Your Guide to Attending Plant Swaps

Ever wish you could multiply your plant collection without breaking the bank? It’s doable: Plant swaps are the secret weapon of budget-savvy gardeners.

And they’re not just about the plants. These gatherings are fantastic opportunities to meet fellow plant enthusiasts, swap gardening tips, and find inspiration for your own green space. 

A long, thriving history

Plant swaps aren’t exactly trendy. They date back millennia to early agricultural societies that traded seeds and plants to diversify crops and gardens. 

These days, plant swaps take many forms, including in-person events hosted by clubs, businesses, and municipalities, as well as online swaps through social media groups and forums. There are also seed swaps and themed swaps that focus on specific types of plants. Try Googling “plant swap near me,” and you can find all sorts of local options.

We suspect that the practice of trading plants is still going strong today because it’s fun; it promotes sustainability, and it allows for a wider variety of plants to be grown. Plus, people who love plants enjoy swapping stories and ideas as much as trading plants themselves. And, of course, there's the whole money-saving aspect and the chance to get super-cool plants you wouldn't necessarily find at stores.

Before you attend: Select and prepare your plants

While plant swaps are casual events, they do require a bit of preparation.

First of all, you’ll need to figure out which plants you’ll be bringing to trade. One of the best ways to find interested swappers is to offer a nice variety of plants. Just about anything you can grow—herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers, green plants, house plants, and ground coverings—can be swapped.

Carefully examine the plants you’re thinking of trading to make sure they’re healthy, free from pests and diseases, and have well-developed root systems.

Once you know what you’re bringing, label your plants so potential swappers can easily identify them. Include each plant’s common name and scientific name (if known). It also helps to include basic care instructions to help new owners take good care of the plants.

The plants you bring should be in clean containers or pots, the more attractive they are, the better your chances are of attracting other swappers’ interest. Along the same lines, remove any dead or yellowing leaves before you go to the swap, and water your plants the night before you attend.

Getting your plants to the swap

Put some thought about how you’ll be transporting your plants to your event. Use boxes or crates to prevent tipping or damage on the way. You can use them to bring the plants you don’t swap, and your new ones, on the way home.

If it's hot outside, consider using a cooler with ice packs to keep the plants cool, and if it’s cold, you can insulate your plants with newspapers or blankets. 

Making the most of the swap

At the swap, be open to fair trading practices. Sometimes you might trade a single plant for multiple smaller ones or vice versa. 

A few more etiquette tips:

  • If you offer trades, suggest something that’s comparable, either in the desirability of the plant or its value. 
  • Don’t hesitate to say no or negotiate if you receive offers that don’t seem fair.
  • If someone turns down your offer, be gracious, not pushy.
  • Never take a plant, or anything else, from other swappers’ stations without their permission.
  • Understand that someone may swap a plant they just got from you to get something else. Don’t take it personally.

Also, while you’re at the swap, take the opportunity to chat with other gardeners and share experiences. You might leave with more knowledge than you came with — and some friends. 

Online swaps

As mentioned, online plant and seed trades offer a convenient alternative (or supplement) to in-person events. Here are some tips for navigating the digital plant swap scene:

  • Choose reputable platforms: Stick to established plant swap groups on social media (like Facebook or Reddit) or dedicated plant exchange websites. Look for communities with clear rules and active moderators.
  • Research your swap partner: Before committing to a swap, check out the other person's profile or past trades. Look for positive reviews and clear communication.
  • Agree on shipping details in advance: Discuss who will cover shipping costs and how the plants will be packaged. 
  • Set clear expectations: Provide detailed descriptions and photos of your plants, including their size, health, and any special-care needs. Ask for the same information from your swap partner.
  • Be patient and communicate: Online swaps may take longer than in-person exchanges. Be patient with shipping times and keep communication open throughout the process.
  • Start small: If you're new to online swaps, begin with a small trade to build trust and get a feel for the process.
  • Follow through: Once you've committed to a swap, be sure to follow through on your end of the bargain. Ship your plants promptly and carefully.

Post-swap plant care

When you get home, give your new plants some time to acclimate to their new environment. We recommend quarantining your new plants for a few weeks and watching them to make sure they’re free from pests and diseases that might have gone unnoticed.

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