Gardening is a fun hobby that is refreshing and can easily be inexpensive. Here are some easy ways to get free plants and seeds for your garden!
How To Get FREE Or Cheap Plants and Seeds
Since we’re moving and I can’t have a garden this year I am going to live vicariously through the blog and share all my gardening tips. I do have all the plants I’m taking in pots so they’re ready to go. The “few of my favorites that I just have to take” turned out to be about 20 pretty large containers of plants. I think I have one very full carload of plants alone! If you are just starting out with a new garden, check out these tips to help you save when getting plants.
How To Find Inexpensive Plants
- Talk to the manager if you see plants at a store that are in bad shape but not dead. Ask him if he will give you a “deal” if you take them off his hands. Most of the time they will give you a deal because the plants look bad and they don’t want to mess with them anymore. Last year I was able to purchase over 50 large half-gallon to gallon-sized perennials for $50. (over $600 retail) All but about five of them lived and I was able to take those back to the store and get my money back. Most home improvement and discount stores have a guarantee that if your plant dies within one year, you can bring the dead plant and the receipt and they will give you your money back or give you a new plant.
- Trade plants with friends. Divide your plants or get divisions from your family. We divided four hostas over two years to get over 30 plants. If you see someone digging in their garden and throwing out plants, ask if you can have them. Most people are more than willing to give you their extras.
- Plant zinnias and marigolds in areas where you want a lot of color with little fuss. Just work the soil, put the seeds down and by early summer you’ll have lots of flowers. You can have cut flowers all summer!
- Many ladies are familiar with the cookie swaps, where you each bring five dozen cookies and trade. Try organizing a plant swap with cuttings/starters of different plants using the same concept.
- We have a local adult service for the developmentally handicapped. They have a greenhouse where they sell plants, herb and vegetable seedlings, and even fruits and vegetables that they raise (for job training). The cost is half or less than that of any of the stores in town. They will often give you a free plant in exchange for giving them your old plastic pots.
- Our local technical college has a horticulture program. Twice a year they have greenhouse sales and the selection and prices are terrific. Get on the department’s email list and get there early. Some high schools do this, too.
- Our county has a website set up like Freecycle that will connect people who want to give away or swap plants, seeds, etc.
- Don’t overlook the obvious: Buy seeds and plants at grocery and drug stores. Right after Mother’s Day, they move it all out for the July 4th sales. I just bought name-brand $1.99 seed packets for 10 cents a pack and some already bloomed flowers for $1.00 a plant, regularly $20. Once in the ground, you can give them some water and TLC and they will bloom again.
- Post on marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for any plants or gardening needs. You may have to do a little digging.
- Check with your local Native Plant Society. They try to secure permission from developers to remove native species prior to development. Yes, you will have to dig these up. They often have extra native plants and they are suitable for your climate.
We save money on gardening by cloning a lot of plants. While some plants clone easier than others, a great many can successfully be duplicated.
For example, your neighbor may have a bush or flower that you really admire but don’t want to pay what it costs from the store. Ask if you can take a cutting from their plant. Since you only need a small piece, most folks are happy to oblige.
You want to snip off a piece from the tip of a branch consisting of several leaves. Wrap the end in a wet paper towel and, once home, strip off any lower leaves to leave a stem. Put this in a small pot of high-quality potting soil and water.
Four-inch pots work well for cloning. Make sure your pots can drain water and keep moist! A little water every day or so is good. You just need to keep the stem moist so it will start putting out roots. You can use a root-stimulating product, but we don’t. For plants difficult to clone, like roses, I imagine it would be worthwhile. You dip the stem in the stimulator, then plant. Some folks advise covering clones with plastic to hold in moisture. We’ve tried that but had lots of problems with mold.
After your plant is well rooted you can plant as usual.
Note from Tawra:
A root stimulator is a very good idea. It’s about $3 for a small bottle which will last the rest of your life! All you do is dip the end of the stem into the powder and then put it into the soil in the pot. I have found that this will save a lot of frustration and greatly speed up the time it takes for the plants to be ready.
One great way to get free plants!
The best thing I have found is to talk with friends, family, and neighbors to see if anyone will “split” some of their perennials with you! Get in touch with a local church or the elderly community and see if they need help in the garden in exchange for starters. Having the company would surely please the elderly, and will give you a lot of tips and tricks from long ago. It will do both of you good… inside and out!
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We have two large cottonless, cottonwood trees that we started by taking a cutting from a tree, and just sticking the cutting in the ground. Don’t know if it would work for other types of trees, but it sure was easy with the cottonwood!
My g’daughter & I did the same with a very small tree branch. I thought it would die but it began growing and lasted until we moved.
love how you are keeping your garden growing through the web!
When I dead-head my marigolds, I cut the flower petals off and place them in a pot of water and simmer for an hour. Strain, place in a jar, refrigerate and you have a great facial toner. After cutting off the flower tops, I still have the seeds to place in a paper bag to dry for next years flowers.
