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19 Brilliant Ways to Get Free Plants for Your Garden

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Cultivating a lush garden doesn’t have to be an extravagant endeavor. With a few clever strategies, you can expand your plant collection without spending a dime. If you’re looking to enhance your garden without breaking the bank, consider these easy tips to multiply your plants for free.

One of the simplest methods is dividing large perennial clumps. This technique allows you to propagate your existing plants at no extra cost. Another budget-friendly approach is to grow self-seeding varieties. These plants naturally disperse their seeds, providing you with a bounty of new seedlings each year without any effort.

If you’re keen on expanding your gardening skills, try your hand at taking cuttings or saving seeds from your plants. These practices are not only cost-effective but also immensely rewarding.

For those just starting out or looking to expand their garden on a shoestring budget, there are several underrated methods that might surprise you, helping to refresh your garden’s appearance without splurging.

Focusing on budget-friendly plants can lead to substantial savings, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of gardening without the hefty price tag of costly varieties, which often don’t outperform the ones you can propagate yourself.

Incorporate these smart and practical strategies into your gardening routine, and watch your garden flourish with new plants, all at no cost!

Dividing Perennials 

Boosting your garden’s plant population by dividing herbaceous perennials is not only straightforward but also beneficial for the parent plants’ health. This technique offers a quick and efficient way to propagate new plants.

Many gardeners overlook fall as the prime time to divide plants, yet it’s perfect for many species. A handy tip is to split plants that bloom in spring during the autumn, and those that flower in fall during the spring—though some exceptions exist.

Take a look at those robust clumps of perennials in your garden—they’re practically begging to be divided to enhance your garden’s diversity next season. It’s a simple strategy to multiply your plant stock and quickly fill any bare spots along your borders.

For instance, you can divide perennials like comfrey and hostas. The process involves lifting the plant, carefully separating the roots, and replanting both the original and the new sections in different parts of the garden.

All it takes is a couple of garden forks: position them back-to-back in the soil, a few inches apart, and gently pry the clump apart. You can then separate these into smaller sections to replant elsewhere in your garden.

While you can divide most perennials at any time, you’ll find the best success with summer bloomers if you divide them in the spring, and with spring bloomers if you divide them in the summer.

Dividing Perennials 
Credit: Plant Perfect

Don’t have perennials of your own? Consider asking friends or family if they’d allow you to divide plants in their gardens. Regularly dividing perennials not only helps them but also quickly expands your plant collection.

Interested in creating a herb garden? Herbs such as chives, lemon balm, oregano, thyme, tarragon, and marjoram thrive when divided. Be cautious with mint, though; it’s known to spread rapidly, so it’s best to plant divisions in pots to manage their growth.

When dividing, carefully dig around the desired plant, and then split it into halves, quarters, or more if it’s large enough. Use a garden fork or shovel for larger plants.

Replant the divisions at their original depth, incorporate some organic matter into the soil, and provide winter protection if you’re in a colder climate. This method not only increases your garden’s variety but also enhances plant health and vigor.

Propagating Plants from Cuttings 

While growing plants from seeds is straightforward for some species, others thrive when propagated through cuttings. You’ll find that a variety of plants can successfully root from cuttings, and some don’t even require a rooting hormone.

However, using a homemade willow rooting solution can boost your success with softwood, semi-ripe, and hardwood cuttings.

Propagating Plants from Cuttings 
Credit: Earth.com

I often get leaf or stem cuttings from friends, which is why my living room resembles a lush jungle. Most people are happy to share a few cuttings from their plants, especially if you admire them. You usually only need a small piece to start a new plant, making this a fantastic way to expand your collection of unique houseplants.

Multiplying your plants through cuttings is a common and effective method. It’s essential to ensure the donor plant is healthy and large enough so that removing a cutting won’t harm its appearance or growth. Techniques like layering, rooting, dividing, or directly transplanting into soil are all viable.

Softwood cuttings are particularly suitable for tender plants like pelargoniums, petunias, and verbena, as well as shrubs such as lavender, rosemary, forsythia, fuchsias, hydrangeas, lavatera, and buddleja.

Although they require more care than hardwood cuttings, they root and grow faster. For specific plants like lavender, detailed guides can help you perfect the cutting technique.

For plants that fare well from cuttings, consider berries and flowering shrubs like raspberries, blackberries, and lilacs. Herbs such as mint, sage, and rosemary also respond well to this propagation method, and you can even clone tomatoes from a stem cutting.

Patience is key with this approach, as it can take weeks or even months for a cutting to develop into a mature plant. But the diversity of plants you can grow from just a small cutting makes the wait worthwhile.

