As we wind out the week, we are also entering in to the final days of our Open House Sale!! 

Thank you everyone for stopping out! 


We are open Saturday from 8-4 and will be CLOSED on Sunday May 20, so that we can all refresh and be ready for the rest of May! 

Focus on Plants -  Full Shade Plants

We frequently get questions about what to plant in shady areas. While shade does limit your options, there are some great hardy plants to choose for part shade or full shade.

Yews are always a good choice. These are soft needle evergreens. Spreaders grow about 3-4’ tall and wide. Upright yews grow app. 8-10 feet and are often planted on a corner of a home.

Typically plants that bloom, and plants that have color, do not do well in shade. Two exceptions to this are PJM or Ramapo Rhododendrons and Annabelle Hydrangeas. Rhododendrons have a beautiful lavender bloom in spring and have a thick glossy leaf that holds through the winter. Annabelle Hydrangeas have white “snowball” shaped blooms and grow about 4-5 feet.


There are several perennials that will grow well in full shade. Hostas are the most common shade plant and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. At Natural Plus we carry small hostas such as “Church Mouse” (which grows about 6 inches tall) to large hostas like “Empress Wu” (which grows up to 5 feet tall and wide) – and many other varieties and sizes in-between. Hostas come in various shades of green, white, yellows and blue.  Most bloom with a white or lavender bloom.

Black Lace Elderberries grow app. 4’ tall and have burgundy leaves and a long bloom. They are an alternative to Japanese Red Maples that do not grow well in North Iowa. Another taller full shade perennial is Sun King Aralia. It grows 4-5 feet tall and its bright golden yellow color brightens up any shade garden.

Some other smaller full shade perennials include Ferns, Lungwort, Goat’s Beard, Bleeding Hearts, Brunneras, Columbine, Foam Flowers, Coral Bells, Solomon’s Seal,  Snakeroot, Toad Lilies and some varieties of ground covers.

Part Shade Areas:

If you have an area that is part shade and part sun (at least 4 hours of sun a day), your options for plants increase tremendously. The staff at Natural Plus can help you decide which plants will grow best in your area.   











Evergreens add year round beauty and interest to your yard. They add shade, habitat, and protection for wildlife. Evergreen windbreaks slow down winter and summer winds to reduce heating and cooling bills.

Years ago choices were limited and evergreens planted around home foundations often became over-grown and unruly. Today we have hundreds of varieties to choose from. Here are a few common varieties of evergreen options today:

Low Growing Evergreens

Some low growing evergreens may get only 6 inches tall but spread 6-8 feet. These are useful on banks or wherever you want to fill in an area with a low growing shrub. Some varieties include Blue Chip Junipers  and Icy Blue Junipers. 

For evergreens around a foundation, there are new dwarf varieties that stay small and compact and require little or no trimming. Some of these include Hetz Midget Arborvitae, Danica Arborvitae, and Blue Star Junipers.


Mid-size Evergreens

There are many new varieties of mid-size evergreens that grow anywhere from 3 to 6 feet tall. They come in a variety of foliage and colors. Mint Julep junipers are deep green and are a good foundation plant. Sea of Gold Junipers are green with golden tips for added interest. Globe Blue Spruce grow 4-5 feet tall with a rounded shape, a very blue color, and require little or no trimming. Dwarf Norway Spruce also grow into a similar size and shape but are a deep green color.


If you have a lot of shade, Yews are your best option. These are deep green, soft needle evergreens that tolerate full or part shade. Taunton Yews grow 3-5 feet tall and wide and can be trimmed.

Upright Evergreens

For some added height, upright evergreens are a good choice. Emerald Arborvitae are deep green and grow 12-15’ tall but only 3-4’ wide. Blue Arrow Junjpers grow 12 feet tall but only 2 feet wide. Techney Arborvitaes are often used on farm windbreaks. They grow about 15 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide. There are many varieties of upright junipers, yews, and other arborvitaes to choose from.

