Prepare Your Plants for Winter

We all know that winter’s blast will soon be upon us. Every year we get out our winter gear, make sure the furnace is working, and winterize the house.  We also take extra precautions to take care of our animals over winter, but sadly we often forget to “winterize” our outdoor plants.

 A small amount of extra TLC for your plants in the fall will reward you greatly in the spring.  

Allowing plants to dry out in the fall and go in to winter unprotected often results in winter burn or winter kill. Here are a few steps you can take to help your plants get through winter.

  • Protect plants from wildlife. Add tree guards, fences, or whatever it takes to protect trees and shrubs from rabbits and deer. Rabbit or deer damage that goes all the way around the trunk of a tree will kill the tree.

  • When possible mulch the base of plants with mulch or leaves. This will help hold in moisture and keep them from drying out over winter.

  • Water plants once a week through Thanksgiving. (An inch of rain counts as a watering.)

  • Protect some trees from “sunscald”. Younger trees, especially some varieties of maples, are susceptible to sunscald on the bark. This later leads to cracking of the bark and a weak spot susceptible to breakage. To protect from sunscald, put tree guards on your younger trees over winter.  

  • · If plants are in above ground pots, they are very susceptible to winter kill as roots freeze and thaw throughout the winter. If possible, move pots to a shady, protected area and make sure plants are well watered before ground is frozen. Even these precautions may not be enough to protect from winter damage.

Get ready for winter – and don’t forget your plants!




The beauty of fall colors touches the soul. Take time to pause and enjoy this special time of year.  The reds, yellows, and oranges of trees in the fall all add to the fall splendor.

Here are some Natural Plus favorites for adding fall colors to your yard/landscaping:

Ornamental/Smaller Trees with Fall Color (10-30’ size):

·      Amur Maple           Brilliant red fall color, clump or single stemmed

·      Serviceberry          Orange/reds , berries for birds, clumps or singles

·      Hot Wings               Reds/oranges with bright red seed pods


Larger Shade Trees with Good Fall Color (over 30’)

·      Aspen                                               Quaking golden yellow leaves

·      Birch                                                 Yellow, clump or single stemmed

·      Ginkgos                                            Golden yellow (slow growing)

·      Lindens                                            Yellow, heart shaped leaves

·      Locust                                               Yellow wispy leaves

·      Maples: Autumn Blaze               Brilliant Red, fast growing

·      Maples: Burgandy Belle                    Burgundy Red

·      Maples: Emerald Luster                    Golden Yellow, fast growing

·      Maples: Rubrum                           Bright Red

·      Maples: Sugar                                Multiple varieties – oranges, reds, yellows

·      Red Oaks                                         Red

·      Witch Hazel                                      Fragrant yellow blooms in fall


Over 5 years ago, when we decided to purchase Natural Plus we had NO CLUE what we were doing or what we were getting ourselves in to.

And to be honest, we still don't. 😂

But does anyone, really??

Aren't we all doing the best we can, making mistakes along the way, but then learning from them and growing and choosing better next time? 

When we bought the nursery, Dave’s dad Dave was running a landscaping crew and doing big commercial landscaping projects. We slowly inherited and took over operations of the crew and jobs in 2014 and 2015, however quickly realized it was more than we wanted to manage and more time consuming than we liked. We originally decided to purchase the business for the flexibility of working our jobs around our family. The demands of the landscaping crew, the appointments, the estimating, and the billing alone were more than Dave was able to handle himself, and keeping him busy all day and every evening, plus working the nursery on the weekends. He was falling more and more behind on everything because he was filling too many roles. We had to make a decision: get more help and grow the landscaping, or phase out that part of the business and focus on the retail nursery. We had a lot of deep discussions and spent hours projecting if a seasonal retail nursery could stand alone without the income from landscaping. We are excited to say that we {mostly} went for it, only doing a select few small landscaping projects that were still hanging on from previous years. We are continuing to trust in the process and take risks, choosing to pour in to the parts of this business that work for our family, and letting go of the parts that don’t. It’s been a long, slow process, and will probably never be complete. And it is oh so scary, not knowing if what we follow will continue to provide for our family and make our business profitable. We continue to have challenges, but choose to trust the process of it all, and know that we need to continue to make decisions for our business based on what we want for our family.