Hardwood cuttings are ideal for most deciduous shrubs, roses, and climbing plants like honeysuckle. If you’re short on space for overwintering large plants, consider taking cuttings of your favorites.

This basic garden strategy helps preserve your cherished plants through winter without needing much space or financial investment—just remember that patented plants should not be propagated.

For optimal results, make your cut above a node, remove the lower leaves, dip the end in rooting hormone, and plant it in well-drained soil. Cover your new cutting with a loose plastic bag to create a mini-greenhouse effect, which helps the cuttings root effectively. Once rooted, you can transplant them and enjoy the new additions come spring.

Recently, I’ve taken cuttings from my lavender and rosemary. This winter, I plan to propagate a variety of fruit bushes via hardwood cuttings in my forest garden. Remember, if you see a plant you love in someone else’s space, always ask before taking a cutting—it’s just good manners.

Find Affordable Plants

Visit the clearance section of your local garden center or nursery, especially towards the end of the season. You’ll often find plants that may appear worn but are simply waiting for someone to revive them.

Retailers sometimes discard these less-than-perfect specimens, which can thrive again with a bit of care. Trim perennials with sharp pruning shears and water them thoroughly to rejuvenate most plants almost instantly.

If you’re on a budget, consider exploring Sunday morning yard sales, flea markets, church fairs, and open garden events. These venues are excellent for finding great deals on plants as they wrap up. You might find vegetable plants and perennials at bargain prices, often from local sources well-suited to your garden’s soil.

Many of these markets are directly supplied by growers and local gardening enthusiasts selling plants at significantly lower prices than commercial retail outlets. Not only do these markets offer affordable plants, but they also provide an opportunity to engage directly with the growers, gaining valuable gardening tips for free.

For those near the Sunshine Coast, the Yandina Plant and Produce Market, held on Saturday mornings at the Yandina Sports Ground, is a must-visit for plant lovers seeking bargains.

It’s not uncommon for stores to discard unsold plants. At the end of significant sales events like Mother’s Day or Easter, you might get lucky and be able to take home these plants for free. Always check for signs of disease to avoid introducing pests to your garden, but otherwise, you could enrich your garden without spending a penny.

Saving Seeds

Gathering seeds from your garden not only saves money but also enriches your gardening experience. Learn how to nurture flowers from seeds, and you’ll soon cultivate a lush garden with vibrant blooms for a fraction of the cost. There’s a special satisfaction in watching your plants sprout from seeds you’ve collected yourself.

Saving seeds is surprisingly simple and an economical strategy to sustain your garden year after year. All you need are seeds from a robust plant. Wash them well, spread them out on a mesh to dry without overlapping for about two weeks.

Once dry, store them in a cool, dry place in an airtight container. Adding a sprinkle of wood ash can extend their viability, keeping them good for up to three years.

Saving Seeds
Credit: giantveggiegardener

Saving seeds from herbs like basil, dill, and arugula, or from vegetables like tomatoes and pumpkins, is not only cost-effective but also immensely rewarding. You’ll often find that one plant provides more seeds than you can use in a single season—nature’s bounty is truly lavish!

While seed saving is generally straightforward, some plants pose more of a challenge than others. Nevertheless, it’s worth attempting, especially with heirloom or heritage varieties that you’ve nurtured over the summer. Letting a few plants go to seed allows for a mature harvest that you can replant the following year.

Starting your garden from home-saved seeds ensures that your plants begin life robust and vigorous. If you’re planning a small vegetable patch, consider starting with easy-to-save seeds from tomatoes, peppers, beans, and peas.

Consider integrating self-seeding plants into your garden, particularly native species that naturally propagate and replenish themselves, simplifying your gardening work. Plants like honeyworth and Verbena bonariensis thrive and reseed themselves with little intervention.

The most advantageous seeds to save are from plants that are:

  • Heirloom—regional varieties cherished for generations
  • Organic—free from chemical treatments, unlike many store-bought seeds
  • Open-pollinated—great for certain cross-pollinated vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, and bell peppers
  • Self-pollinating plants like beans and peas are also ideal.

When saving seeds, remember that hybrids (created through specific cross-breeding) might not reproduce true to type, if at all. To ensure consistency and preserve genetic integrity, focus on heirloom and open-pollinated varieties.

Join a Seed Exchange

Swapping seeds is a fantastic and cost-effective method to enhance your garden with new varieties of flowers. If you have seeds to trade or are searching for specific ones, consider participating in a seed exchange.

This allows you to exchange seeds you already have for new ones you’d like to try, all at no cost. To find a seed exchange in your area, reach out to local gardening clubs or conduct an online search. You might discover that a group has already been established nearby.

