• ljmarkson

Intown Atlanta GNPS Native Plant Swap & Share FAQ

Updated: Sep 11

I'm helping organize the Intown Atlanta GNPS Native Plants Swap & Share as part of the Annual Meeting. Since this is the first time we're doing this, the following FAQ may answer some basic questions and details so anyone who wants to join knows why we're hosting this, how to prepare, and what to expect.

Why add native plants to my yard?

Native plants have co-evolved with other native plants, wildlife and/or human populations. They sustain the ecosystem, increase biodiversity, and support native wildlife. such as bird and insect pollinators. Native plants are adapted to the moisture, soil, and climate conditions of their ecoregion, They are low maintenance don’t need pesticides or supplemental watering (once established) to survive. Native plants help manage stormwater because their roots are extensive and/or deep, and help water move through the soil, rather than compacting soil and limiting infiltration.

Besides helping collect and filter storm water, native black-eyed susans (rudbeckia fulgida) are hardy, beautiful, and attract all sorts of pollinators including this sweet little sweat bee! (photo taken at Zonolite Park)

What are that disadvantages of non-native plants?

Non-native exotic, or introduced, plants are native to a different part of the world, and often require human intervention to keep them growing. They provide limited if any habitat value. Not all non-native plants become invasive, but the ones that don’t require care can often outcompete and replace native plants. Some common non-native invasive plants that might be growing in a residential yard that are listed on the Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council include monkeygrass (liriope), periwinkle (vinca), lantana, and English Ivy.

Invasive English ivy is choking out native plants in natural areas yet is still sold at nurseries and planted as a ground cover in residential landscapes. English ivy can be replaced with other shade tolerant native ground covers including wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), golden ragwort (Packera aurea), or white wood aster ( eurybia divaricata).

How do I know if a plant is native?

Native plants grow naturally in our ecoregion but it’s not always easy to tell if the plants our yards are native or non-native. Using plant apps such as iNaturalist Seek, PictureThis, PlantSnap, PlantNet, or Google Lens helps. Joining the Facebook group Georgia Native Wildflowers and Plants can help identify if a plant is native to Georgia or not. Some common Southern landscape perennials that are not native to Georgia include hostas, lenten rose, ajuga, canna lilies, cast iron plant, and siberian or beared irises.

PictureThis is my favorite plant app and seems to always be rated one of the top plant apps. Its accuracy is great except for grasses and sedges.

Why is the Native Plant Swap & Share free?

The goal is to encourage and make it easy for people to add native, locally sourced, pollinator, and habitat friendly native plant species to promote sustainable landscape practices by swapping and sharing native plants.

Local native plant nurseries are the best way to naturescape our yards with local native plants, but seasonal sales and swaps help fill in the gaps a bit. This summer as I pulled up native plants that were wandering off my property I potted them up to share!

How do I donate if I still want to support the Intown Atlanta Chapter of the GNPS?

As a non-profit organization, we always welcome donations! Our continued success and ability to protect and promote native plants depends on the generosity of our members and friends. You can donate at the Share & Swap, or go to the GNPS website anytime to donate - just make sure to note in the comment section that "the donation is for the Intown Atlanta Chapter of the GNPS" so it is directed to us.

If I don’t have any native plants, can I still participate in the Native Plant Swap & Share?

Yes! If you don’t have any plants to swap, please join us – participants with plenty of native plants in their yard will bring native plants to share so you will go home with at least one new native plant…and maybe more!


I’m a gardener and have lots of healthy, non-native plants, can I bring them to exchange?

As a native plant organization, our mission is to promote and protect native plants, so we will only be swapping and sharing native plants. Volunteers will help participants identify plants and ask that non-native plants be to be returned to the owner’s car.


Why is this called a Swap & Share?

The Swap is a one-for-one exchange of up to 10 plants. This is a way to add biodiversity to your yard if you have native plants by swapping out native plants you have for "new" ones. Gardeners are generous and the Share is a way for anyone with an abundance of native plants to bring more plants than they will swap so there are plants to share with others who may have recently started adding native plants in the landscape, just moved, or are removing non-native plants and replacing them with natives.


How will the plant Swap & Share work if I bring plants?

You will get one ticket for each native plant brought for up to 10 tickets total. In addition to the plants you intend to swap, donations of a few additional plants are encouraged so everyone who participates can bring home at least one native plant.


What time can I start dropping off plants and is there an advantage to coming at noon?

We're opening the plant drop off starting at noon to make it easier for volunteers to get ready for the Swap & Share. There will be a table to drop off plants and exchange them for tickets. Participants will be given tickets in sequential order so first drop offs get first choice of plants when the Swap begins.

When does the actual Swap begin?

