I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t believe how expensive some plants are at the nursery (and even at the big box stores). So, how do you get enough plants for your garden without breaking the bank? I like to use a lot of perennials, and those I am willing to spend a little more on; consider it an investment-you buy a good plant, take care of it, and it’ll reward you year after year. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend A LOT on them. Here are my tips for saving money when purchasing plants:
- Don’t buy a plant just because it has lots of flowers on it at the nursery. I like to look at the greenery and the roots as well. A lot of times you can tell the health of a plant-based on these two things. Sometimes the plant without flowers, but beautiful green foliage and a strong root system is the better choice. Always, always, check the roots; these are the lifeline of the plant, and without strong roots, a plant cannot survive.
- Buy clearance flowers. Most places will clearance out plants that have stopped blooming even though they are still perfectly wonderful plants. For instance, plants that bloom in early spring will be clearanced out mid to late spring because the flowers have dropped (think Asiatic lilies). If you follow tip #1 and make sure the roots and greenery are still healthy and plant it right away, it will bloom the following spring. Sure you won’t have the immediate gratification of the flowers, but you can sometimes get a plant for a great price that will reward you for years to come. Not only that, but you will be giving that plant plenty of time to develop a strong root system for the next season.
- Join the store garden clubs. Our local Home Depot has a garden club and it’s free to sign up. They send me emails with growing tips and coupons throughout the year (I just received one for $5 off of a $50 purchase). Also, always check the ads, especially around Memorial Day, because as planting seasons change, various plants will go on sale. I know I really wanted to buy a couple of boxwood for my front yard but they were $16 apiece, and that was just too much for me to spend!! But, I waited, and at the Memorial Day Sale I was able to pick them up for $2.50 each!!
- Shop farmers markets. They usually have great, healthy plants for a fraction of the cost of the nursery. I picked up a hydrangea bush at our local farmer’s market for $5.00-this same bush was $30.00 at the nursery! This is because they don’t have the overhead expenses that the stores do, however, they generally are on a cash-only basis and you don’t have the added benefit of the plant guarantee.
- Speaking of that plant guarantee-keep your receipts. If you buy a plant at Lowe’s or Home Depot and it doesn’t survive the first year, you can get your money back, but generally only if you have your receipt. That way you’re not out the money (or the plant) if it doesn’t make it.
- Divide your plants. If you have a plant that has gotten too big and no longer looks so healthy, divide it! Most plants need to be divided every 2-4 years in order to stay healthy. It’s really not that difficult, and you can double or even triple your investment by doing so. Daylilies, hostas, daisies, coneflowers; all of these like to be divided. If you’re unsure of what to do, the web is a great source of information! Here are some links I recommend: here, here, here.. **Keep in mind that there are some plants that do not like to be divided, so be sure to check before digging so as not to kill any plants!
- Buy plants that reseed. Some annuals (and perennials) will reseed; that is they drop seeds that will eventually create new plants. Gaillardia, coneflowers and coreopsis are examples of some perennials that do this. What I like to do is deadhead the plant by cutting off any flowers that have lost their petals or no longer flourish. I drop those on the ground in an area where I would like the plant to spread (doing this will also stimulate your plant to produce more flowers-win/win!!) As these dry up, the seeds germinate and more plants will grow! You can also dry out the heads and germinate the seeds yourself, but I’m lazy, so I allow Mother Nature to do all of the work for me!! Some reseeding annuals are alyssum, larkspur and petunias. Just let the flowers drop and the greenery wither at the end of its growth period, and next season you should have new ones grow!
- Trade plants with another gardener. Most gardeners like to share plants. This is a great way to try out new plants in your garden. It’s also a good way to get rid of plants that you thought you were going to like, but have ended up just not enjoying. There may be a local club or group in your area for gardeners that you can join, or maybe you have a neighbor, family member or friend you that you can trade with.
- Start plants from seeds. Seed packets are pretty inexpensive, especially when compared to the cost of the same plant full-grown at the garden center! Here is a great article on how to prepare and grow these seeds into a beautiful flower. I have yet to be successful at this-mine always end up dying-but it’s still something I’m working toward!!
- Start plants from cuttings. Many plants can be propagated from cuttings. This takes some time and work, but if you have a healthy plant that you love, this provides the chance to “create” another one while spending very little money. You just need soil-less potting mix, a pot, rooting hormone (this can be found at most nurseries), a plastic bag, a healthy cutting and a little know how. Here are some links with step-by-step instructions; here, here, here.
**All photos from BHG.com.