Tennessee Aquarium members and guests can celebrate “Plantsgiving” this November with a free native plant giveaway beginning Nov. 6.
Many pollinator species have adapted to thoroughly intertwine their lives with those of native plants, which they utilize for food, reproduction and habitat. Some insects rely heavily on plants during some (or even all) of their life stages, a pairing emblemized by Monarch Butterflies and milkweed.
To help support this natural relationship between pollinators and plants, Aquarium Plaza Maintenance Supervisor Jenna Paler collected seeds from native plants on the Aquarium plaza. She then placed these seeds into hundreds of packets, which were distributed to guests visiting earlier this year.
Now, for Plantsgiving, guests are being offered the opportunity to take home a mug filled with one of 11 different native pollinating plant plugs. The mugs feature a floral design and the Aquarium logo and will be available for free at the Member Services entrance on Monday, Nov. 6, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The mugs are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If any remain after the first day, the Plantsgiving event will be extended through the same hours on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The giveaway comes at an opportune time for would-be native gardeners. While spring might be more typically associated with gardening, keen horticulturists know that planting in the fall helps give plants a leg-up for the upcoming season.
“Fall is a really good time to plant native species,” Paler says. “Plants go dormant in the fall, but soil temperatures always remain a little bit warmer than the parts of the plant above ground. By planting plants now, the roots are better able to establish for the next harsh summer, and you don’t have to do as much watering.”
The plant plug should be placed in the ground as soon as possible – within a few days – so that it can take root before winter.
Plantsgiving is a continuation of the Aquarium’s ongoing partnership with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to support pollinators. In recognition of Pollinator Week in June, the Aquarium and TDOT launched Pollinator Pathway, a self-guided experience on the Aquarium plaza.
Visitors can still explore the Pathway, which features permanent signage displaying information about pollinators and tips for making their yards and gardens more pollinator-friendly. Guests also can learn more about the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program for Monarch Butterflies, which were listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2022.
Asmonia “Blue Ice”
Clump forming perennial plant with clusters of blue star-like flowers. Blooms in late spring, and fine-textured foliage turns bright yellow in fall. 15 – 18 inches tall and wide. Plant in full to part shade and moist, loamy soil.
Eastern Red Columbine
Red and yellow flowers appear atop wiry stems in early spring. These enjoy cool weather. 24 inches tall and 15 inches wide. Plant in partial sun to shade in soil with average garden moisture.
Supports Monarch Butterflies. Broad leaves on a tall stem with pink clusters of flowers that bloom in summer. 24 to 48 inches tall and spreading. Plant in full sun and average soil, but tolerates dry and poor soil.
White Wood Aster
Forms loose clumps with small but abundant flowers that bloom in late summer to early fall. 15 inches tall and wide. Plant in partial sun to full shade in average soil.
Blooms mid to late fall with beautiful purple flowers. 24 to 36 inches tall and wide. Vigorous grower that tolerates dry soils and prefers full sun.
A garden staple. Blooms purple daisy-like flowers all summer and feeds birds with seeds in fall. 24 to 36 inches tall and wide. Plant in full to partial sun in average garden soil, but tolerates dry conditions.
A butterfly favorite. Tall stems produce large purple or pink clusters of flowers that bloom midsummer to fall. Leave the flowers on in fall to feed birds. 5 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide. Adaptable in the garden from full sun to partial shade.
Blooms red late June to August. Resistant to powdery mildew. A favorite among hummingbirds and long-tongued bees. 3 to 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Plant in full sun and average to moist soil.
Many fragrant five-petaled blue or purple flowers bloom in early spring. 12 to 18 inches tall and 8 to 12 inches wide spreading into a ground cover. Plant in partial to dense shade and moist soils.
Appalachian Mountain Mint
Aromatic perennial producing silvery white flowers among upright stems. Good soil stabilizer. Foliage turns red in fall. 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. Plant in full to partial sun in moist to average soil.
Heart-shaped leaves with white spikes of flowers from April to May. Good fall color. 8 to 12 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide. Plant in partial to full shade in moist rich soils. Prefers cooler areas and serves as a good border for shade gardens.