University City

Charlotte-area plant sales a welcome sign of spring

In a welcome sign of spring, plant sales are popping up like tulips throughout the April calendar.

The best reason to shop these seasonal sales, obviously, is the plants. You can find choice varieties that rarely show up at big-box garden centers. In addition, these sales support valuable local garden organizations.

Two of the best sales are in University City on overlapping days, at UNC Charlotte and nearby Central Piedmont Community College’s Cato Campus. This makes it easy to enjoy a pleasant outing to visit both. Wing Haven in Myers Park and Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Gaston County also host eagerly anticipated April sales at different times.

UNC Charlotte’s sale, April 17-18, is known for having the best selection of native plants in Charlotte, along with other “choice shrubs, unique tropicals, carnivorous plants and more.” Among the many choices this year are a wonderful flowering native ground cover named green and gold, woodland phlox and wild Indigo.

“Our specialty is native plants, something homeowners will be interested in seeing,” says Ed Davis, horticultural supervisor of UNC Charlotte’s Botanical Gardens. “Our plant sizes are smaller and affordably priced, intentionally, so homeowners can get started without a huge investment.”

Central Piedmont Community College’s sale is also April 17-18, but be careful about time if you want to hit both sales, because they have different hours. CPCC’s sale, managed by CPCC faculty member Jeff Gillman, a popular garden author, traditionally offers healthy plants at reasonable prices. This year’s sale will emphasize “herbs, veggies and tried-and-true shrubs and perennials,” Gillman says.

Wing Haven is a bird sanctuary and urban oasis close to uptown Charlotte that now includes the nearby gardens of beloved garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence. Wing Haven’s sale is a week before UNC Charlotte’s and CPCC’s this spring, April 9-11. Wing Haven consistently offers herbs, ferns, roses, rare varieties and natives, along with high-quality landscape plants.

“We have plants that nobody else does,” says Ben Fletcher, Wing Haven’s garden curator, “including ‘legacy plants’ propagated on site, some from plants grown by Elizabeth Lawrence and (Wing Haven founder) Elizabeth Clarkson.”

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, at 6500 S. New Hope Road in Belmont, is the region’s large arboretum. Rather than a single event, Stowe plans to hold a plant sale every weekend in April, featuring different guest vendors with “an eclectic inventory of herbaceous perennials and woody shrubs,” according to its website.

At 1 p.m. Saturdays, a staff member will lead a horticulture walk, and at 1 p.m. Sundays, Matt Kokenes of Microfarm Organic Gardens will speak on “everything from composting to vegetable gardening.”

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Master Gardener volunteers also hold spring sales. These sometimes hold unexpected treasures for gardeners, since Master Gardeners grow some of their own sale plants and may have unusual varieties, plus you can ask garden questions and get knowledgeable answers.

All the sales are worth a visit. A standout is the Iredell County sale in Statesville on April 25, organized as a full garden fair with 50 vendors from throughout the Charlotte region.

Don Boekelheide is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Don? Email him at

Want to go?

UNC Charlotte: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. April 17-18 in front of the greenhouse on the university’s main campus:

Central Piedmont Community College: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. April 17 and 9 a.m.-noon April 18 at CPCC’s Cato Campus, at the intersection of W.T. Harris Boulevard and Grier Road:

Wing Haven: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. April 9-11, at Wing Haven Nursery, 248 Ridgewood Ave., off Selwyn Avenue. Admission is free with a purchase, and free programs on plant and garden topics daily at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.:

Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens: Featured vendors: April 4-5, A World of Salvias, and Microfarm Organic Gardens, with vegetables and herbs; April 11-12 and 18-19, Cindy’s Greenhouses, with hanging baskets; April 18-19 and 26-27, Oakdale Greenhouses, with herbs and landscaping plants.

On April 18, Stowe will also celebrate EarthFest from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. The first 100 families to visit EarthFest will receive a complimentary tree sapling:

Master Gardner volunteer sales:

Union County: 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. April 11, Agricultural Center, 3230 Presson Road in Monroe.

Cabarrus County: 9 a.m-noon April 18, Winecoff Farmers Market, 518 Winecoff School Road, Concord.

Iredell County Garden Fair: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. April 25, 444 Bristol Drive, Statesville.

Mecklenburg County: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. May 2, Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Yorkmont Road in Charlotte.