plant, adapting well to a variety of conditions.

Red-flowering currant

This shrub blooms very early, with bright red flowers. The flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Birds like to eat the small berries. It’s easy to grow and prefers full sun and dry soil. It can reach up to 10 feet tall.

Sword fern

This fern is an adaptable ground cover. It can grow in full sun to full shade, on a flat surface or a full slope. It will do best, however, in an area where it gets at least some shade. It’s easy to grow and, once it gets big enough, it can be divided and replanted. It will reach about 3 feet tall.

Purple coneflower

This member of the Echinacea family has a purple daisy-type flower. It will bloom from July to September. The leaves grow low on the plant and the striking flowers can reach 3- to 4-feet tall. Bees love them. If you know how, the plant can be used to make Echinacea products such as tea.

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