How To Host A Succulent Swap

Because “Friends don’t let friends buy succulents”

garden guide

“Friends don’t let friends buy succulents.” That’s the tagline for the Grossmont-Mount Helix Improvement Association’s annual succulent swap event.

“As a gardener, it seems criminal to put viable plant material into the landfill when others are paying good money for succulents at the home-garden stores,” says Susan Nichols, who’s been president of the Grossmont-Mount Helix Improvement Association for a decade.

Each spring (starting five years ago), the East County homeowners’ association organizes a succulent swap on a 2-acre La Mesa property that attracts more than 200 neighbors, friends and acquaintances. Those who have cuttings and plants to share bring them in by the carload. Neighbors just starting their gardens or looking to grow their plots are welcome too, often leaving with tomato boxes full of potential.

garden guideHere’s how to make yours a blooming success:

Pick a spot. Not everyone has a willing friend or neighbor with a 2-acre residential property to host a succulent swap. Susan says to work with what you’ve got—a community garden, a rec center, a school parking lot, even a street block party could serve as suitable venues for the friendly exchange of plants. 

Welcome all plants. Invite attendees to bring any pest-free plant material. Everything from geranium clippings to California poppy seeds (Eschscholzia californica) make easy shares. Cuttings, baby plants, rooted or planted pots and homegrown fruits and vegetables are good. Susan says large, eye-catching plants like foxtail agave (Agave attenuate) go quickly, but even a common jade plant (Crassula ovata) will find a home. Susan recalls one year when a neighbor brought an interesting variegated euphorbia; it was so popular he went home to gather more clippings to share.

Keep it free. The Grossmont-Mount Helix Improvement Association doesn’t charge admission, and vendors don’t sell anything. Much of the appeal of the event is its “buy nothing” concept, Susan says.

Promote your event. Plant swap groups exist on the virtual Facebook and NextDoor communities. Susan says to post swaps online as a way to generate interest, collect plant and box donations and rally volunteers, which you may or may not need depending on the size and scope of your shindig.

Be a good guest. Swappers aren’t picky about presentation. Collect donated clippings in bags, boxes or little red wagons, then arrange in piles by type. The only real etiquette: Don’t take more than your share, especially if it’s a really prized plant. “People are free to take what they want, but we would frown on anyone taking all of something really exotic. Just be sure that others have an opportunity,” Susan says. Share the freebies!


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