Five Tips For Scouting Out Plants On A Budget

May 4, 2018

Imagine a candy store filled with all of your favorite candies, but only having the money to buy one. How would you go about choosing the right one? What if you wanted multiple types or couldn’t decide? Ahh, the frustration! This is the same sort of dilemma that many budget-conscious gardeners run into on their search for plants to fill up their garden. How would someone go about finding their favorite plants on a budget? This question has multiple answers, but I’ve taken the five main tips for acquiring plants on a budget and listed them below.

1: Have a Set Budget Before Visiting a Nursery or Garden Center

If I were to visit my local nursery with the intent to browse around, see what they have, and then leave, it would be easy for me to overspend – especially if I see an new or uncommon plant.

That being said, garden centers are not bad places. They provide a continuous supply of beautiful, healthy plants that are great if you have the money to buy them. I check out my local garden center about once a month to see what they have, and I almost always end up purchasing something.

One way of ensuring that you don’t overspend is to bring cash. If you only have $20 with you, there is no possible way of buying $25 worth of plants.

2: Trade With Friends

Since most gardeners are generous with their plants, it never hurts to ask someone if they have a plant you want. Many gardeners (although we hate to admit it!) end up weeding out hundreds of unwanted plants a year, whether that be from overly ambitious spreaders or a mass of self-sown seedlings.

I’ve collected several of my favorite garden plants from friends who were rethinking an old garden, downsizing, or just throwing out extra plants!

Don’t be afraid to offer a trade to a fellow gardener. I always have too much Phlox (various species), so when I saw an eye-catching bearded iris cultivar in a friend’s garden, I offered a start of some phlox (which they didn’t have) for a nice healthy iris division. Don’t be afraid, just ask! It’s surprising how far that will get you.


Everything you see in this photo was acquired through trading.
Everything you see in this photo was acquired through trading.

3: Attend Plant Sales

This may seem counterintuitive to the idea of saving money, but you can almost always find some steals at local plant sales. I’ve found extremely rare arums and bulbs on sale for $2 a plant…all because someone was dividing their stock! If you’re interested in learning more about how to approach a plant sale, check out this post I wrote on shopping a plant sale.

4: Buy Plants That Are Easy To Propagate

This does not mean planting invasives  that will cover ground at lightning speed. It may seem like a smart idea in the now, but a few years in, you will realize that was a BIG MISTAKE (like the bamboo I’m currently battling). Instead, focus on plants that are easy to root from cuttings or grow from seed.

Planting some quick spreaders is fine, just be mindful of where you place them, and be prepared to routinely dig out the unwanted pieces.

5: Grow Plants From Seed

If you are really interested in gardening on a budget and have the time and space to do so, start some seed! Just a single seed packet of a given annual contains enough seed to equal $200 worth of starts from the nursery, and that’s a conservative estimate.

The selection is also much greater if you order seed versus purchasing plant starts.

The only thing to keep in mind when starting seed is the time commitment. If you’re busy, like me, you may run off and forget about the seeds you planted for a few days at a time. By the time you remember them, they’re all dead from lack of water. If you can devote the time, then growing plants from seed is a tremendous money saver!


Anything you’d like to add about finding plants on a budget? Let’s hear it!



  1. LaLennoxa says:

    One thing I’ve learned is with most plants, if you are in need multiples of a plant, and are a little patient, all you need to do is buy one with a good root system and break it into many pieces and plant. I’ve been known to hack mercilessly into one plant and create many multiples this way. Plants like brunnera almost explode in growth with this form of propagation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *