How to Get Your Neighbors Growing Natives

I’ve been thinking about guerrilla gardening lately. I’ve done it… but why not delegate and get your neighbors to do the work? If you’re a butterfly gardener, birder, or simply a lover of native plants it is a good way to increase the species diversity in your area.

Increasingly rare pawpaw trees bear large, delicious fruit and are the caterpillar host plant for the beautiful zebra swallowtail butterfly.

Photo Caption: Increasingly rare pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) bear large, delicious fruit and are the caterpillar host plant for the beautiful zebra swallowtail butterfly. I grew this one year old transplant from seed (and I have a baggie of seeds in the fridge crisper to start this year).

Studies show that birds thrive in areas rich with native species. Butterflies are more likely to show up if they find their host plants to use as stepping stones on the way to your garden. Why not drag out that tower of cheap garden center pots and germinate the excess from your overflowing seed box? Once they’ve grown a bit you can stick them on the curb with a “FREE” sign and watch as they pop up in the yards down the street.

Potting up native plants (such as this milkweed) to give out to your neighbors is a great way to recycle those accumulating nursery pots.

Photo Caption: Potting up native plants (such as this milkweed, Asclepias sp.) to give out to your neighbors is a great way to recycle those accumulating nursery pots.

Your neighbors might not be skilled gardeners so you can increase the chance your potted army will succeed by adding care and planting instructions. This might be a simple tag with the plant’s name, light requirements, height, and whether it is annual or perennial. Or you could print out a slip that includes a description along with its uses in the garden. People loveĀ  knowing that a plant is rare or that it will attract wildlife. The more details you include, the more likely they will be to take care of it.

At the very least include a popsicle stick or recycled mini blinds tag with the plant’s name. Remember that common names can vary by location so it is best to include both the common and scientific name.

Spicebush (Asimina triloba) is another great plant for butterfly gardeners. It attracts the spicebush swallowtail butterfly, whose caterpillars have large, brilliantly colored false eyespots.

Photo Caption: Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is another great plant for butterfly gardeners. It attracts the spicebush swallowtail butterfly, whose caterpillars have large, brilliantly colored false eyespots.

If you don’t want to spend the time potting up seedlings, why not give away packets of seed? Homemade envelopes are easy to make, or you can buy coin envelopes instead. Pass them out at the next block party or simply leave a “help yourself” box next to the sidewalk. Decorating with colored stamps may make them particularly attractive. Be sure to choose seeds that are easy to germinate so that first time gardeners aren’t discouraged. If you don’t know what kind of planting instructions to include you can look them up on the internet.

Even more foolproof is dividing plants you have an abundance of. Chances are you are very familiar with their care and won’t have trouble writing it down for others. Or perhaps you’ve been meaning to attempt propagation with rooted cuttings. Why not? If you fail no one will be disappointed but you. Your neighbors will be none the wiser until your offerings show up to tempt them…

Happy vicarious gardening!

Eliza Lord

I'm a Greenville, SC native (the Appalachian foothills) who wears the hats of Greenville Master Gardener & Upstate Master Naturalist. I love to write about food and sustainability.

4 thoughts on “How to Get Your Neighbors Growing Natives”

  1. Tina - February 24, 2010 5:14 pm

    Like this idea a lot! BTW what is SCUMS from your last post?

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - February 25, 2010 8:21 am

      SCUMS is the South Carolina Upstate Mycological Society:

      http://www.scumsonline.com/

      Reply
  2. Kylee from Our Little Acre
    Twitter: OurLittleAcre
    - February 25, 2010 10:40 pm

    Paw Paws grow natively here, too, and I wish we had one on our property. I keep hoping to find one somewhere, but so far, no luck!

    Reply
    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - February 25, 2010 10:46 pm

      You can get seeds or saplings here:

      http://www.blossomnursery.com/

      Be sure to get 2 for pollination! :)

      Reply

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