Evergreen Trees

There is nothing more stately than a 100 year old, 100 foot tall  drooping Norway Spruce. These have survived the test of time. Unfortunately some tall evergreens have become susceptible to disease. 20 years ago Colorado Spruce were a favorite, but these have now become prone to a disease and are no longer recommended.

Eastern Red Cedars are the only native evergreen to Iowa. These have also survived the test of time and can be seen growing wild in ditches and along roadways. Although they are not the most beautiful shape, they survive the tough Iowa winters and thrive here.

Ornamental Evergreens


One of the most fun new additions to the plant world are ornamental evergreens. A Globe Blue Spruce Tree is basically a Globe Blue Spruce on a 3 to 5 foot stem. Some old traditional evergreens are now trimmed into pom pom shapes, spirals, and other interesting forms. These all add interest and some fun to your landscaping.

Care and Maintenance of Evergreens

Care and maintenance of evergreens will extend their life and keep them looking beautiful. New plantings should be watered 2-3 times a week for the first season. Established plantings are usually self sufficient but still need to be watered in prolonged periods of dryness. Be sure plants are well watered going into winter. This helps prevent winter burn.

 It is good to fertilize evergreens with Miracid fertilizer at least 2-3 times during the early growing season. It is best to not fertilize in the fall. Trim evergreens to keep a nice shape. Most can be trimmed in the early spring. For evergreen trees it is often recommended to trim one half of the “candle” as new growth emerges.  

If you have a special need for an evergreen or have questions, feel free to call the nursery.



BEHIND THE SCENES:  Getting Ready for Open House


Open House at Natural Plus is always a busy week for us. But behind the scenes, the planning and work to get ready has been going on for months.

Ordering plants for spring usually begins in August the previous year. Throughout the fall and winter, plants and supplies are ordered from about 15 different wholesale suppliers. We typically try to order most of our plants from northern growers.

Over the winter months, updates are constantly being made to orders, prices are determined, inventory is put into the computer, and shipping dates are set.  In addition to our regular orders, we are always looking for new plants and products. We also try to keep updated on plant diseases, planting ideas, etc.



In the early spring, planning and staffing is done for exhibits such as the Home Show, NIACC Gardening Seminar, and Green Expo. Open House advertising is completed for TV, radio, and several local newspapers. Online social networking and blogs are done all year long.



We are especially happy when spring finally arrives and our dedicated employees return. All plants typically ship within a short 1-2 week window before open house.  In this 2 week time all plants and supplies are received, put in place, tagged, priced and organized. In about 2 weeks the nursery goes from being empty to being filled with bursts of fresh, flowering, hardy plants. We call this 2 week time frame “Go Time!!!”.

Over the years, we have learned to tolerate spring set-backs such as late snows, late frosts, spring storms, etc. as part of the business. After 40 years of business, we are still happy and optimistic that spring has officially arrived for us with Spring Open House.

 And in a few short months, we will begin planning for 2019!

Focus on Plants- Spring Flowering Shrubs



Spring flowering shrubs add beauty and fragrance to the yard after the long cold winter. There is nothing better than the smell of lilacs in the spring. Lilacs now come in many sizes and in colors of lavender, purple, pinks, whites, and mixtures of colors.



Previously rhododendrons and azaleas were not hardy here. We now have Zone 4 hardy PJM Rhododendrons that have beautiful lavender blooms over the entire plant in spring. These grow best on an east or north side. New varieties of azaleas are also hardy for our area.  Another new spring blooming plant is Exochorda – Lotus Moon (Pearl Bush). They grow 4-5 feet and have beautiful white blooms that resemble pearls. Other spring bloomers include mockoranges, spireas, viburnums, and many more. Take a walk through the nursery in May and you will see lots of options. Our knowledgeable staff can offer advice and answer any questions you may have.




