Passalong Plants

By Steve Bender, Felder Rushing

Foreword by Allen Lacy

Passalong Plants

236 pp., 8 x 9, 82 color photos

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4418-2
    Published: November 1993

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Awards & distinctions

1994 Quill & Trowel Award for Writing, Garden Writers Association of America

Passalongs are plants that have survived in gardens for decades by being handed from one person to another. These botanical heirlooms, such as flowering almond, blackberry lily, and night-blooming cereus, usually can't be found in neighborhood garden centers; about the only way to obtain a passalong plant is to beg a cutting from the fortunate gardener who has one.

In this lively and sometimes irreverent book (don't miss the chapter on yard art), Steve Bender and Felder Rushing describe 117 such plants, giving particulars on hardiness, size, uses in the garden, and horticultural requirements. They present this information in the informal, chatty, and sometimes humorous manner that your next-door neighbor might use when giving you a cutting of her treasured Confederate rose. And, of course, because they are discussing passalong plants, they note the best method of sharing each plant with other gardeners.

Because you might not spy a banana shrub or sweet pea in your neighborhood, the authors list mail-order sources for the heirloom plants described. They also give tips on how to organize your own plant swap. Although the authors live in and write about the South, many of the plants they discuss will grow elsewhere. from the book Amid the clamor of press releases touting the newest, improved versions of this bulb or that perennial, what keeps people interested in old-fashioned plants? Nostalgia, for one thing. It's hard not to feel a special fondness for that Confederate rose, night-blooming cereus, or alstroemeria lovingly tended by your grandmother when you were a child. Such heirloom plants evoke memories of your first garden, of relatives and neighbors that have since passed on, of prized bushes you accidentally annihilated with your bicycle. Recall the time you first received a particular plant, and you'll recall the person who gave it to you.

About the Authors

Steve Bender is a senior writer for Southern Living and a contributor to several books on southern gardening. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama.
For more information about Steve Bender, visit the Author Page.

Felder Rushing is a seventh-generation Mississippi gardener, an author and columnist, and host of radio and television gardening programs. He lives in Jackson, Mississippi.
For more information about Felder Rushing, visit the Author Page.


"The perfect marriage of two noble traditions: southern storytelling and a gardener's love for sharing plants."--American Horticulturist

"Each plant in Passalong Plants is accurately described in the intimate language of front porch talk, and the authors always tell you how to grow it--whether by seed or cutting or division."--New York Times Book Review

"All readers who appreciate fertile ground wherever they find it will be hard-pressed not to laugh out loud as Bender and Rushing hold forth. Be sure to scribe your name in your copy as soon as you get it, because this book will 'passalong' among friends faster than weeds sprout."--Fine Gardening

"An entertaining and insightful ode to the fragrance, color, and history of old-fashioned plants and the people who love them. . . . The authors' writing ranges from reflective to laugh-out-loud funny, making this book an enjoyable, easy read. Once you've picked it up, you'll want to pass it along to you favorite gardener."--Southern Living

"Rushing and Bender are storytellers in the great Southern tradition, and expert gardeners, too. Best of all, they are wonderfully amusing companions for the trip on which they invite us: a tour of traditional Southern garden plants."--Horticulture

"You can define Passalong Plants with one word: fun. . . . This book is worth passing along to those people close to you."--Southern Living