One of the things I love most about spring and summer is getting to plant all sorts of new annuals and perennials in my flower beds and in the containers on my porch.
There's just something magical about watching those tiny little nubbins of plants in early spring grow into massive blooming beauties by mid-summer!
But alas I don't have endless funds for buying flowers and whatnot, so I try to be as frugal as I can to get the most bang for my buck.
Over the years I have found a few ways to save money when planting up my flower beds. So, grab your gardening gloves, and let's dig right into some of my money-saving ideas for having a beautiful garden!
Budget-Friendly Flower Gardening
Table Of Contents
- Budget-Friendly Flower Gardening
- Before You Buy
- Cost-Effective Ways To Get Plants
- Finding Supplies And Decor
Before You Buy
Make A Plan, Make A List
It really helps keep costs down by planning out this year's garden BEFORE you go to the store to buy seeds or plants.
Take stock of what you already have planted in the existing beds and what you would like to add to those beds to achieve the look you're after. Also, note what plants you might be able to divide for additional "free" plants (more on the dividing part down below).
I like to roughly draw out the shape of my flower beds and containers on a piece of paper and add circles to indicate existing plants. I'll label each circle with the name of the plant (if memory fails, you can always just call it "Grandma's pink peony"). Then I'll draw in other circles to indicate the empty spots I need to fill. I find this is a great visual to help me plan.
I'll think of what types and colors of plants will do well in each area. Then I make a master list of all the plants I want to purchase and take that with me to the store.
Planning ahead allows you to walk into the store with a set list of plants to look for and keeps you focused and not chasing after squirrels. Because we all know with the number of beautiful, unique blooms found in the garden center you will want to BUY THEM ALL!
Know Your Gardening Zone
If you don't already know your gardening zone, you can go to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, input your zip code and it will tell you your zone.
Hardiness refers to temperature ranges that plants thrive in for your area. Each state can have many different zones. For instance, Florida ranges all the way from 8A to 11B.
Although your local garden center should only be selling plants that will thrive in your zone, it is very important to know your zone when buying from online retailers. Online retailers normally sell throughout the country and deal with all sorts of growing situations so knowing your zone is key!
There's no sense buying a plant rated only hardy in New Mexico when you live in Minnesota. Keep to your zone.
Cost-Effective Ways To Get Plants
Use Lots Of Perennials
I like to use perennials as the base of my flower beds since they come back year after year. They're normally a little more money than annuals, but since you don't have to re-buy them annually they do save money long-term.
Then I just use annuals for pops of season-long color here and there among the perennials.
So if a perennial is past its prime blooming time for the season or if your perennials are in their first year of growth and look a little spindly, the annuals still give the garden interest and pops of color. For example, my gorgeous peonies only bloom for a very short time in late May/early June, so now the annuals can fill in for color in that bed.
BTW, if you want to learn all about peonies I have a guide to growing peonies which is VERY popular this time of year.
Divide Perennials Currently In Your Beds
Dividing perennials is my #1 way to get "free" plants. A lot of perennials like hosta, coral bells, iris, stonecrop, and dianthus are very easy to divide into 2-3 additional plants.
Along with multiplying your plants, dividing perennials also allows your plants to perform better by allowing them to have more room for the roots to grow and to absorb nutrients and water more efficiently. It will also help you control the size of the perennial so they don't totally overtake a bed.
In most cases, you will want to divide fall-blooming perennials in early spring (when new growth starts to emerge). And spring and summer blooming perennials in the fall (4-6 weeks before the ground freezes).
The Discount Rack At Lowe's
Also known as the Island Of Misfit Plants.
Lowe's likes to display fresh, perky plants in the garden center. And for most of the spring and summer, they will bring in new plants each week to coordinate with what's "in season" for that part of summer. Tulips and pansies very early in spring, hydrangeas and peonies around Mother's Day, and impatiens after Memorial Day for instance.
So any questionable plants or plants they don't have room for any longer can get thrown on the clearance racks.
Warning - Lowe's clearance racks are hit-and-miss. Somedays I find TONS of healthy-looking plants to choose from and some days it's nothing but losers. Most of the time it's a mixture of both you will just have to pick through.
Recently they had TONS of this gorgeous and very healthy-looking Banana Cherry Sunrise Lantana from Monrovia. Here in Ohio, it's grown as an annual so it doesn't usually get as tall and bushy as it does down south, but still, it would make a stunning arrangement in a wooden whisky barrel.
I couldn't find a darn thing wrong with these lantanas.
BTW, lantana is very toxic so it should not be planted anywhere that animals or young children could get into it, so there's that.
To contrast, they also had some pretty rough-looking Whoops-A-Daisy Shasta Daisies on the clearance racks. Although they look half dead, I'm pretty sure these perennial daisies could be popped in the ground this year and with some proper care and watering probably could become a functioning member of someone's flower bed.
It just depends if you're up for the challenge!
Shop In The Summer And Fall
Plants tend to be more expensive in the spring when everyone and their brother wants to get outside and dig in the dirt. I get it, I'm normally at the garden center when there's still snow on the ground bugging the owner about when he's going to start putting stuff out.
But by waiting until after the first initial spring rush you may be able to get plants on sale in early summer. No, the vast selection may not still be there, but the prices should be lower because the stores are starting to clear stuff out for fall.
Speaking of fall . . . fall is a great time to buy deeply discounted clearance plants that may look like heck, but as long as they are perennials will have a chance to come back next year. Fall is also an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs as the weather is mild and the trees will still have a chance to get established before cold weather comes.
Plant From Seed
Planting from seed is a great way to save money.
Most packets of seeds are between $1 and $3 dollars and you can usually get 15-20 or more plants per packet.
You can either plant them inside in early spring or wait until the ground warms up and sow them outside in the soil.
I'm normally a sow them outside kind of gal because I don't have the room in my house for warming trays and grow lights, nor time for fussing around with them.
Join Your Local Gardening Group
Check your local Facebook pages, newspapers and grocery store bulletin boards to see if your town has a gardening club.
My local gardening club has yearly plant sales and the prices are very very reasonable. Group members may also even have access to the collective purchasing power for common plants - buying 50 clematis vines at a garden center and splitting that up among the group members gets you a better price than just buying 1 or 2 clematises all by yourself. And many gardening groups have seed exchanges and plant swaps in the spring, which are free as long as you swap out one for one.
But it's more than just how much money you can save! The biggest benefit of your local gardening club is you get to talk to fellow enthusiastic gardening lovers from your area and share knowledge of what works in your area and what doesn't!
Finding Supplies And Decor
Upcycle And Repurpose For Thrifty Garden Decor
There are all sorts of ways to repurpose common household items to be used as inexpensive garden art and planters.
Some of my favorite upcycled garden items are:
- Bowling Ball Yard Art
- Seed Spreader Turned Planter Box
- How To Make Silverware Wind Chimes For The Garden
- Vintage Tin Dollhouse Turned Birdhouse
More upcycled garden projects can be found in my article titled 25 Upcycled Garden Ideas.
Score Containers at Yard Sales & Thrift Stores
Both yard sales and thrift stores are good places to pick up inexpensive flower planters and urns.
I picked up 2 of these vintage stoneware urns at a local church sale for $5 each. There's hardly a yard sale I go to that doesn't have at least a few planters for sale.
Another great way to get containers is to wait until the end-of-season sales at the big box stores and grab some new containers for next year at a fraction of the original cost.
What are your favorite tips for saving money when gardening?