Finally this year’s long cold winter is behind us and spring blooms are appearing.  The nursery is coming back to life and will soon be filled with a bounty of colors, smells, textures, sights and sounds of spring.

you're invited!


During Open House everything is on sale! In celebration of our 40th anniversary, we're offering 40% off 1 in-stock item of your choice and all remaining purchases are 10% off**

**The sale does not apply to items that are delivered or planted by Natural Plus**

Come in and enjoy treats and register for Gift Certificates that will be given away at the end of Open House! 


If you have perennials, shrubs or trees in your yard that need to be moved or thinned out, now is a good time to do this. Typically it is best to divide and move most perennials just as they are emerging from the ground.  Trees and shrubs do best if they are moved before they leaf out.   If you need more information on how to move existing plants, feel free to call the nursery.

Redbuds, Crabs, and Other Flowering Trees:

Spring blooming trees can add beauty and fragrant smells to your yard. There are many options for spring bloomers.

 Photo from Bailey Nurseries

Photo from Bailey Nurseries

Redbuds were previously not hardy in North Iowa.  That is no longer the case. The University of Minnesota developed a “Minnesota Strain” of Redbud that now does very well in this area. This small gracefully branched tree has beautiful lavender blooms that appear in early spring before the leaves.


Flowering crabs are always a good choice for spring blooms and are very hardy. Spring Snow Crabs have white blooms that do not produce any fruit. There are many other varieties of crabs that grow anywhere from 8’ to 30’ and have blooms in various shades of white, pink, and reds. Most of these varieties produce only very small apples that birds usually clean off the tree.  We do not carry the older variety of crabs that produce very large apples.


Other spring blooming trees that can add interest to your yard include tree lilacs, serviceberries, hawthorns, fringetree, and fruit bearing trees.


We wish you a Happy Spring!



PLANT FOR THE PLANET: Celebrating Earth Day and Arbor Day.

This week we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, and Arbor Day on April 27th.  Some history…..

The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. About 20 million people joined the movement in America to protest industrial and other forms of pollution. By 1990 Earth Day had become a worldwide movement to clean up and protect our environment.


The first Arbor Day was celebrated on April 10, 1872.

In the 1850’s J. Sterling Morton from Detroit moved to the treeless Nebraska Territory. He was a journalist, newspaper editor, and later Secretary of the Nebraska Territory.

 In the spring of 1872 he proposed a local tree planting holiday and over 1 million trees were planted with parades and local celebrations held.

 On April 22, 1885 (Morton’s birthday), Arbor Day was declared a legal holiday in Nebraska. Today most states join in on Arbor Day celebrations with the date dependent on optimal planting time for that area.

(Source: Arbor Day Foundation)


10 Reasons to Plant a Tree:

1.   Trees combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide.

2.   In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.

3.   Trees clean the air by absorbing odors and pollutant gases.

4.   Trees provide shade to cool homes and streets. Trees can cut summer air conditioning needs by 50%.

5.   Trees reduce heating bills by slowing harsh winter winds.

6.   Shade trees reduce the amount of water needed for lawns and other plants.

7.   Trees help prevent soil erosion and pollution of water in streams and lakes by reducing run-off.

8.   Trees provide food for humans and wildlife.

9.   Trees provide shelter for birds and other wildlife.

10.  Studies have shown that trees in yards and parks provide a sense of well-being and help reduce stress.

What will you do this year to protect the planet?


Focus on Plants: Planting Windbreaks and Screens

A windbreak or screen might be one tree strategically placed on your property or it may be a row or 2 or 3 of trees or shrubs planted on a property line to slow down winter winds and offer shade.

 Spring is always a good time to plant. Trees planted in the spring usually require less watering as spring rains reduce hand watering. In addition, they have the whole season to develop a root system which will be beneficial for over-wintering. Typically oaks and birch trees do better if planted in the spring than in the fall.

Because of the risk of disease it is best to plant a variety of trees, and natives are always a good choice.