Business ownership has taught us so much in the last 5 years, but the thing we have gotten the most from it is THE PEOPLE. Our customers are the absolute best, and continue to SHOW UP and SUPPORT the little backyard nursery we have going here. 

We appreciate all of you, and thanks for sticking with us as we grow and learn how to make this family business work for us.

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Planting Shrubs for Fall Colors


Planting Shrubs for Fall Colors

The beautiful, spectacular colors of fall are good for the soul!  They will cause one to stop and pause and enjoy the season. 

If you would like to include some shrubs in your landscaping that turn beautiful fall colors, these are some Natural Plus favorites:

·      Burning Bush (euonymous alatus): Burning bush come in 2 size ranges: dwarf (grow 5-6’ tall) and standard (grow 8-10’ tall). Bushes turn brilliant scarlet red in the fall. They can also be identified by the bark that is square and corky in appearance.

 Burning bush starting to turn

Burning bush starting to turn

·      Sumac: There are several varieties of sumac including Staghorn, Cutleaf, and Tiger Eyes. All 3 varieties turn brilliant red or oranges in the fall. Tiger Eyes have a limegreen/yellow color during the summer months. In the fall, staghorn sumac can often be seen along roadways in large groupings of brilliant red.

·      Compact Amur Maple: These have brilliant red fall color and grow about 5-6’ tall. They are the dwarf variety of standard size Amur Maples.


·      Viburnums (Cranberries) – There are many varieties of viburnums, growing from 3 to 15 feet depending on the variety.  Some of the most common varieties are Bailey Compact, Blue Muffin, Redwing, and Wentworth. All turn beautiful shades of burgundy, red, or oranges in the fall.  The berries they produce are also colorful in shades of blue, red, and oranges – favorites of migrating birds.



·      Cotoneaster and Aronia – Both turn beautiful shades of burgundy or reds.  They also produce abundant berries that are pretty and provide food for migrating birds. Aronia berries have recently grown in popularity for human consumption.  They are grown, harvested and sold as a healthy dietary antioxidant.  

Spireas and Barberries : Spireas and barberries come in many sizes and varieties. Spireas are primarily planted for their summer blooms, and barberries are typically planted for their burgundy summer leaf color. However, both give an added bonus of turning to beautiful fall colors of reds, burgundy, oranges, and yellows.




Ornamental vines can add interest and privacy to your landscaping. At Natural Plus we carry a nice selection of vines and can help you choose the right vine for the right place.

 Most vines require a sturdy trellis, arbor, or fence to grow on. At Natural Plus we also carry a large selection of sturdy metal arbors and trellises if you need one. 

 Below are some options you can consider for vines.

·      Clematis – Clematis come in colors of purple, white, magenta (above picture), etc.   Jackmann, which is deep purple, is a favorite of many people. Sweet Autumn has small white prolific very fragrant blooms in August/September. Clematis prefer sun or part sun and grow app 8-12 feet in length.

 A honeysuckle vine growing on a trellis on the west side of my home.

A honeysuckle vine growing on a trellis on the west side of my home.

·      Honeysuckle Vines: 2 of our favorites are Kinzleys Ghost and Dropmore. Both do well in sun or part sun, are easy to grow, and grow about 8-12 feet in length.  They do tolerate a considerable amount of shade. The foliage on Kinzleys Ghost resembles eucalyptus with rounded yellow striking blooms. (Check out the Kinzley’s Ghost at Natural Plus now in full bloom.) Dropmore Honeysuckle has orange tubular blooms mid-summer – a favorite of hummingbirds.

·      Wisteria- Wisteria is a very hardy, vigorous vine that will grow 20-30’. They bloom in June with long dangling purple blooms. They prefer full or part sun. (Come and check out the Aunt Dee Wisteria on the old windmill frame at Natural Plus! When it blooms it is stunning!)