Numerous organizations are dedicated to preserving and exchanging specific seed varieties. These groups often have extensive collections and can offer valuable guidance, especially if you’re just starting out in gardening.

If you’re a fan of a particular local public garden or arboretum, check if they offer a seed exchange program and consider joining. Not only does this give you access to a variety of seeds, but it also connects you with a community of like-minded enthusiasts.

Organizing a seed swap locally through community centers like churches or libraries is another great way to explore new plant species without spending money. Alternatively, there are plenty of online platforms where you can engage in seed exchanges too. Just make sure the seeds you trade are suitable for your local climate.

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Another option is to participate in a plant exchange. This is an excellent way to diversify your garden with robust plants ready to thrive. Connect with other local gardeners who might be interested in trading.

It’s vital, however, to ensure that the plants you trade are healthy, non-invasive, and resistant to diseases and pests. This not only helps your garden flourish but also gives you a head start on the growing season.

Join a Local Gardening Club

Joining a local gardening group, horticultural society like the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), or community garden is a treasure trove for acquiring plants, cuttings, and seeds at no cost. If you’re just starting out, these communities are incredibly welcoming and eager to help beginners. Simply search online or ask around to locate one near you.

Consider joining a local gardening or horticulture club. These clubs often organize garden tours, plant swaps, and educational workshops. It’s an excellent opportunity to obtain free plants and deepen your understanding of the species you bring home. Additionally, these clubs are hubs of gardening knowledge, frequently offering classes for members.

National organizations focused on organic gardening or plant conservation usually have local chapters that meet regularly. These gatherings often feature shows, demonstrations, and expert guest speakers. Becoming a member can also provide perks like complimentary gardening magazine subscriptions and discounts on various gardening supplies.

Join a Local Gardening Club
Credit: Gardening Know How

Grow Plants from Kitchen Scraps

Growing your own plants from kitchen scraps is an excellent way to save money and reduce food waste. You can easily cultivate new plants from ginger and sweet potato scraps. Select a ginger root with visible buds or ‘eyes,’ indicating new growth, and plant it in a pot. Soon, you’ll enjoy ornamental foliage and a fresh supply of ginger.

Sweet potato vines thrive indoors, beautifying your space while eventually providing fresh sweet potatoes. For a quick project, place the white ends of spring onions in water, and they’ll regrow promptly.

Garlic cloves can also sprout into new bulbs, especially when planted fresh. To get nutrient-rich carrot tops, cut off the top of a carrot, let it dry, and plant it in soil; in a few weeks, you’ll have a fresh supply.

For a continuous mint supply, place a leaf in water until roots develop, then transfer it to soil. You can also repurpose organic sweet potatoes or regular potatoes by planting them once sprouts appear. With pineapples, twist off the top, strip back some leaves to expose the tiny roots, dry it, then plant it; with proper care, it’ll become a thriving pineapple plant.

Garlic bulbs can be broken into cloves and planted to yield several new bulbs. Buy leeks with roots, soak them overnight, and plant them deeply for regeneration. Don’t waste shallots and spring onions; instead, plant them in compost with the tips just showing, and they’ll regrow, providing continuous harvests.

Beetroots can be replanted too; position them with the leafy end up in soil. Not only will they regenerate, but their leaves make a nutritious addition to salads. Similarly, celery bases can regrow into new stalks if placed in warm water until roots form, then planted in rich, moist soil.

Finally, fresh peas from the market can be grown from seeds, ensuring the peas are mature enough before planting to guarantee germination. Regrowing plants from scraps is economical and environmentally beneficial.

Grow Plants from Kitchen Scraps
Credit: DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society

Grow Plants from Food Seeds

Instead of discarding seeds from foods like tomatoes, chilies, pumpkins, and squashes, plant them in your kitchen garden. First, clean the seeds by removing any surrounding flesh to prevent rot. Lay them out on paper towels to dry for a couple of days. Once dry, plant them in pots, place them in a sunny spot, and water consistently.

And don’t forget about avocado pits! By planting the stone from an avocado, you can cultivate a lush, green houseplant that might even produce fruit one day with luck and care.

Search Online for Free Plants

Dive into the world of plant swapping! A quick online search for “free plants” can reveal a treasure trove of options. Platforms like Craigslist, Freecycle, Gumtree, and Facebook Marketplace are hotspots for such exchanges, and you might even stumble upon gems on Instagram.