Hi Tawra and Jill,
I know I’m a bit late, since you posted this a few weeks ago, but I figured I’d send the comment anyway. I wanted to share another idea for acquiring plants and helping others to do so. The mom’s group at our church holds a perennial plant sale each spring. Pots are handed out after Masses (services) the week before the sale. Parishioners donate perennials during a drop-off time, the plants are organized and priced (very economical prices, of course). The sale is open on that particular Sunday after each service, and it usually goes very well. We donate the proceeds to a charity we vote on each year. This year the proceeds will go to Project Gabriel, an organization that helps women in crisis pregnancies who are choosing life for their babies. We have some patrons who come just for the sale, since we put signs out by the road. It is great because you can get lots of perennials for a great price, and others can donate their extras, and it all goes to a great cause! Thought other readers might like to know, in case they’re looking for a creative fundraiser for their church or organization :) Best of luck with the move!
Love these ideas!
sometimes all you have to do is ask! our lovely neighbor across the street passed away recently at age 102. the gentleman buying the house from the estate told my daughter she could take anything from the gardens she wanted! She’s getting us daffodils, tulips, rubarb and rose of sharon! The driveway is going to be expanded for more parking, and all these plants have to go anyway.
She is just thrilled —
You are so right Donna. We miss out on so many things just because we are afraid to ask. Most of the time people are nicer then we give them credit for and don’t mind sharing at all. Tawra and I once drove buy a fast food place where they were doing a bunch of spring landscaping. They had stacks of really nice pots and plastic flat trays. Tons of them.We stop asked if they were going to toss them and they said yes so we asked if we could have them. We were starting a green house then and could use them all. They really appreciated it because they didn’t have to mess with getting rid of them.
Pat in Kitchener
I use seeds from my cooking. I have planted green peas, beans, and cilantro from what was in my kitchen. I know I have plalnted other things as well, but can’t think of more at the moment. I save seeds from squash and mellons too. and plant them. Have grown apple and pear trees from seeds ( takes a few years, but they do grow big given time). Not all will grow true to species if it is hybrid seed , but nothing ventured nothing gained.
Cindy In Indiana
My mother always saves two of her large tomatoes for just the seeds; she’s been doing this for 54 years. Every year she gives away some seeds to friends and relatives, and, of course, to me (a custom I’ve continued for my friends and relatives!). We’ve continued to get the same large, juicy, very flavorful tomatoes every year. They can beautifully, making great canned tomatoes and canned juice (we’re tomato-holics!), and make the very best fresh sliced tomatoes…and we never buy tomato seeds or plants, and so easy to do!
What kind of tomatoes is it you have the seeds from ? I love Rutgers but cant seem to get them to do much of anything,I’d love to try something new with that great flavor you are talking about.Im a tomato holic too. The last two years gave me nothing and im desperate :). Thank you for any info you can give me.
I just use ones like Early Girl and Sweet 100. It sounds like you have a pollination problem. I would shake the plants when the flowers come out so you can get the pollen moving around.
With bee population down I go out with a very tiny paint brush and pollinate everything myself. My plants are in containers but I have done this with an inground garden as well.
Yes, the reduction in bees has been a really big problem with pollination. What I have found is that if I plant flowers, nothing fancy, just from seeds, but colorful, the bees in the area are attracted to them. Plant your tomato plants in near vicinity and they reap the rewards of the flower garden by having bees nears. I planted zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers, petunias, sweet William, bachelor buttons, and a couple of packets of mixed flower seeds too. Half were in containers and other half in flower bed. My tomato plants were in really big containers within 5 feet of flowers and no problem getting the bees in. Hope this helps.
Cindy, would you share some seeds with me?
I do the same with spaghetti squash seeds, poblano peppers (mildly spicy dark green low sugar peppers) and small red Mexican sweet peppers that I just love for cooking and salads. I know all peppers (except maybe the yellow/orange hybrid ones) turn red once they are ripe. But these really small peppers have a different very sweet flavor that I can only find at my local Mexican grocery store. I also sprout the seeds from my jalapeño peppers and they add a little picante you don’t get from regular sprouts. We both love our spicy items and you can’t get spicy sprouts at the grocery store or health food store.
Another way to save money in the long run is to buy heirloom seeds, here in S.A. they are a little more expensive than the ones you buy in stores, but usually they have more seeds in the packets and you can save the seeds from your plants for next year. I’ve done it with garlic, beans, tomatoes and pumpkins last year and this time I also kept some mealies. Nice thing is that your plants grow stronger with each successive planting, because they get more resistant to the weather and other problems in your area.
Love all these ideas and comments. I’m trying my luck with tomatoes this year. Have seen a book that promises great ones, don’t know whether to purchase or not tho money back guarantee.
Many times I am able to find the books I need at the library. In this way, I get the info but do not have to buy the books!
Check your local libraries. Our county library has a program where you can get forms to complete to donate seeds to the program and even if you do not have any seeds to donate to the program, you can take seeds from the program all for free. Since it is a local program you can be quite sure the seeds will grow in your zone. I have lots of amaranth seedlings and egg plants started from the free seeds I got this year.