 Boston Ivy on the small brick building at Natural Plus

Boston Ivy on the small brick building at Natural Plus

·      Boston Ivy – Boston Ivy is one of the few vines that grow best on brick or concrete walls. Foliage is deep green with red fall color. Boston Ivy is commonly seen on older brick homes covering entire sides of the houses.

·      Bittersweet – Bittersweet vines produce orange berries in the fall. Vines can be cut and berries remain intact to make beautiful fall arrangements. Previously a male and female vine was required to produce berries, but nurseries now sell both in one pot.


·      Climbing Roses – John Cabot is a deep red climbing rose blooming mid-summer. Bonica is a prolific bloomer with pink blooms. Vines grow about 8-12’.  All roses prefer full sun.

There are many more options of vines available. We can help you choose the right vine for your situation.

Adding a vine covered arbor as an entrance to your garden is a beautiful way to invite guests to your garden or home!




 Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have seen the beauty of the original tall grass prairie in Iowa – miles and miles of big blue stem (turkey foot), little blue stem, switch grass, and many more? It must have been stunning! With settlement, the tall grass prairie nearly disappeared. Thankfully, in the past 20 years a lot of prairie restoration has been done on roadsides, farms, and acreages.  In addition, grasses have become an integral part of landscaping at homes and businesses.

 Most varieties of northern grasses are very hardy. They tolerate heat, dryness, hot summers, harsh winters and salt from roadways. Roots go deep! All but a very few varieties of grasses require full sun. A lot of grasses are invasive – in other words -  will spread.

When planting grasses, be sure to research the grass you are planting to make sure it meets your needs. If you are restoring or planting a prairie plot, the staff at Natural Plus can advise you. The folks at Lime Creek Nature Center also are very knowledgable about doing prairie restoration.

If you just want to add a few ornamental grasses for your home or business landscaping Natural Plus can advise you and we carry a nice variety of grasses. There are many choices in grasses for the home landscape. Some grow only 1-2’ and others grow 10-12’ or more.

Some of the more popular grasses that are being planted in home landscapes and businesses now are:


·      Karl Foerester Feather Reed – Plumes reach about 5-6’ tall. Plants get about 2-3’ wide and stay in a clumping shape – not invasive


·      Prairie drop seed – grow about 2-3’ tall and have delicate arching stems

·      Flame grass – grows 8-10’ tall and foliage turns a beautiful burgundy red in the fall


·      Switch grasses – have arching feathery seed heads – grow about 4' tall

To care for grasses in the home landscaping, water the first season and then they are usually self-sufficient unless there is a prolonged dry period.  Plumes add an artistic look above snow in the winter, and it’s best to wait to trim grasses back to the ground until after May 10.

Learn more...



Fall Blooming Perennials

Fall perennials can add vibrant color to your yard or landscaping. Many are also butterfly and hummingbird favorites.

Some of the summer perennials will hold their blossoms or color into early fall.  These include hibiscus, coreopsis, Russian sage, black eyed susans, coral bells, some cone flowers, and others. These can be planted for summer color but will last into early fall.


Of these late summer/early fall perennials, the hibiscus is a Natural Plus favorite.  Many people are surprised that they are hardy. New north varieties do very well. They emerge late – mid June – but by mid August are up to 4’ tall and wide and have very large plate size blooms in colors of reds, pinks, and whites. Some varieties have reddish leaves. Plants often have 10-15 blooms at one time. They are truly stunning. Plant in full sun. After the growing season, wait to trim hibiscus back until spring as stems are hollow and more prone to freezing if trimmed back in the fall. Mulch before winter.


Russian Sage is always an easy to grow good choice for summer and early fall color and is heat and drought tolerant. Russian Sage grows about 3’ tall with striking purple blooms and is often used as a background plant. Plant in full sun.


