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How To Trade Plants To Build Your Gardens

Updated on April 13, 2013
SheilaSchnauzies profile image

SheilaSchnauzies is a Miniature Schnauzer rescuer, writer, crochet designer, gardener, crafter, wife, mom & friend living in Omaha, NE.

How To Trade Plants & Make Garden Friends!

I have a bad case of "garden fever!" I'm all excited about adding new plants for this season. Before you start thinning out your wallet along with your seedlings, let's stop to think about a great, low-or-no cost way to add exciting plants to your garden - plant trading!

Trading plants is one of the most cost effective way to add new and interesting plants to your perennial gardens!

It's also a very good "green" gardening practice! Why? Let's say you have a big patch of orange daylilies that you just hate. Rather than digging them up and tossing them in the trash, why not offer them as trades? Believe it or not, a lot of people like and need orange daylilies! You could end up with some wonderful plants in trade, too.

Some of the most treasured plants in my gardens were received either in trades, or as gifts from friends. I remember one time when we had just moved and left behind a couple thousand plants, my friend Judy cheered me up by sending a box of starts from some of her favorite hostas and heucheras. I started a "Judy Garden" in her honor and always enjoyed it tremendously. And you can be sure when we moved again back to Omaha, her plants were all boxed up to come here! They are now thriving in my Out My Window Garden (see that lens link at right).

There are good practices to keep in mind, and not-so-good practices to avoid. I'll show you the best ways to get your plants to their destination safely and gain a good trading reputation!

Finding People To Trade Plants With Online

Try places such as GardenWeb, iVillage Forums, Yahoo Groups, Google Groups... Google search terms such as "garden forum" and you will turn up lots of interesting places. I've personally done all my trading via GardenWeb. I have had many excellent trading experiences over the last several years and as a result, I have many unusual plants I never would have found otherwise!

GardenWeb has one main Plant Exchange forum, and then there are many of the main plant categories (e.g., Hosta) that have their own exchange sections. Free membership sign-up is required. Members contact each other via on-forum messages or email, depending on their preferences.

Finding Neighbors To Trade Plants With

It's Easier Than You Might Think!

OK, this requires just a bit more bravery... you have to ASK. But once you get the hang of it, you'll be hooked. Very simple - if you're out on an evening walk and really admire your neighbor's clematis vine in bloom, stop and tell them! Ask for a small start of the vine. Offer a start of one of your vines in exchange. See your neighbor dividing a beautiful hosta? Offer to trade a start of one of your hosta for one of theirs. You get the idea. If nothing else, you'll get to know a fellow gardener and neighbor.

If you really admire one of their plants but you never see the owner, leave a little note by the plant or at their front door introducing yourself and offering a trade. They'll probably be flattered you took the time to admire their gardening efforts!

Last fall, I finally got the courage to sneak over next door and take photos of my neighbor's amazing dahlias. (I wanted close-ups!!) Just as I was snapping happily away, my neighbor arrived home and caught me! We laughed about it and started chatting about his plants. I ended up with a bunch of seeds from each plant, and a new friendship with my neighbor. A very good thing! See more about John's Dahlias below.

Packing Plants For Shipment

If you are shipping tubers or bulbs (dahlia, lilies, iris, tulips, etc.) your work is easy. Remove dirt from the plant roots. Wrap gently in dry newspaper or paper towels, rubberband them to prevent any dirt going everywhere, and package.

If you're shipping live, rooted plants, they must be kept moist during shipment or they will die. But if the foliage of the plant is wet, they can rot and die too. So what we typically do is wrap the root portion of the plant in very moist paper towel or newspaper. Put the wrapped root part only into a zip-loc bag or wrap it with press n- seal. Keep the leafy/stemmy part of the plant out of the plastic! You can place a tie or rubber band gently around the top of the plastic bag to prevent water leakage. Just not so tightly that it tears into the plant itself. Very helpful to label the plastic bag with the plant name, variety, etc. and any special instructions. Tuck the wrapped plants carefully into the box, ok to put in packing peanuts loosely as filler or use shredded paper, etc. to prevent the plants from banging around in the box.

Handy Trading Supplies! - These Little "Extras" Mean A Lot!

Trading Plants Through Groups, Clubs, Etc.

Lots of gardening groups exist everywhere. Find them! Ask around, watch the paper for announcements, Google, whatever...ask local Garden Center employees. Somebody will know something! Once you find your local Hosta group (or daylilies, or general gardening) get involved and you'll have a constant source of garden friends to trade with. Many such groups have an annual plant show or sale where everyone donates plants to sell to benefit the group.

Plant Trading Best Practices

How The Process Works

1. The traders exchange the important details (what, how many, size, etc.) so there are no surprises. Don't just say "I'll trade you hostas for iris." How many hostas of what variety for how many iris of what variety.

2. Agree on a mailing date. Most people like to mail early in the week so plants do not sit in the post office over the weekend. You should send one another an email when you have mailed the package. Delivery tracking info is nice but not essential.

3. Package your plants. (See separate section on this below). Label carefully, tuck in in any extra "surprise" gifts. (Many plant traders do this - add a packet of seeds, a candy bar, some trivial gift). Make SURE your package does not sit in a hot car all day before mailing or in other unfavorable conditions. You will have wasted your efforts if the plants die before they even leave town. Mail them when promised.

4. When your package arrives, unpack it immediately. Most plants appreciate soaking their feet in water for 24 hours in a shady place before planting. It helps minimize the shock of transport and transplant.

5. Plant your plants. Nice touch to take a photo of them in your garden and send to your trader with your thank you email or note.

6. Let the trader know their plants arrived, thank them, and make a note for your files whether you consider them a good future trade person.

