Botanical gardens hosting monthly native plant giveaway

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The National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kaua’i has started a monthly native plant giveaway program to raise awareness of endemic plant populations and guide the public in playing an active role in conservation. 

  • Ōhiʻa, ʻAʻaliʻi, native hibiscuses, loulu palms, and breadfruit will be offered at upcoming free native plant giveaways hosted by the National Tropical Botanical Garden. (Courtesy of the National Tropical Botanical Garden)
  • Free ʻŌhiʻa, a species of flowering evergreen tree, will be offered at the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s next native plant giveaway, known as Grow Aloha, on April 20, 2024. Pictured is Uma Nagendra, a conservation operations manager at Limahuli Garden & Preserve in 2022. (Courtesy of the National Tropical Botanical Garden)
  • ʻAʻaliʻi (dodonaea viscosa)will be offered at the giveaway on May 18. (Courtesy of the National Tropical Botanical Garden)
  • Native hibiscuses, a type of tree that grows fragrant flowers, will be offered during the event on June 15. (Courtesy of the National Tropical Botanical Garden)
  • Loulu palms (Pritchardia spp.) Hawaii’s only native palm, will be offered at the giveaway on Jul. 20. (Courtesy of the National Tropical Botanical Garden)
  • Breadfruit trees, a traditional staple crop of Hawaii, will be available for free at the Grow Aloha event on Aug. 17. (Courtesy of the National Tropical Botanical Garden)

“We’re really excited to launch the program,” said David Bryant, the director of communications for the National Tropical Botanical Garden, in a recent interview.

“The idea really was to get these native plants out into the community and to lower barriers to getting these species.” 

The event, known as Grow Aloha, was held for the first time on March 16, when approximately 150 people turned out to adopt the tree species wiliwili (erythina sanwicensis). 

“We had some really good conversations with folks at both of our garden locations,” Bryant said of the inaugural event.


The garden, a nonprofit organization with nearly 2,000 acres of gardens in Hawai‘i and Florida, will continue to make free plants available for pickup at the South Shore Visitors Center at McBryde & Allerton Gardens in Koloa and Limahuli Garden in Hanalei, from 9 a.m. to noon on the third Saturday of every month. 

The event is also available to those on Maui or Moloka‘i, with plants available at the nonprofit’s Kahanu Gardens in Hana, as well as partner location Moloka’i Land Trust.

A map showing all four locations in the state hosting the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Grow Aloha free native plant giveaway program. (Courtesy of the National Tropical Botanical Garden)

A different species of native plant will be offered at each monthly event, and a total of 200 plants will be available for the public to pick up on a first-come, first-served basis, Bryant noted. Those who adopt a native plant must be a resident of Hawai’i, and there is a limit of one plant per family. 

The next event will be held on Apr. 20, when free ʻŌhiʻa (metrosideros polymorpha), a species of flowering evergreen tree, will be offered. 


ʻŌhiʻa is known as one of the most important species of native Hawaiian trees, providing shelter and food for native birds, including honeycreepers, as well as insects, snails, and other invertebrates.

“It plays a really big role in our ecosystems. And of course, it’s in countless different Hawaiian stories and chants, and just a really deeply important part of Hawaiian culture. So bringing it into your yard is so great for perpetuating all of those aspects,” Bryant said. 

Alongside the giveaway, the nonprofit will also provide educational resources on horticultural care to help people successfully grow their new plants. 

“It’s just really trying to invite our community to grow native plants and grow heritage crops and be part of environmental restoration,” Bryant said.


Bryant and his co-workers aimed to have the events cover a range of plants, from ground covers to trees, but also choose plants that would be simple enough for first-time gardeners to grow successfully.

“We met as a team and discussed plants that would be really great to get out into Hawai‘i. But also, plants that we knew would work for a range of different growing situations,” Bryant said.

“We wanted to make sure people feel encouraged and like they can do this and convince them that if they don’t have a green thumb, they do,” he added. 

Future events are scheduled to give away ʻaʻaliʻi (Dodonaea viscosa), native hibiscus, loulu palms (Pritchardia spp.), and breadfuit or ʻulu, from May through August, respectively.

Although the garden has been doing different types of giveaways for quite some time, Bryant hopes Grow Aloha will create an ongoing event for people to return to every month. 

“I think the ambition with this program is that people really enjoy it, and they come back and adopt more and more plants,” he said. “That’s the dream.”

Emma Grunwald

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