Thrifty Gardening Tip: Buying and Saving Discount Plants

This post is the first in an ongoing series of posts about how to garden as cheaply as possible. In this day and time when a gallon of gas costs as much as a gallon perennial (or almost) gardening on the cheap side is extremely important. After all who wants to spend more money than they really have to? These posts will appear every now and then whenever a new Thrifty Gardening Tip comes along!

I've found that one of the best ways to garden on a budget is to find cheap plants at the discount racks. Often large stores won't put the care and energy into saving plants that they determine are on their way to the great compost bin in the sky. This is where the home gardener can maximize their monetary spending. But there is more to it than just getting the discount plant, bringing it home and plopping it in the garden. You can do that sometimes but usually the neglected plants need a little care. First let's ltalk about selecting the plant.

Here are my 5 rules for saving a plant from a discount store:

  1. It must add value to my garden. I'm not talking money here but aesthetic value. It needs to be a plant I can put soemplace or a plant that I want in the garden. I have to value the plant for me to try to save it.
  2. It must show some signs of viable life. A completely brown plant is probably not worth your time or money. It would be better for it to be composted. I try to pick a plant that has some green growth on it and may have just lost some leaves due to lack of regular watering.
  3. It has to be cheap. I would love to add a clematis to the garden but a 50% off sale of a plant that cost $25 is more than I want to spend on a discount plant. If it's on the rack it had better cost less than $5 otherwise it will stay on that rack.
  4. I have to be willing to baby the plant for a few weeks or until new growth appears.
  5. I usually only select perennials. I have bought most of my salvias, with the exception of the 'May Night' salvias, on the discount rack. I do occasionally pick up 6 packs of annuals like coleus since they are fool proof, well almost. Besides you can overwinter coleus cuttings indoors and bring them back out again next year. In the picture below is one of 8 coleus plants I bought for less than $2.

Once I've purchased the wayfaring discount plant I have to save it. Otherwise I don't get the bang for my buck that I want. Here is an example of what I did to save a blanket flower called Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Oranges and Lemons.'In this first picture you can see a plant that has lost stems due to lack of water and rough treatment. Many of the stems are broken but are still hanging on to the plant. It looks bad but this plant can be recovered. The original price was around $9.00 but on the discount rack I got it for $3.

It was covered with viable flower heads just about to open.

Here are a few more bent and broken branches. As much as it hurts to cut away at a plant you have to prune these out. I took a small pair of clippers and went to work on the plant.

You can even save some of the clippings to root. This one rooted very easily. It was just a stem cutting that had one large leaf on it. This picture is a little fuzzy but so are the leaves!

Here's what the plant looked like after it's trimming. It was very lopsided but I didn't want to trim away the other side since nothing was broken or damaged. Most of the leaves were still wilting. I left it in the pot for a day or two and kept it moist. Then I moved the gaillardia to its new home in our front sidewalk garden. It wasn't in the original layout for my sidewalk garden but I reserve the right to adjust my plans!

Here it is about a week after I planted it. The flowers are sprouting and the stems have completely recovered from their lack of water. I very rarely have to water this plant now.

These last two shots were taken in the last couple days. It now has very good leaf growth and an abundance of blooms sprouting.

It's looking pretty good for a $3 perennial!

Sometimes the stores will just put plants on the racks that don't need any work since they are just trying to move the merchandise to make room for more seasonal stock. I've found salvias, coleus, Mediterranean heather, and quite a few other things on the discount racks. Take advantage of what you can!

See the next Thrifty Gardening Tip!

Tip #2 The Generosity of Gardeners!

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