The Best Time to Buy Plants for Your Garden

Women shopping for plants at plant nursery greenhouse
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If you want to spruce up your yard on the cheap, the best time to buy plants is in September and after.

Home improvement stores and nurseries are eager to clear out all remaining summer plants (trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennials) to make room for incoming fall plants and holiday merchandise. However, it is possible to find bargains on plants earlier in the year. Let's look at some other times that you can save big on perennials and annuals.

Perennial Plants

Spring and fall are the best times to plant many trees, shrubs, and perennials. While most people tend to do their planting in the spring, you'll save quite a bit more, if you wait until fall. Nurseries and garden centers will be eager to clear out the remains of this year's inventory, so you can expect to find lots of clearance tags, and may even find that there's room to negotiate. 

Tip: If you have a green thumb, and are willing to take the chance, look for weak or imperfect plants that other shoppers are likely to pass up. If they aren't already on clearance, ask for a discount, and you're likely to get it.

Be sure to check with online sellers, if you're in the market for trees or shrubs. During the fall months, they often slash prices drastically to move plants that will soon be too tall to ship.

Spring flowering bulbs are also a bargain this time of year. Pick up bags of tulips and daffodils, and get them planted so that you can enjoy their blooms next spring. 

Skip the Store

Let your gardener friends know that you have flower beds to fill, so they'll think of you the next time they divide and thin out their perennial flowers and herbs. It is a great way to score free plants for your garden. If you have a lot of space to fill, check Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and the free listings in your local paper for more offers of free plants. You may even luck out and spot free bulbs and tubers in a curb pile. Lots of homeowners simply throw out their extras.

As fast as perennials spread and grow, it won't be long before you're the one sharing your extras with fellow gardeners.

Annual Plants

Annuals are plants that need to be planted every year. They include popular bedding plants like petunias, pansies, and impatiens, as well as most vegetables and some herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley.

The seasonal nature of annuals means that greenhouses and nurseries try to get rid of them early in the season. Look for markdowns on annuals anytime from June through the end of summer.

Tip: If you find a deal on annuals late in the season, you may be able to pot them, and bring them inside for the winter. Some annuals, like coleus can be overwintered as a houseplant. Other plants, like Boston ferns (a perennial that's treated as an annual in colder climates), can be overwintered in a basement or shed.

Did You Know?

You may only have to buy annuals once, since many readily self-seed. Learn how to identify, and collect, the seeds of annual flowers, vegetables, and herbs so that you can save them for next year. In many cases, you don't even have to collect the seeds. Just skip dead-heading your plants, so they go to seed, and they'll take care of planting themselves.

Start With Seeds

Trying to keep your gardening costs down? Then, buy or find free seeds, instead of plants. Most seeds germinate quickly, so it doesn't take much longer to grow your garden from seed. While you can certainly start your seeds indoors, most flower seeds (and many herb seeds) do just fine when sprinkled out in the garden, and they'll acclimate better to your local climate if you do.