Some common trees and shrubs currently being recommended for large windbreaks are Norway Spruce, Eastern Red Cedars, Oaks, and Dogwood and Lilac shrubs. If only planting a few trees, a variety of your choice is fine.




Are you thinking about planting some edibles in your garden or yard?  There is nothing more fun or rewarding than picking a handful of fresh raspberries or an apple right off the tree. But planting home-grown edibles takes some planning, effort, and patience. Here are some tips:

1.    Start small – too often people get the planting bug and go overboard planting a large garden and/or too many fruit trees, berries, or other edibles. By summer the weeds have taken over and harvest time becomes over-whelming.  Begin with a small garden and/or a tree or 2 and add more each year if you choose.  

2.    Make sure all the plants you select are hardy for your zone. In North Iowa, we are in zone 4. Select plants from zone 2-4.

3.    Research planting and care of the plants you choose. Have a plan and think about making a garden calendar as a reminder of what needs to be done when.

4.     Call us at Natural Plus if you have questions. Two other excellent references for home gardening are the ISU Extension service and Purdue Extension service

5.    Enjoy! For most of us, gardening is a hobby. Enjoy the benefits – the beauty and joy of nature,  and savoring in the delicious taste of fresh fruits and vegetables you have grown yourself.

Focus on Plants: Planting Edibles

Edibles you can grow yourself include everything from fruit trees and small fruits to potatoes, vegetables, herbs, etc. At Natural Plus we carry a good selection of fruit trees, asparagus, raspberries, strawberries, and some herbs.  Spring planting is good for edibles.

Here are some common tips for planting and what we have in stock this season.


Apples – We carry a nice selection of hardy semi-dwarf apples. (Apples can come in dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard sizes.) We prefer semi-dwarf trees as trees are sturdier than dwarf sizes, and apples are easier to pick than on bigger standard varieties.  For pollination, you will need to plant 2 apple trees that bloom at about the same time.

Pears- Pears grow quite well in North Iowa if you select the right varieties. This year we will be carrying Patten Pear good for eating, pies, and baking.  You need 2 pears for pollination. Patten is a good pollinator for other varieties.

Plums- We carry Mount Royal. The tree is small- 8-12’ and plums are good for eating and desserts. You need only plant 1 plum. Mount Royal does not need another pollinator.

Cherries- We are carrying Evans Bali, Meteor, and North Star.  All of these varieties are tart and are good for pies, canning, and baking. (Most sweet cherries are not hardy in North Iowa).  They do not require another pollinator.

Peaches – We carry Contender which is now recommended for zone 4. Though recommended as hardy, they will still require extra attention and protection.  They do not need another pollinator.


Raspberries – We carry sturdy 1 year,# 1 bare root plants. Varieties include Bristol Black (which has large black fruit late July), Heritage  (which has 2 crops of red fruit in July and September), and Lathum (which has red fruit late June into early July).

Strawberries – We carry 1 year, #1 bare root plants. Varieties include All Star and Sparkle – both are June bearing and good for eating, freezing, and preserves.

Asparagus-  We carry 2 year, #1 bare root plants including Jersey Knight, Mary Washington, Purple Passion, and Sweet Purple.

There is nothing better than enjoying the "fruits" of your labor. 




2018 is a milestone year for us at Natural Plus Nursery.  We founded the nursery in April of 1978.  Prior to starting up the nursery, Dave graduated from ISU with a degree in Landscape Architecture and was working for a large nursery in Des Moines.


When Dave wanted to start his own business, we returned to the current place of Natural Plus because it had special meaning for us. It was initially owned by my grandfather and is where I initially grew up. My parents had a typical farm in the 1950’s with crops, dairy cows, pigs, and chickens. The farm buildings are now all gone, but the house, the memories, and the ambiance of rural living remain.  This place has been in the family now for almost 80 years.