Online community classifieds are bursting with opportunities to snag free plants. Specifically, target gardening or houseplant groups to increase your chances. Start your search in early spring for your vegetable garden needs, but keep in mind these sites offer fantastic finds for unique houseplants all year round.

Don’t hesitate to post your own ads too. Letting others know what you’re looking for is a proactive way to ensure the right plants make their way to your garden. So, why not give it a try and see what green wonders you can add to your collection for free?

Ask Your Network

If you’re looking to expand your garden without spending a dime, don’t overlook the potential in your own network. Chat with friends, family, neighbors, or coworkers—especially those with a knack for gardening—to see if they have any spare plant cuttings, surplus plants, or unused seeds.

A simple shout-out in your local social media groups or messaging circles can often yield generous offers.

Often, your neighbors might be revamping their gardens and looking to part with plants and shrubs, which could be perfect additions to your space. Remember, one gardener’s excess could be just the gem you need.

It’s common for garden enthusiasts to have leftover seedlings come springtime. Make it known among your contacts that you’re on the lookout for plants, and you might find yourself receiving extra tomato or eggplant seedlings.

You could even find a gardening buddy willing to plant extra seeds just for you. Some enthusiasts post their growing plans on social media, offering to plant extra for anyone interested.

Also, why not hint at wanting garden center gift cards for your next birthday? It’s a great way to ensure you get more greenery for your garden.

And if you’re eyeing a larger or more unique plant, asking for it as a gift during special occasions like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or Christmas could be a smart move. Gift certificates to local or online garden shops offer flexibility and choice.

Self-Sow Volunteers

Volunteer plants are those that sprout spontaneously without direct planting by a gardener. These self-sown plants emerge from seeds dispersed by wind, birds, or inadvertently introduced through compost. Unlike weeds, volunteers are often welcomed additions to the garden and may receive extra care like watering and fertilizing once established.

Sometimes, seeds are already present in the soil or compost, brought by wildlife or during routine gardening tasks. If using unprocessed compost, you’re likely to see various volunteer plants pop up.

Unwanted volunteers can be transplanted, given away, or composted, while welcomed ones receive the same care as intentionally planted crops. For those without a natural green thumb, these self-sown plants can be a boon, providing fresh produce with minimal effort.

Keep an eye out for these natural gifts in your garden or yard. You might discover volunteer tomatoes, ground cherries, radishes, or dill waiting to be noticed. In spring, once they’ve grown, you can relocate them to desired locations.

Volunteer seedlings are also an excellent way to grow trees for free. Watch for young saplings near larger trees; with proper care, they can thrive once transplanted.

Self-Sow Volunteers
Credit: Fine Gardening

Obtaining Plants from Landscaping and Construction Companies

On a sunny weekend, take a leisurely drive around your neighborhood. You might spot discarded plants waiting by someone’s driveway—perfect for revamping your garden; just stay alert!

Consider contacting local landscapers or building contractors, as they often remove mature plants during renovations or new constructions. Let them know you’re interested, and they might reserve plants for you instead of discarding them. This method can be an excellent source for mature shrubs and trees.

Reach out to local construction and landscaping companies to acquire larger, well-established plants like shrubs and flowering trees that are often removed during renovations.

Keep an eye on local newspaper ads or contact area landscapers directly. They might have projects involving plant removal, which could lead to expensive disposal fees. By offering to take these plants, you help them avoid disposal costs, and you acquire free plants—a win-win scenario.

Always be courteous and prompt when picking up plants. This ensures the plants don’t impede the workers and helps build a reputation as a reliable and timely person. You might even start receiving calls offering plants before they’re advertised.

Extension Office

Contact your local extension office; they often have plants available during special promotions or grant programs.

They’re also a great resource for information on local gardening clubs, which frequently host plant sales. These events can be goldmines for free plants, especially towards the end of the day when everyone’s eager to clear out their stock.

In the wild

Exploring the great outdoors can also yield vibrant plants for your garden. While respecting protected areas and not disturbing endangered species, you can find common plants like daylilies flourishing freely in unregulated spaces like roadside verges and wild roses in open fields.

If considering adding these natural beauties to your landscape, take a drive along a country road with a bucket and a small trowel. You can gently transplant a few daylilies before they bloom, ensuring you’re on legally accessible land and obtaining any required permissions, especially for designated parks or wildlife areas.

Get free plants In the wild
Credit: Tikorangi The Jury Garden

Host a Plant/Seed Swap

Consider trading seeds and plants with friends, family, and local gardening enthusiasts. Attend community-driven seed and plant exchanges or organize one yourself at local schools, churches, or community centers.

