This post is for those of you that live in the San Antonio or South Texas area (like me!). I am giving you my best tips on where to find native plants to purchase for your home garden (or in some cases, get for free) to save you time and searching. For those of you that don’t live in San Antonio, I recommend checking out my tips for finding native plants near you. But first let’s start with what exactly are native plants?
Why It Is Important to Grow Native Plants
If you add any new plant to your yard, make it a native! Native plants are the foundation of a healthy ecosystem. These plants have evolved in your local area, while non-native plants were introduced from other countries. Native plants:
- Are important food source to plant-eating insects
- Serve as host plants to butterflies and moths
- Require less water and maintenance
- Support more species than non-native plants
If you are new to native plants be sure to read the Top 6 Benefits of Native Plants in Your Yard. The majority of our yards are currently filled with non-native plants so there are lots of opportunities to swap in some natives and help the environment, from trees to flowers!
Where to Purchase Native Plants of San Antonio
Before I started becoming a native plant junkie, I bought most of the plants for my yard at my local Lowes and HEB. Why? Because it was convenient. However, these big box retailers have not yet embraced the importance of native plants for our environment. Unfortunately, mostly what you will find at these stores are plants imported from other continents like Asia and Africa.
1. San Antonio Native Plant Nurseries
There are a handful of local nurseries that sell a variety of native plants. Make these your new favorite place to shop! Both Rainbow Gardens and Milberger’s are partners in the SAWS Watersaver Rewards and Lawn Rebate programs (see below for details).
I’ve found that Rainbow Gardens has the best selection of native plants in San Antonio. They have two locations – one on Thousand Oaks Blvd. and one in Bandera. Rainbow Gardens has their native plants arranged along their main walkway, making them front and center. They also have helpful signage to help you identify native plants.
Milberger’s Nursery is my other go-to nursery for native plants, although I’ve found them to have a more limited selection than Rainbow Gardens. I say hit up both to find a good mix of plants for sun and shade! It is located on Hwy 1604.
Look for Milberger’s helpful signs which include the Scientific (Latin) name that you can check against your native plant list to make sure you’re getting the right thing. The sign also has helpful growing tips for the plant. I tend to take a photo of the sign with my phone for each plant I buy.
If you want to learn a lot of cool things about native plants, I highly recommend you join the Native Plant Society of San Antonio. Membership is $45 a year and includes access to local classes and speakers (currently via Zoom), discounts at their plant sales, and more.
Even if you don’t join NPSOT, you can shop at their annual Native Plant Sale. They tend to have a wide variety of natives including some that are hard to find at nurseries. The next sale date is April 8th!
I love the San Antonio Botanical Garden. It is well worth the annual membership. They typically have a variety of native plants for sale right outside of their gift shop. If you’re a member, you get 10% off.
How Can You Get Free Native Plants in San Antonio?
1. Enroll in the SAWS Water Saver or Lawn Rebate Programs
I think this might just be one of the best kept secrets in San Antonio! The city water utility (San Antonio Water Systems) offers several coupon programs for improving your yard with native plants. Native plants use less water than non-natives (and especially turf grass) so they are great for water conservation.
This is such a cool program available to anyone in San Antonio. You can earn up to $150 in coupons towards native plants, mulch and garden tools, by participating in the SAWS WaterSaver Rewards classes. Classes are typically sessions on gardening, composting, water conservation, etc. You can find the full list of classes here.
So you can learn cool things and get free plants for doing it. Sounds too good to be true, right? Each class you attend typically earns you 1 point. Here is what you earn for collecting points throughout the year:
- 3 points = $30 coupon towards purchase of gardening tools or a rain barrel
- 5 points = $50 coupon towards mulch or compost
- 7 points = $70 coupon towards plants, mulch, birdbaths, compost, rain barrels and other landscaping supplies
Coupons are redeemable at participating retailers including Rainbow Gardens and Milberger’s Nursery. Multiple people in a household can participate, so if you and your significant other do it together you get double the rewards!
Plus, the program starts over each year. I earned all my points last year and used them towards supplies for my new native landscaping bed. I will be participating again this year and I’m recruiting my husband to join me!
SAWS has a separate Landscape Coupon program that awards you $100 towards plants for every 200 sq ft of lawn (and sprinkler heads) you remove! I am going to be participating in this program this year. You can find the details of the program here.
You get to use the $100 coupon towards 15 native and/or adaptive plants that require less water in your landscaping. SAWS provides a list of 40 approved plants, and there are some awesome options on here:
2. Join the Native Plant Exchange on Nextdoor
If you are on Nextdoor, you can join the Native Plants Seed Sharing and Plant Swapping Group. You never know when someone may have some extra plants to share. Or you can share some of yours.
Similarly, the Native Plant Society has a plant donation program. Their members list plants they have available. In exchange, the society just asks for an (optional) small donation to help fund their efforts.
What are the Native Plants of San Antonio?
I’m glad you asked! San Antonio has an amazing variety of native plants. While some of these plants are endemic to the Texas Hill Country around San Antonio, many others can be found throughout Texas, and other states as well. Check out my list of Top 15 Texas Native Plants to Grow for my favorite plants to grow in San Antonio.