Ask a Master Gardener: Finding Neonicotinoid-Free Plants

monarch on tithonia

Hello from South Minneapolis, where we have finally gotten some rain and slight relief to our drought conditions. This month’s Ask the Master Gardener question is about neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides commonly used in the nursery industry as well as home gardens.

Question: Where can I buy neonicotinoid-free plants for my yard and garden?

Answer: First of all, we commend you for seeking out neonic-free plants. Here are a few concerning points from a Xerces Society report:

  • Because neonics are systemic pesticides, all parts of the plant, including the nectar and pollen, become toxic to bees.
  • These pesticides linger in the soil and the plant itself, affecting pollinators even many weeks or months after their application. Residues have been found in woody plants up to 6 years after application!
  • Neonicotinoids have been found in waterways and wetlands downstream from where they were applied.

Click here for the full Xerces society report.

bumblebee on goldenrod

Bumblebees on goldenrod.

So, what’s a gardener to do? I can’t recommend enough that you buy plants, whenever possible, at a nursery versus a big box store. Nursery staff will be better educated to answer your questions about whether their suppliers use neonics.

Secondly, take some time to familiarize yourself with the common neonicotinoids out there. The main neonicotinoids sold in stores are imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin, thiacloprid, dinotefuran, acetamiprid, nitenpyram and sulfoxaflor. They are marketed under names like Bonide, Dominion, Wondercide, GrubGONE, Optigard, BioAdvance Complete Insect Killer, Safari, Ortho Bug Be Gone and many more.

Concern for pollinators is just one of the reasons that Master Gardeners always recommend integrated pest management strategies before going out and buying something that might do more harm than good.

Now for the good news! We have several neonic-free nurseries and plant sales in the Twin Cities region. Here are several—please note that “Prairie” nurseries might not supply vegetable and annual plants. For those, seek out spring plant sales that are dedicated to organic growing.

 

Minneapolis:

Bachman’s on Lyndale has been neonic-free since 2014.

Mother Earth Gardens, with locations in both NE and Longfellow, Minneapolis.

 

St. Paul:

The Friends School Plant Sale, yearly event in May

 

Greater Minnesota:

Prairie Restorations, with locations in Princeton, Scandia and Cloquet

 

Online, shipping to the entire Midwest:

Prairie Moon Nursery, Winona MN

Prairie Nursery, Westfield, WI

 

bumblebee on coneflower

A lone bee keeps busy on a coneflower.

If you are buying native perennials to create pollinator gardens, Wild Ones has a wealth of information about local plant sales and neonic free native plant nurseries.

Another strategy is to look at any nursery for plants grown by Minnesota wholesaler Glacial Ridge Growers, who are neonic free.

Add your comment below if you know of more neonicotinoid-free nurseries or growers and let’s crowdsource some more ideas, especially in greater Minnesota and the Midwest.

The friendly folks at the hort society and I will check in and answer as many questions as we can about this post through Aug. 31. If we don’t get to yours or you don’t want to wait for next month’s installment, you can Ask a Master Gardener via our online form anytime! Or call the yard and garden line at (612) 301-7590.

Other helpful resources:

Yard & Garden Home

What’s Wrong with My Plant?

What insect is this?

The Master Gardener Volunteer program

 

Jennifer Rensenbrink is a University of MN Extension Master Gardener for Hennepin County. She grows native plants, vegetables and fruit in her south Minneapolis yard. You can follow her gardening adventures on Instagram.

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8 Comments

  1. Brenda Trevis on August 26, 2022 at 11:14 pm

    I find it hard to believe that Sluggo is a neonic. It is allowed for use on certified organic operations.

    • Jennifer on August 27, 2022 at 1:33 pm

      Hi Brenda, I did a little more digging on this with my morning coffee today. 😉 It seems like there are multiple products named Sluggo. I actually found it listed on “neonicotinoid-free pesticides” list produced by the government of Oregon:

      https://www.oregon.gov/ODA/shared/Documents/Publications/PesticidesPARC/NeoNicAlternativesNurseries.pdf

      I think the important thing, if you want to avoid harming bees, is to look for the active ingredient on any pesticide you consider buying. If it is one of imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin, thiacloprid, dinotefuran, acetamiprid, nitenpyram or sulfoxaflor, then it’s a neonic. The other most important thing is to follow the instructions on the label. Not only are the label instructions the only lawful way to apply a pesticide, but they’ve been written as to minimize harming insect populations that you don’t want to harm.

      Hope this helps! I’ll ask the folks at the Hort to remove “Sluggo” from the list above since there is some confusion around that brand name and some products by that name might *not* be Neonics.

  2. Evelyn Locke on August 27, 2022 at 11:52 am

    Here is a copy of the label approved by the EPA, Sluggo does not contain a neonic
    MASTER LABEL
    Active Ingredient:
    Iron phosphate ………………………………. 3.0%
    05/25/2018 67702-55
    Sluggo Maxx brand (ABN: Sluggo HP)
    (ABN: Sluggo 3.0)
    By weight Other Ingredients: …………………………………. 97.0%
    Total 100.0% SUBLABEL A: Home and Garden Use
    SUBLABEL B: Commercial Agriculture Use

    • Jennifer on August 27, 2022 at 4:48 pm

      Thanks, Evelyn!

  3. Molly Nemec on September 1, 2022 at 6:20 pm

    FYI – Landscape Alternatives in Shafer, MN (on Highway 95 north of Stillwater and south of Taylors Falls) sells native plants that are free of neonics! Please call them to verify so you can add them to your list.

    *They also offer 10% off to Hort Society members!

  4. Jennifer Rensenbrink on September 6, 2022 at 4:53 pm

    Horta Culture in Afton also offers neonic-free plants. https://www.shophortaculture.com/

    • MSHS on September 7, 2022 at 3:30 am

      Oooh, love them. Thanks, Jennifer!

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