Over the years Natural Plus has faced many obstacles and challenges – interest rates of 18%, financial issues, weather issues, gypsy moths, me working both at the nursery and at Mercy Dialysis Center, and the coming of “big box stores” thinking they should all get in to the nursery business.

But 40 years later, Natural Plus is still operating. We give thanks to our parents for financial and moral support, for our children and their hard work and tolerance of this life, for hard working employees, and most of all for all the wonderful customers who have supported us - some of whom have become lifelong friends and acquaintances.


In 2013, our son David left his job with the DNR, and his wife, Mary, left her job as an OT to take over the nursery.  They face the same challenges we faced, and many new ones including a more impatient and demanding technology dominated world.  But they have risen to the challenge and hope to make improvements as the years go by, and most of all continue to serve you.

Again – we thank YOU , our customers for supporting us!  And we hope to get to meet many new customers.

 Help us celebrate 40 years at our Spring Open House  May 11-19!


 Focus on Plants: Windbreaks & Some New Varieties

Now is the time to plan for and order windbreaks. If you need help designing a windbreak, give us a call. The most common windbreak varieties now are Norway Spruce, Eastern Red Cedars, Oaks, Redtwig Dogwoods, and Lilacs.


New varieties of plants are continually being developed.  Growers are adding new varieties of barberries, spireas, rhododendrons, ninebarks, hydrangeas, perennials, and many other plant species.

We would especially like to inform you of hardy disease resistant Elms. These new varieties are resistant to Dutch Elm Disease which wiped out virtually all of the elms about 30-40 years ago.  These beautiful, vase shaped trees can now be added back to your landscape and will add interest, beauty , and shade.



written by Dave and Linda Hopper

March has gone out like a lion - but spring is around the corner. Here at the nursery we are watching for those wonderful signs of Spring.  A sure sign of spring for us is that geese, and human snowbirds are back!  We look forward to seeing any new or previous customers soon.

Focus on Plants: Early Spring Bloomers

Each week this year we will do a short focus on seasonal plants and care tips that may be of interest to you. This week our focus is on early spring bloomers.

 The first shrub that you will most likely see blooming very soon is the forsythia. These shrubs typically get about 6 feet tall and have yellow showy blooms early in spring. Blooms appear before the leaves. Keep your eye out for forsythias in your neighborhood.

Other early spring bloomers include tulips, daffodils, Siberian squill, and woodland natives like Virginia bluebells.  (Remember tulips and daffodils are bulbs and need to be planted in the fall for spring blooms.)  





Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 


As 2017 comes to a close, we want to thank you for supporting us and believing in us. We are so excited for our 2018 season, to celebrate Natural Plus's 40th anniversary and our 5th season as owners.  We will continue to grow the retail side of our nursery, however we are taking a break from large landscaping projects in 2018, so we can better serve you at our nursery. We will continue to provide design services and recommendations for plantings, and will be delivering and planting our trees and shrubs. We are making it a priority to better serve our loyal and supportive customers.

Thank you for everything and we will see you in the New Year! 

It's not too late!

It's not too late: Protect your trees! 

IMG_3426 2.jpg

Winter is quickly approaching, it's time to make sure you've got your trees covered.

There are several reasons to protect your trees. 

If you have rabbit problems, you need to wrap the trunk of the tree. When food sources are scarce, rabbits and rodents will eat the bark of your new trees. Any trees with a trunk 3" or less in diameter, especially fruit and flowering trees, need to have a tree wrap protecting the trunk.

If you have an abundance of deer where you live, its a good idea to consider a fence around your newly planted tree. Just wrapping with the plastic or paper wrap will likely not be enough to protect the tree against damage.  Deer will rub their antlers against the new bark while rutting.

Trees should be wrapped or fenced from Halloween to May day every year. 

We recommend using light colored plastic wrap or corrugated plastic pipe to wrap your trees. Stay away from dark or black tree wrap as this can heat up the trunk of the tree too much.