If you can’t find a swap nearby, host one yourself. Advertise it on local platforms like Craigslist or Facebook gardening groups. Set up tables, offer snacks, and invite your contacts. You’ll be amazed by the diversity of flora participants bring.

Host swaps during spring and fall seasons for a rich variety of offerings. Hosting such events can deepen your connections within the community and might even become a beloved yearly tradition. Add a barbecue, and it’s sure to draw a crowd!

If you have a surplus of seeds or seedlings, especially after a bountiful germination, consider sharing them. For instance, an abundance of herb seeds like dill, basil, and chives can be distributed among fellow gardeners.

Small seeds don’t store well for long periods, unlike hardier seeds like peas and beans, so it’s better to plant them. Tomatoes tend to self-seed prolifically, so participating in local seed swaps or contributing to a seed bank allows you to exchange surplus for new varieties, saving you from purchasing more seeds.

Plant and seed exchanges can also be casual. When visiting family or friends, bring perennials from your garden and take home cuttings from theirs. Such swaps are a fantastic way to diversify your garden without much effort, especially in spring when many gardeners have more seedlings than space.

Find Plants that Multiply Naturally

Many varieties of plants naturally propagate if given enough time. Species such as cleome, hardy lilies, flax, and perennial coneflowers readily expand under suitable conditions. To enhance this process, enrich your soil with organic material.

Hold off on weeding until later in the season to avoid disturbing the emerging seedlings. Stay alert, and you may discover some unexpected delights in your garden.

In just a year or two, you might notice your lemon balm spreading throughout your garden. Similarly, your aloe might start producing numerous offshoots. In such cases, it’s wise to separate and relocate or repot these flourishing plants.

This not only gives you more plants but also boosts the health and vitality of the original specimen. Remember, flowering bulbs also benefit from being divided every few years.

Take the Haworthia, for example; the original plant in my living room has produced three offshoots now thriving in a nearby planter. After separating them, the mother plant continues to thrive.

I recently repotted a Peperomia caperata, resulting in six new plants, which I shared with my neighbors. This simple act of sharing led to the sweet surprise of raspberry jam and a chocolate cake appearing on my doorstep. Indeed, distributing plants can bring joy and unexpected rewards.

Seed Catalog Promotions

If you’re not already on them, consider joining gardening and seed catalog mailing lists. It’s a smart move because occasionally, you could score some free seeds through promotional offers or even land a deal where your first purchase is free, up to a specified amount.

Often, when you place an order, you’ll find that many catalogs throw in a packet of seeds at no extra cost. While this might mean a small initial expense, the potential benefits of these promotions can make it a worthwhile investment.

Seed Catalog Promotions
Credit: Food Gardening Network – Mequoda

Churches, Schools, and Volunteer Organizations

Do you belong to a religious group, school, or community organization that enhances its surroundings with plants? It’s common for churches to decorate with lilies for Easter and poinsettias during Christmas. Similarly, schools might use plants to add flair to special gatherings, while other organizations might regularly incorporate greenery into their decor.

Why not inquire about taking a plant home once the festivities or the season ends? You could easily replant Easter lilies in your garden, and with a bit of care, you can get poinsettias to thrive again the following year.

Also, consider the possibility of propagating new plants from other used decorations, like taking leaf or stem cuttings.

If you’re eager to gain more gardening knowledge and contribute your time, consider volunteering with a local Landcare group, community garden, or nursery. Not only will you gain invaluable insights, but you’ll likely snag some free seeds or affordable seedlings.

These places are treasure troves of horticultural knowledge, and your helping hands, even if only available briefly, can create a beneficial exchange for everyone involved.

Overwinter Your Annuals

If you’re short on space to shelter your large, mature annuals through the winter, consider propagating your top picks by taking cuttings. This cost-effective and space-saving gardening technique allows you to multiply a single plant into several offspring. However, remember that it’s illegal to propagate patented plants.

To ensure success, snip the plant just above a leaf node, leaving a clean cut. Strip off any leaves near the base, dip the end into some rooting hormone, and then nestle it into a cup filled with well-draining soil.

After planting, water your cutting and encase it in a breathable plastic bag to mimic a mini greenhouse environment, which encourages rooting. Once the roots establish, transplant them, and look forward to a lush start in the spring!

If you’re up for a bit of extra effort, free plants are just about everywhere. I’ve noticed that once people know you’re on the hunt for plants, your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers often come through quickly. You can tick items off your plant wish list before you know it.

Also, it’s important to give back. When you’re dividing your plants, collecting seeds, or propagating new ones from cuttings, don’t hesitate to share. Think about those who have given plants to you, and offer your surplus in the same places you received them. This way, you help keep gardening accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

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