Help for the Home Gardener

Helping the public learn about plants has been at the heart of the Garden’s mission since its inception. We love sharing the knowledge we’ve gained over 160 years of gardening. While that dedication manifests in the design and implementation of large-scale conservation and restoration projects around the world, the Garden is equally committed to helping home gardeners get the most out of their own landscapes.

The largest nonprofit gardening information center of its kind, the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening is the Garden’s hub for home gardening knowledge. The Center’s 8,000-square-foot building and 23 surrounding demonstration gardens have been educating the public—and our own horticulturists—in traditional and experimental gardening techniques since 1991.

Inside the Kemper Center for Home Gardening building, visitors can consult with Garden staff and volunteers to identify mystery plants, address common problems, and learn which plants would work best in their homes. Fact sheets are available for visitors to take home, and a classroom provides ample space for learning everything from cultivation to culinary application of plants.

Photo by Mary Lou Olson

The Center’s vibrant demonstration gardens are a highlight of any Garden visit, especially in the summer months when colorful displays burst from every corner of this unique showplace. These distinct, residential-scale gardens offer visitors a rotating glimpse of what’s possible in their own home gardens, no matter the size, shape, or conditions.

“Seeing something inspiring at the Garden can be a game-changer,” says Julie Hess, Senior Horticulturist and Annual Display Designer for the North Gardens. “When a home gardener sees our plants in unusual settings and combinations, it can pique their interest to try something new at home.”

Trying new configurations and combinations also helps grow the Garden’s body of knowledge as horticulturists test and perfect various approaches. “In the trial gardens, we push plants to the limits,” Hess explains. “We can show home gardeners what might work at home—or not. We also talk to visitors about their interests, their conditions at home, and what they would like to achieve.”

“We are constantly learning, trialing, and updating our practices to protect plants and display them to inspire the next generation of home gardeners.”

Andrew Wyatt, Sr. Vice President, Horticulture and Living Collections

New Digs for Plant Doctors

The helpful resources at the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening are now more accessible than ever thanks to a major overhaul completed spring 2019, including a new custom-built information desk that consolidates all of the center’s gardening information resources in one place.

The new Center for Home Gardening resource desk | Photo by Tom Incrocci

“We wanted to centralize everything,” says Jennifer Smock, Center for Home Gardening Manager. “All of our education programs are now located in one spot, with Garden staff and volunteers working side-by-side and learning from each other as they assist the public.” The renovations were made possible by a generous gift from the family of Alma Reitz, who volunteered at the Center for many years.

Smock hopes to see additional improvements take shape in the near future, including an interactive calendar for planning gardening tasks, an enhanced beehive display highlighting the importance of pollinators, and demonstration area for sharing quick tutorials on common gardening tasks.


Staff and volunteers answer gardening questions and make plant recommendations 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Photo by Tom Incrocci

‘Round the Clock Gardening Resources

The Kemper Center for Home Gardening staff and volunteers offer a wealth of information to Garden visitors each day, and you can also find answers to many of your gardening questions without even leaving home. The searchable Plant Finder database gives gardeners instant access to detailed horticultural information for more 7,500 plants. The Gardening Help website features monthly gardening tips, answers to frequently asked questions, visual guides and best practices for Midwest gardening, and information on how to combat common pests and problems—all available 24 hours a day.

Need More Gardening Help?

  • Email your plant questions to plantinformation@mobot.org.
  • Call the Plant Doctors Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon at (314) 577-5143.
  • Take a class! Gardening and landscaping classes at the Garden are designed to help everyone from novice home gardeners to aspiring horticulturists accomplish their gardening goals.

John Dedeke
Content Managing Editor

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