What's Your Favorite Trading Plant?

What Kind Of Plants Have You Traded?

See results

Building A Great Reputation Is Everything!!

Mail on time!

Package Carefully!

Underpromise & Overdeliver!

Say Thank You

When Things Go Wrong...

Avoiding Disappointment, Amending For Mistakes

Despite best intents and efforts, people are human and things go wrong. The key is communication. If you can't deliver as promised, tell the trader immediately! Do your best to offer to make the trade right - shipping it later, shipping extra items, whatever you are willing to do. If your plants arrived sickly or dead, offer to replace them if you can.

If you don't receive a shipment as promised, communicate with them - maybe they're too embarrassed to tell you there's a problem. Maybe they went in the hospital, had a tragedy in the family - for whatever reason, your plant box may have gone straight to the bottom of their priority list. Try to keep the lines of communication open so that you might get your promised plants eventually.

What Do You Think About Plant Trading? - C'mon, You Can Tell Me!

What do you think about plant trading with other gardeners?

See results

Want to trade plants with me? Get your trading list together and email me at!

One Of My 2011 Trades - I Can't Wait For Next Year To See If It Grows!

My neighbor, John, has the most amazing dahlias I have ever seen. One day he "caught" me standing in his driveway photographing his beauties at sunset. We're relatively new neighbors and had never chatted very much before. Well, John was tickled pink that I took so much interest in his prize beauties that he visited a good twenty minutes, telling me all about them. He had never tried growing them from the seed pods they had, and I asked if I could have a couple to try. I came home with a seed pod from each of his seven plants and I can't wait to try them for next year! Of course if they're hybrids they'll be different, but who cares - surprise is half the fun.

My Green Babies

Click thumbnail to view full-size

It Pays To Keep Good Records

Keep a little file with an entry for each person you traded with - including the date, plants sent/received, extra gifts if any, etc. It's woderful to go back five years and see who gave you that gorgeous iris!

Plant Your Name In My Guestbook! - Nice to Meet You!

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is very interesting. I am in Hanoi so can't do it but it is a great idea.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting lens! Squidlikes

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image


      6 years ago

      I love your story about getting to know your neighbor! The neighbor on the other side of my rear fence has a *gorgeous* garden, and I've never worked up the courage to talk to him over the fence. Silly, really, as I'd be so flattered if he asked about my garden... perhaps I'll make the first move this weekend!

    • nicks44 profile image


      6 years ago

      Yep, I might just start doing this as well. Thank you for the info :)

    • Rumisglass profile image


      6 years ago

      great lens!

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 

      6 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      What a unique and terrific idea. Way more healthy than a Christmas Cookie Exchange! :) Thanks for the idea! Blessed!

    • aurora7 profile image


      6 years ago

      I like this lens. I never heard of trading plants before, but it seems like such a fun idea.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Love the idea and didn't know there were so many avenues to trade online. I've traded before for aloe plants, basil and peppermint with neighbors and friends. *blessed*

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      6 years ago

      Delightful lens -pinned to my board "How does your garden grow" I appreciated when you told us: Most plants appreciate soaking their feet in water for 24 hours in a shady place before planting. It helps minimize the shock of transport and transplant.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A wonderful idea. No need to spend money with so many gardeners out there.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice Lens

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Trading plants is a fantastic idea.. I had never heard of this before!!! I LOVE IT~! Blessed!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a great idea! One gardener's excess is another gardeners benefit. I like to trade produce with neighbors.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a great lens, you have given us lots of helpful information. Thank you for sharing, I learned a lot here.

      Congratulations on making Popular Pages - Featured Lenses.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Plants are a great way to connect with nature :)

    • microfarmproject profile image


      6 years ago

      I love to share plants! Just be careful not to share diseases and pests, such as root knot nematodes that are nearly impossible to eradicate once you get them. Thanks for the great lens!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image


      6 years ago


    • flycatcherrr profile image


      6 years ago

      Sharing one's plants and seeds is one of the pleasures of gardening. :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Awesome lens :) not heard of this before, going to see if any info online for Australia.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I can't say I've ever heard of plant trading! How interesting - blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi, & thanks for visiting my lens on having a spring plant sale, & thanks for the angel dust! Basically I am an older gardener who now writes about it (after 45 years of Indiana gardening!). So do just minimal garden work as compared to past years. Keep up the good work here, this will help a lot of gardeners experience more plants, that's always good! Best wishes.

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Omaha, NE

      @JohannDog: I wonder... maybe I should open this lens up to trading opportunities for folks. What do you think?

    • JohannDog profile image

      Johann The Dog 

      6 years ago from Northeast Georgia

      We trade plants regularly! Great fun!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great idea! I'm going to trade plants with my friends more often.

    • Beadsnresin profile image


      6 years ago

      What a great idea! Thanks!

    • TransplantedSoul profile image


      6 years ago

      What a great idea! Very social and green too.

    • jadehorseshoe profile image


      7 years ago

      A useful reminder for folks who want to EXPAND their garden at NO cost.

    • MrsPotts profile image


      7 years ago

      I do love to garden and trade plants with friends. Perrenials and seeds are the easiest for me to share. The best part is remembering who you received a plant from when out there in the garden. It's like having treasured friends around at unexpected moments and so uplifting. Great lens and idea!

    • hlkljgk profile image


      7 years ago from Western Mass

      this is a really great idea for getting and giving a bit more variety in the garden.

    • chezchazz profile image


      7 years ago from New York

      Great way to make friends and you've provided excellent information. Blessed by a gardening squid angel and featured on "Wing-ing it on Squidoo," our tribute page to some of the best lenses we've found since donning our wings.


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