The annual meeting begins at 1:00 and will last around 45 minutes or so. The Swap will start after the Annual meeting.

The swap will begin after the Annual meeting where members will learn more about the Intown Atlanta GNPS, what we've done this year, and future plants. Lori Conway, Vice Chair of the State Board, will be our featured speaker to give us an update on the State GNPS Stone Mountain Propagation Project. (this photo was taken at last year's annual meeting at Zonolite Park)

What is there to do until the meeting and swap if I drop off my plants at noon?

Zonolite Park was once an industrial wasteland contaminated by asbestos until South Fork Conservancy worked with a coalition of federal, state and local organizations (including GNPS) to turn a brownfield into a 13-acre urban sanctuary. Thanks to the ongoing restoration by the Friends of Zonolite Park, you can take a leisurely walk through the park and see a rich biodiversity of native plants. King of Pops will also be on hand to offer treats for sale, GNPS will have tables with information about native plants, and organizations including Pollinator Friendly Yards will be on hand to share the habitat value of native plants in the home landscape. This is also a great opportunity to connect with other people who want to promote and protect native plants.

Zonolite Park woods is always a peaceful nature area to spend a little time!

Is there a bathroom at the park?

There is not a bathroom at the park, but there is one at the Kroger in the Sage Hill Shopping Center on Briarcliff across from Zonolite Road.


Is there anything I need to bring to the Swap & Share? Bring your own box or if you have one, a wagon to help move your plants or help others move their plants. (For the Annual meeting you may want to bring a chair to sit in and your own reusable water bottle)


Is there still time to pot up native plants for the Swap & Share? Ideally plants need a couple weeks to adjust to transplanting, but if you haven’t already potted up your plants for the swap, it is suggested this be done by Monday, September 12,

There's still a bit of time to pot up some native plants to bring to the Swap & Share!

Can you give some more detailed information about potting up native plants and getting ready for the swap?

  • Choose your favorite plants that are native to Georgia and growing abundantly in your yard.

I've potted up a ridiculous amount of native frog fruit (phylla nodiflora) from editing it to keep it from growing on my front sidewalk. Frog fruit is a hardy groundcover that can even take a bit of foot traffic. Tiny pollinators love it and it is even a butterfly host plant.
  • To maintain the habitat value of native plants and protect pollinator health and wildlife, please ensure that any plants you plan to share are free of pesticides. Even natural pesticides such as neem oil that many people use in their vegetable garden can pose a threat to important pollinators of the ecosystem, including bees and caterpillars.

The habitat value of native plants is lost if pesticides are used. Because neem oil prevents insects from developing further, it can prevent bee larvae from developing if adult bees (like this increasingly rare American bumblebee on a buttonbush flower) feed them neem oil-coated pollen they've brought back to the hive.
  • When you dig a plant, do this in the early morning or evening.

  • Get as much root as possible and include soil plant is growing in. If the plant is growing in our Georgia red clay it needs to be supplemented with “soil conditioner” found where you buy bagged garden soil. An inexpensive potting mix can be made with equal parts compost or potting mix and soil conditioner.

I helped a friend pot up native plants in her yard and she just mixed half and half soil conditioner and potting soil. I often mix soil conditioner with whatever opened potting soil or compost I have to make a less expensive potting mix.
  • Once you dig a plant, immediately put it in an individual pot and water it to ease the shock to the plant. All plants need to be potted up, not bare rooted or in bags.

The best way to ease transplant shock is to immediately plant it after digging and water it once you pot it up.
  • Label each plant with the common and botanical/Latin name (if you know it) and if it grows in the sun or shade. Any additional information about the plant such as height, bloom color and time, moisture requirement, or habitat value would be an appreciated bonus! If you want to add habitat value such as if a plant is a butterfly host plant or attracts hummingbirds this would be fantastic to include.

  • There are a number of upcycle ways to label your plants. Mini blinds, plastic containers, round lids, or milk jugs can be cut up and used. Clothes pins, popsicle sticks, or even plastic utensils can also work. Use industrial sharpies, oil based paint pens, or pencils depending on what you're using for labels. I print out all my plant labels from a large stash of water proof labels I bought a few years ago so I can put more information on the labels.

I often share plants so I have waterproof labels on hand to put directly on the pots.
  • Put your potted plants in a shady spot and water as needed before the Swap & Share.

I've potted up native plants and now I just need to add labels to them before the plant Swap & Share! Plants shown include river oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), passionflower vines (passiflora incarnata), blue mist flower (Conoclinium coelestinum), coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempivirens), and Southern shield fern (Dryopteris ludoviciana)

I hope to see you at the Annual Meeting and the Native Plant Swap & Share!



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