Later fall blooming perennials will add striking color to the late fall garden and will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Some Natural Plus favorites include:

·      Sedums – Large 5-6” clusters of blooms top these sturdy flowers. There are many varieties to choose from with most plants growing from 12-24”. Plant in full sun. They bloom into late fall. One plant might be host to 50 or more butterflies on a beautiful fall day.  


·      Asters – These are an excellent substitute for mums that are very borderline hardy in north Iowa. Purple Dome is a Natural Plus favorite. It grows about 18-24” and is covered with deep purple blooms until a hard frost. These are also butterfly favorites. There are many other varieties of asters including Wood’s Blue, Wood’s Pink, Alma Potschke, etc. Plant in full sun.

·      Pink Turtlehead – Turtlehead is native to wet woodlands and stream areas making it a good choice for wetter areas and rain gardens. Blooms emerge in late August and are deep rosy pink amid dark green leaves. Unique blooms resemble that of a turtle head. Plants grow 2-3’ tall. Plant in full or part sun.  

·      Joe Pye Weed- Plants grow 5-7’ tall and have large fragrant mauve-pink flower clusters that are also a butterfly favorite. A dwarf variety, Little Joe, grows 3-4’. Plants grow best in moist areas in full sun to partial shade. These are also good choices for rain gardens.

·      Helenium – also known as sneezeweed.  A native - plants have bright yellow to red daisy-like blooms. Despite it’s name the plant does not cause hay fever or sniffles. Native Americans believed the plant actually cured fevers and head colds.

Enjoy and savor the vibrant colors, sights, and sounds of fall. 

Learn more about fall plantings...




Hydrangeas bloom in July and August and many varieties will continue to give beauty clear in to fall. There are many hydrangeas to choose from and they are easy to grow.  Here are some of our favorites.

Tree Hydrangeas :  Tree hydrangeas offer a small tree for those spots where you need something smaller in size. Most grow 8-12 feet tall and 6-12 feet wide. Some common varieties include Limelight (mint green blooms), Pee Gee (white/pink), and Strawberry Sundae (white/pink). Most require part to full sun.


Bush Hydrangeas:

·      Annabelles – Annabelles are a favorite because they grow in sun or shade. They have prolific large round white blooms and are easy to grow.  They grow 4-5’ tall.

·      Endless Summer Varieties: These hydrangeas have beautiful large powder blue blooms. Most varieties grow 3-4 feet. They prefer part shade. Fertilize with a miracid fertilizer to keep blooms blue. If you forget to fertilize they will still bloom but blooms will be pink in color instead of blue.

·      Other bush hydrangeas: There are many varieties to choose from. Some include PeeGee, Strawberry Sundae, Angels Blush, and Quick Fire. These hydrangeas grow from app. 5-8 feet tall and bloom with large blooms that usually open white and fade to light pink or deep pink/red as they mature. Most prefer full sun. Blooms can be dried for fall arrangements.


·      Dwarf Hydrangeas: Many of the older larger varieties of hydrangea now come in dwarf sizes of 3-5 feet. Some varieties include Baby Lace, Bar Harbor, Bobo, and Hamptons. If you are short on space or need a smaller plant these are a good choice. Most prefer full or part sun.

Hydrangeas can add dramatic beautiful color to your landscaping. After planting they are low maintenance. Trim in the spring to shape them and trim in the fall to remove spent blooms. Be sure to choose the right size and variety for your spot. At Natural Plus we can advise you which varieties will work best for your spot. 

Enjoy your summer garden



Summer perennials

The best of summer is now on display – flowers blooming around every corner. Summer perennials are showy and most are easy to grow.

Perennials grow and bloom, die back over winter, and regrow year after year. Planting perennials can save time and money as, unlike annuals, they don’t need to be purchased and planted every year.

Before planting perennials make sure you know their main characteristics such as height/width, sun or shade tolerance, bloom colors, and specific characteristics for planting.