You can also start a new tomato plant from a cutting. And roses and mint, and I’m sure lots of others. Those are just three of my favorite things to grow but mint is the only one I’ve done cuttings from before (been rooting mint forEVER) . I have rooted tomatoes in jars of water right now, just planted one in a 5 gal bucket to see if we can get fruit by the end of our short season. They are from tomatoes we started indoors from seed in February. In an area with a longer season (we freeze in May and Oct, and sometimes June and Sept) you should have time to get cuttings from your own tomato plants, or your stores should get veggies in before ours do and have plenty of time.
For all kinds of information about propagating plants, it’s worth a look at freeplants.com. Once you know how to propagate from cuttings, you can fill your yard with plants you got for “free.”
These are some useful tips, thank you.
Than you so much. Are you a master gardener?
Tawra was a master gardener – when she lived in Wichita and when she was in Colorado. She also worked at the Botanical Gardens in Wichita. She got her degree in horticulture and has worked in several gardening places like Smith and Hawkens and many flower shops.
Love that she is able to share such good information with us!!!
kim walker olahoma
thanks for the tips . I so enjoy learning from other gardeners like me
Our local high school’s FFA Club sales plants twice a year. You get beautiful plants while helping the local children. They’re prices are great too.
When we moved into this house there were 5 daylily plants in the small makeshift flowerbed in the front yard. The only thing I did was pull out all overgrowth of weeds and grass and the next year those 5 plants turned in to 12. They were really crowded together so I divided them and spread them out and gave them a little bit of Miracle Grow. That was in 2012, last year when I gathered all the dead flower stalks there were 75! Yes, 75!! This year I dug up half of the early risers and gave them to my sister-in-law. When the rest come up I plan on moving some to another area. My tip is to use plants which propagate naturally, spread them out and let them fill in the gaps on their own. A plus side is when they don’t require a lot of fussing about. I never had daylilies before, but now I recommend them to everyone. In the last seven years I have only fertilized them one time, and the only time I hand watered them was for a few weeks after they were fertilized. We’re in South Carolina so we get adequate rain, even though we’re in drought.
An online seed swap could be a fun thing to try! For example, I have stored tons of my allium seeds and globeflower seeds for future use, but I have way more than I need. I would love to swap seeds if anyone has extras of their own. The only thing I am uncertain about would be the laws for exchanging seeds between countries (I am in Canada). Does anyone know the details on that?
I am not sure on that Marti but maybe one of our readers might know
I am definately interested in swapping seeds. I am in California, Zone 9. what do you have to swap?
Hi there, Great tips by the way and thank you. I did have a question though.
I’m hoping you can answer it for me since you seem
to be pretty knowledgeable about gardening. Can you plant
un-popped popcorn kernels? If you had some insight I would greatly appreciate it.
Yes you can plant it but it won’t be like regular sweet corn and can only be used for popping. Just google it and you will find may tutorials and things on how to do this.
I don’t know how old this post is but I wanted to add something. Something many people don’t know. You can buy food seeds with food stamps! Vegetables and fruits and herbs oh my!
Also getting in touch with your local horticultural or agricultural societies if your area has them I know most of these have once a year plant sales where you can plants fairly cheap as well and the money usually goes back into helping the community.
Yes Jessica our botanical gardens have a sale in the spring every year.
Many colleges that have agriculture like MSU have plant sales May & June. They also have veggie sales at MSU in late July early August (usually). SO don’t forget to check your local colleges as well! A great resource also is the Dept of Agriculture for info on local plants & where to get them & propagate them
while we have social distancing I am doing a lot of rooting of plants that I already have. This keeps my beds looking fresh and not over grown when I replace distressed plants with the new plants I have rooted
I am one of the few ladies from Kiribati who love flower gardening. I’m very happy to read all the comment on this website.
I used to buy my plants from my friends but here in kiribati plants are very expensive, and we don’t have seeds stores here. All I do is visit my close friends who owns flowers and plants and ask if i could borrow a branch so that i can plant my own tree.
I’m very happy that i found this place. Gardening is also fun and relaxing
Oh thank you Reta. One thing about gardeners all over the world they are always so nice and more than willing to share their plants and seeds with each other. I imagine you have some beautiful plants where you are too. So glad you are here and be sure to let us know if you have any questions.
Hey, there, everybody! My name’s Katy, and I’m a real plant nut! I was born on a farm in Canada, and learned how to garden organically long before it became a “thing”. I grew up surrounded by the natural beauty of plants, and learned a lot about their care and maintenance. As a commercial artist for 10 years here in Miami, I learned how to landscape, and gained a lot of knowledge about tropical plants and how to grow them well. I’ve also taken courses about Florida native plants, butterfly gardening, and exotic plants, especially the flowers and fruits! I’m in the process of moving, but will be able to share all of the seeds that I’ve saved and bought over the years. Many of them will only grow in tropical/subtropical areas, but you could grow them inside near a window or under grow lights.