Show off your garden
If your intended target has never been to your house, invite them over for tea, dinner or a card game. Make sure to take them outside to your garden or have them sit near your prized indoor plants. Excitedly tell them about something new you have done or bought recently. If your friend is worth gardening with, they will comment on a particular plant or compliment your garden. This is your chance to plant a seed by continuing the conversation about your garden.
Use this opportunity to talk to them about plants or their own garden (or lack thereof). If they do comment on a particular plant, offer to give them a start of it. Even if they wave you off with a, “No, I’ll kill it," make sure that they are welcome to your knowledge and your plants.
Give a plant for no occasion
Once you start to pique your friend’s interest in gardening, bring them an interesting yet easy to grow already potted plant for no reason. This can be a plant from your own garden or a cheapie from a nursery you’ve picked up. Obviously you know what is easiest to for you to propagate from your collection to pass along to your friend. This can be something as easy as a pothos vine or an airplane plant. If you want to make it seem like you have a good reason to be giving a plant, some of my favorite gifts are “Baby Toes” (Frithis pulchra) for a recent mother, a grape vine for a wine enthusiast or Lucky Bamboo for someone interested in Asian-themed decorating.
Giving them a cutting of something mouth watering and unique is also a good tactic. Plants like Brugmansia, Night Blooming Cereus, and Plumeria are all easily propagated and, more than likely, your friend has never heard of them. Be sure to show your friend a picture of these plants' blooms to help your case!
Give Them or Let Them Buy Something Difficult
A gardener doesn’t get a real spark in their green thumb until they kill something. As a gardener friend of mine once said, “When I first tried it and failed miserably, it fired up a rebellion in me.” Think of how motivated you are to do better when a plant dies against your best efforts. You must succeed! This is what we want your new gardener to feel. Give them or steer them to a plant they are likely to kill. Don’t tell them it’s difficult; just make sure to give them proper care instructions. We all have our trouble spots, but some difficult plants can be most Ivies, African violets, Prayer Plants, most ferns, and of course the plant I can’t stop killing or buying, the Rex begonia.
There’s always a chance that they might not kill it, in which case you should shower them with praise and let them know that their thumb is turning greener.
If your friend is responding well to your efforts, then you can take them up to the next gardening level. You could ask them for some landscaping help or start to invite them on more nursery trips. If fall is near, you could introduce them to the wonders of bulbs. If you know of any good sales or have extra coupons to local or online gardening stores, pass them along.
If your friend isn’t biting for the planting side of things, there are always other avenues. Topics such as composting, butterfly or insect gardening, edible gardening such as herbs or vegetables, water gardens, or native gardening might suit their fancy. They also might find seed starting interesting in early spring or you could teach them how to winter sow. There is usually a way to their inner-gardener, you just have to seek it out.
Enjoy Your New Enabler
Hopefully all of your plotting and coaxing will soon work. Beware though, as this process can be a double edged sword. Your newly green-thumbed friend might now be the instigator of plant shopping trips and also might ask you to help plant the 150 bulbs you just took them to buy. But the rewards should far outweigh the consequences of your cunning. Be certain to steer them to the Dave’s family and they will surely be hooked for life.