Here are some of our favorite perennials:


·      Daylilies – Stella De Oro (which bloom golden yellow) and Happy Returns (which bloom lemon yellow) are everywhere. They bloom most of the summer and take little care.  There are hundreds of varieties of other daylilies as well – from heritage varieties to new varieties that often re-bloom. Colors range from white to reds, yellows, purples, and greens


·      Native perennials – Ditches are now full of natives that have been reseeded after decades of spraying. Some of those you are seeing are coneflowers, blazing star, butterfly weed, bee balm, and black eyed susans. These can now be planted in the home garden. New varieties are also available for some of these old faithfuls. New varieties have vibrant new colors and/or are dwarf varieties.


·      Phlox – Phlox come in beautiful colors of purples, pinks, corals, and whites. Their downside is susceptibility to mildew. Newer varieties are resistant to mildew. Most varieties are quite invasive so plant in an area where they can spread.


·      Hibiscus – Perennial hibiscus are a most showy summer perennial are very hardy. Plants grow to about 4 feet and blooms are the size of a dinner plate. Blooms come in a variety of colors – most are reds or pinks. Be sure to choose north hardy varieties.

·      Coral Bells – Coral Bells grow about 8-12”  and are mainly planted for their vibrant leaf colors. Colors include yellow, deep red, copper, and greens. Most are tolerant to sun or shade and are a nice filler in shade gardens or for borders in sun gardens.

·      Russian Sage and Hyssop – Both of these plants grow about 3 foot tall and have spikes of purple blooms. These are a butterfly favorite and make a wonderful background plant.


·      Other perennials – There are hundreds of more perennials you can choose from. Some of these include balloon flowers, baby’s breath, beardtongue, coreopsis, etc.

Do your research before planting perennials and they will reward you with blooms and color for years.

 At Natural Plus we can help you plan a perennial garden if you need help.

Enjoy the beauty of summer!



 Planting Perennials that Attract Butterflies

 Almost anything that blooms in the summer will attract butterflies.  The most difficult part of planting to attract butterflies is narrowing down the choices. 

To get started ask yourself these questions and choose the plants that best suit your area: 

·      How tall do you want the plant to get?

·      Does your area have sun, shade, or part sun, and what direction does it face?

·      Do you want an evergreen or leafy plant?

·      Do you have any special wishes for the plant – color, blooms, etc.

Choosing native plants is always a good option.  

Some common perennials that are butterfly favorites include

·      Butterfly weed (Asclepias) -  Bright orange blooms, grow app. 2’


·      Blazing star (Liatris)- Spikes of lavender blooms, grow app. 2’

·      Cone flowers (Echinacea) – Come in multiple colors and sizes

·      Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) – Bright yellow with brown centers


·      Bee Balm (Monarda) – Come in multiple colors and sizes


·      Cardinal Flower (Lobelia) –Bright red blooms, grows 3’

·      False Sunflower(Heliopsis) – Bright yellow flowers, grows 3’


·      Hyssop (Agastache) – Blue violet spikes , grows 3’

·      Phlox – Come in multiple colors and sizes


·      Sedums – Come in multiple colors and sizes




Summer has finally arrived and the beautiful colors and blooms of summer are everywhere. A common question we get in the summer is

“Is it too late to plant?” 

The answer is no.

Container grown plants can be planted anytime from spring through fall. And a benefit of planting now is that you can see the foliage and blooms of the plants you are choosing.  So if you have procrastinated or simply ran out of time earlier to complete your gardening projects there is still time.

Four questions that you should consider when choosing any plant are:

·      How tall do you want the plant to get?

·      Does your area have sun, shade, or part sun, and what direction does it face?

·      Do you want an evergreen or leafy plant?

·      Do you have any special wishes for the plant – color, blooms, etc.

Once you have the answers to these questions, we can easily help you pick the plants for your areas.





An old proverb sums it up

“Take time to smell the roses.”

The beauty and fragrance of a rose makes us stop for a minute to enjoy life.

Growing your own roses can be a challenge but here are a few tips to help you be successful.

Tea roses are not hardy for our zone. Years ago they were our only option. They required a lot of care and winter protection and still did not fare well over winter. We now have wonderful new options for growing roses.

