Word is getting out that native plants come with a unique set of ecological benefits. The Nectary is here to keep Florida-grown plants blossoming in Lakeland.

The Nectary is bringing a new meaning to the phrase “homegrown.”

Owned by Michelle Sylvester and Kathryn Adeney, The Nectary is Polk County’s only retail nursery specializing in native plants that are exclusive to Florida.

“They existed here before the Spanish colonists arrived; that’s kind of the commonly accepted definition before other plants were brought over from Europe and other places,” Adeney told The Lakelander. “We exist to tout the benefits of those plants to people who may not be aware that they don’t have to buy the same plants their neighbor has. They can use plants that are native to Florida and that our insects have evolved with.”

One of their goals is to show Lakelanders that their spaces can be just as beautiful with birds, dragonflies, and other creatures that could come along with housing native plants.

“We’re working on teaching people the benefits of bees, not just for honey but for pollination in general,” says Sylvester. “There are so many people that are afraid of bees, but when they experience bees and wasps, they [see] that they have benefits and aren’t just something to be feared.”

The Nectary officially opened its doors in December after outgrowing the local farmer’s market.

“We had a lot of repeat customers at the farmer’s market who wanted more than they could carry from our little spot to their car,” said Sylvester. “We found that there was a need for more volume than what we could handle at the farmer’s market. We were also outgrowing my yard, which is where we were growing and storing everything. We needed a place where we could have more of a variety.”

Adeney and Sylvester were strategic about housing their plants in downtown Lakeland as there’s only one other nursery in the area.

“There’s a huge need for native plants,” says Sylvester. “There aren’t any exclusive, retail, Florida native nurseries in Polk County. We’re the first one that only does retail. Lakeland is a great place to start a new business, and we have a passion for native plants. So, it was a very fast but natural transition.”

Sylvester and Adeney go as far as making house calls to create a landscaping plan for those who aren’t sure where to start. They provide a list of user-friendly plants that they believe could enhance that particular yard. Sylvester says she and Adeney have already experienced the trial-and-error of planting native plants, so their clients don’t have to.

“We’ve failed so many times. I’ve bought plants three times and killed them all three times,” jokes Sylvester. “So when someone says they want to put a certain plant in their hot, sunny, dry yard, I’m like ‘I did it three times, don’t do it!’ … We don’t want people to fail, get discouraged, and resort to what everybody else has and what they’re used to seeing at stores.”

The Nectary is located at 1047 E. Main Street and open Wednesday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.