University of South Florida

College of Arts & Sciences


interior of greenhouse at the Botanical Gardens

The Fall Plant Festival will be held Oct. 14 and 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Photo courtesy of Angelika Kirkham)

Fall Plant Festival returns with free entry for USF students, faculty and staff

The USF Botanical Gardens is providing free admission to USF students, faculty and staff at the upcoming Fall Plant Festival to be held on October 14 and 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

butterfly alit on a plant in garden

The USF Botanical Gardens is part of the College of Arts and Sciences ECORE (Environmental and Conservation Outreach, Research, and Education) System. (Photo by Corey Lepak)

“The festival is a celebration that draws in over 8,000 visitors during our two-day event, it plays a crucial role in supporting the garden's growth,” Angelika Kirkham, program assistant at the USF Botanical Gardens, said.  “The funds raised from this festival are the lifeblood of our organization, sustaining everything we do now and aspire to do in the future. Additionally, the festival serves as a valuable community resource, offering individuals the opportunity to both learn about and acquire a diverse array of plants.”

The annual festival also helps to aid the expansion and maintenance of the garden’s diverse plant collection, care of the grounds, and the growth of educational programs, Kirkham explained.

“At this festival, you can explore a wide spectrum of plants, including carnivorous species, fruit-bearing trees, ornamental shrubs and trees, an assortment of cacti and succulents in various sizes, as well as indoor plants such as aroids and ferns,” she said.

An array of Florida native plants, including wildflowers and ornamental varieties perfect for your garden and pollinators, will also be available.

“Florida native plants have become a central focus of the USF Botanical Garden's goals, aimed at raising awareness and fostering their inclusion in people's homes and landscapes,” she said.

The festival is aiming to be family-friendly as well, offering a selection of food trucks, a scavenger hunt and coloring sheets for children.

“If you're considering attending the Fall Plant Festival, I would say it's a fantastic opportunity to enhance your garden, add beauty to your dorm room, or elevate your plant collection,” Kirkham said. “Not only will you have access to a wide range of plants from licensed nurseries, but you'll also be supporting local Florida businesses and contributing to the growth and maintenance of the beautiful USF Botanical Gardens. It's a win-win for both your garden and the community!”

Allyson Yap waters a Lemon Button Fern in the green house. (Photo by Corey Lepak)

Allyson Yap waters a Lemon Button Fern in the green house. (Photo by Corey Lepak)

Kirkham said her favorite part of the festival is the opportunity to explore different nurseries and discover unusual and unique plants for sale. 

“My favorite purchase was a Maxillaria tenuifolia, which was an orchid that smells like coconut, such a cool find! Additionally, the sense of community at the festival is truly special. It's not just a plant sale; it's an event where visitors can immerse themselves in the beauty of our botanical collections and enjoy the natural surroundings,” she said.

For non-USF attendees, admission to the Fall Plant Festival is $10 per person, with children 12 and under free.

Kirkham also recommends that attendees consider purchasing a Botanical Garden membership, which costs $35 for a year. Memberships include free visits to the garden throughout the year, early access to the festival, and access to the American Horticultural Reciprocal program, courtesy of the USF Botanical Garden's affiliation with the American Horticultural Society.

“It's a great value for plant enthusiasts and garden lovers!”

Angelika Kirkham

The USF Botanical Gardens plans to host three annual festivals: Fall (October 14th and 15th), Spring (April 12th and 13th), and Summer (June 22nd).

“These festivals have a rich history dating back to 1978 when the garden was not open to the public. During those early days, there was no plant shop, and the office was nonexistent,” Kirkham said. “The initial idea was simple: placing some plants by the side of the road to gauge interest. Over time, this small roadside sale has evolved into a grand event featuring more than 50 diverse vendors. Our festivals have grown into a cherished USF tradition.”

Learn more about attending the Fall Plant Festival.   

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The College of Arts and Sciences is the intellectual heart of the University of South Florida. We are a community of teachers and scholars united in the belief that broadly educated people are the basis of a just, free, and prosperous society. By focusing on the big questions facing all of humanity, we prepare students for successful, socially responsible personal and professional lives. By conducting innovative, interdisciplinary research and scholarship, we advance knowledge in ways that prepare us to address complex social and scientific problems and enhance the quality of life for people and communities.