At Natural Plus we carry a few varieties of roses that are much more hardy, disease resistant, and rebloom. Here are some of those varieties:

Easy Elegance Roses : Easy Elegance roses are very hardy, highly disease resistant, and colors are stunning. Some varieties that we carry include:

            Coral Cove – Coral colored, everblooming, grows 24”

            High Voltage – Bright yellow, recurrent blooms, grows 3-5’

            Kashmir – Dark red tea like blooms, grows 2 ½-4’

            Music Box – Stunning yellow and pink blend, grows 3’

            Paint the Town – Everblooming, medium red, grows 2-3’

Nearly Wild – Nearly wild roses are one of our most hardy varieties. They bloom all summer. Blooms resemble the bloom of a wild rose. If there is a particularly hard winter, they usually come back from the root. Grow 2-3’

Purple Pavement –Purple pavement is a rugosa rose with fuschia colored blooms that grow in clusters.  They are very fragrant and plants are extremely hardy. Blooms turn to beautiful red “rose hips” in fall.  Grow 3-5’.

Climbing Roses: At Natural Plus we carry 2 varieties that we feel are the most hardy: William Baffin is a prolific bloomer with medium pink blooms.  John Cabot is a deep red colored. These require a trellis.

Knock-Out Roses-  We continue to carry knock-out roses that bloom all summer in red or pink. We have found these to be a little more susceptible to winter kill, but some people have had excellent luck with them. Good maintenance and protection over winter are the keys to success.

 Care of Roses

Roses need full sun to get optimal blooms. Adequate watering, usually 2-3 times a week is a must, especially for newly planted roses. It is also advisable to treat with a “Rose RX -3 in One” rose care product. This product provides protection from aphids, spider mites, black spot fungus, and powdery mildew. It is listed as organic.

 Fertilize roses 2-3 times a summer starting in late May with an all purpose fertilizer such as “Miracle Gro” or “Rapid Gro”.

 Trimming Roses

Best time for trimming roses is early spring before they leaf. Trim to the desired size. After they leaf, trim out any dead wood that remains.  They can be lightly trimmed during the summer to achieve optimal shape.

Overwintering Roses

Care over winter is a must. Be sure that roses are adequately watered going in to winter. Water once a week in the fall up until the ground freezes. Mulch roses heavily at the base in the fall. This also helps protect from winter kill.



There is nothing more delightful than seeing the spring and fall migration of birds, a robin’s nest with blue eggs, the bright yellow color of goldfinch, or the bright blue of an indigo bunting.

There are some things you can do to attract these beautiful birds to your yard.

Birds have 3 basic needs to survive – habitat, food, and water. With farm fields becoming bigger and bigger it is more important than ever that farmsteads, farm windbreaks, and urban homes provide these basic needs.  No matter where they are, any trees, shrubs, or perennials that you plant are good for birds. Adding a source of water is also helpful to attract birds.  


Evergreens are especially important for winter habitat. Eastern Red Cedars are native to Iowa. Many other evergreens such as junipers and yews also provide habitat and berries for winter food.

All shade trees provide habitat and shelter. Many of the smaller ornamental trees are excellent sources of berries. During the fall migration cedar wax wings especially like berries from serviceberries. Other ornamental trees that provide berries include crabapples, hawthorns, mountain ash, and fruit trees –especially cherries.

There are many shrubs that also provide berries. Some of these include viburnum, dogwood, elderberry, coralberry, aronia, and cotoneaster.  There are many varieties of viburnums. One of our favorites is called “Blue Muffin”. These grow about 5-7 feet tall and have beautiful clusters of bright blue berries. Aronia (Chokeberry) produce an edible berry which is considered an antioxidant. These can be harvested and made into jams and other products if you can beat the birds to the berries.

Perennials can also provide habitat and food sources. Hummingbirds,  warblers and other varieties of birds enjoy both blossoms and seeds. Planting natives is always a good idea.


Anything you plant will encourage birds to your yard. Add a water source and your yard will become a favorite stopping spot for them.  As always, be mindful of sprays, pesticides, and herbicides and avoid these as much as possible



  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.