11 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Garden Plants

Create a Lush Yard and Patio Garden for Next to Nothing

Not everyone has the finances to buy new plants for each season or occasion. That doesn't mean a garden has to look drab or bare, nor do gardeners need to be deprived of their favorite pastime. The sign of a beautiful garden is not how much money is invested, but how well it's cared for, the design, and choice of plants.

Through cuttings, seeds, plant sales, plant rescuing, and other resourceful ways, a garden can look like paradise. Here's how:

  • 01 of 11

    Cuttings

    man working in garden bed
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    Cuttings are one of the most obvious and popular ways to sample different plants in your region. You can propagate them through layering, rooting, dividing, or simply transplanting the plant directly into soil.  

    This is a popular way to add to your succulent garden, especially for those who live in the western United States and dry or drought-stricken regions that feature succulents in landscapes throughout the year. There's such a frenzy of succulent lovers out there that Facebook groups...MORE devoted to collecting and sharing information have had to limit membership due to overwhelming response. 

    Try to resist taking a cutting from a public or private garden—it's someone else's property. Instead, find the owner, and ask if you might have a cutting. Most likely they will be flattered and happy to share.

  • 02 of 11

    Plant Rescue

    landscapers working
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    Just as dogs, cats, and many other living things need to be rescued, so do plants. Think about sources for unwanted plants that you could nurse back to health and put in containers on your patio or in planting beds. Some ideas:

    • The trash areas and bins of home and garden centers, nurseries and florists. Many merchandisers report the excessive waste of some retailers that throw out plants that were returned or don't look their best.
    • The yard maintenance companies hired by neighbors and...MORE homeowners often discard plants from last season as they swap out new ones. Approach the crew and ask for the rejects—maybe offer a tip or some water bottles. 
    • An abandoned home in the neighborhood that will be torn down. While it might seem like trespassing, digging up a few surviving specimens and giving them a chance for life in your garden will not get you arrested. After all, they will probably destroyed along with everything else on the site to pave way for a new structure and landscape.
  • 03 of 11

    Flea Markets and Car Boot Sales

    plants at car boot sale
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    Flea markets, farmers' markets are a great source for cheap and sometimes free plants. In the United Kingdom, a car boot sale is a term for a group of people gathering together to sell household and garden items. 

    Most people price plants to be affordable. After all, that's why people attend and sell at these kinds of events.

  • 04 of 11

    Garden Tours

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    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    In spring or fall, organized garden tours give locals and enthusiasts opportunities to visit residential gardens. It's a chance to see what grows well in the region, and many tours sell cuttings of plants at stops along the tour.

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Join the Arbor Day Foundation

    girl watering small tree
    Paul Thompson/Getty Imagaes

    One of the perks of joining the Arbor Day Foundation: receive 10 free trees. There are also options for 10 trees to be planted in your name in a national forest or rain forest.

    Find out more about the Arbor Day Foundation.

  • 06 of 11

    Yard and Estate Sales

    yard sale
    Jill Ferry Photography/Getty Images

    Plants are among the least-popular items at an estate or garage sale--everyone has his or her eye on a valuable piece of jewelry or a cool Mid-Century modern teak buffet. Strategically arrive at the end of the sale, when items are often reduced drastically as the sellers want to pack up and move on.

    Offer a low but reasonable amount to take several potted plants off their hands, and be prepared to move them yourself, swiftly and easily. With a little gardening know-how, pruning, and TLC, you can...MORE have those plants looking healthy in a month or so.

  • 07 of 11

    Garden Clubs and Organizations

    plants for sale
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Plant sales are an excellent way to raise money and awareness of local garden and horticulture clubs. That's why they hold seasonal plant sales. And those sales are where someone who is looking for more unusual plants at a great price (or sometimes free), should attend. 

    An added bonus: most members include information on how to grow the plant. Who knows? You might end up joining one of the clubs, where the monthly meetings are often good places for free plant swaps.

  • 08 of 11

    Request a Plant as a Gift

    woman holding plant
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    Your friends and family are always bugging you for gift ideas around the holidays and your birthday, anyway—so why not ask for something you actually want, like plants? You can also request seeds or gift certificates to a garden center or nursery. Your gift giver will be happy to know he or she has selected something you really want. And it's a gift to you, which means it didn't cost you anything.

    Pay it forward and share cuttings with other plant lovers. 

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Online

    woman with plants on computer
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    Do your research online for plant-swapping groups and individuals who have plants to give away for free. Among them:

    • Plantswap.net
    • CraigsList: Find your region, then enter "free plants" or even the name of the particular plant or plants you are looking for. Nothing's guaranteed, but it's a good idea to check frequently. This is also a good way to share your extra cuttings with others.
    • MeetUp: Locate a garden or plant-swapping group near you.
    • Facebook: Search for a particular plant...MORE or for groups in our region.
    • GardenWeb plant exchange
    • PlantCatching
    • World Plant Exchange
  • 10 of 11

    Seeds

    woman planting seeds
    Getty Images

    Seeds have always been one of the most inexpensive ways to grow vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other plants. You don't have to get scientific about it, with grow lights and a miniature greenhouse. If you want, just add some to soil in a pot or garden bed, water regularly, and be pleasantly surprised when seedlings sprout in days, weeks, or even months.

  • 11 of 11

    Church, School or Work

    easter lillies
    Tobias Titz/Getty Images

    During holidays like Christmas and Easter, churches decorate altars with seasonal potted plants that are often donated by local nurseries and florists. At the end of the holiday—or sometimes after the holiday service--clergy will offer plants to parishioners to take home, rather than throwing them away.

    While we aren't suggesting you hang out during the holidays at local churches to score free plants, if you happen to be attending a service or are a member of the congregation, you can inquire...MORE about the fate of the plants. Better yet, volunteer to distribute them to other members of the parish, and take one or two leftovers home for your garden. 

    The same goes for school and work functions—if plants are being thrown out, speak up and take them home.

    Easter lillies planted in a home garden bloom in late spring. And in some warm climates, like Southern California, poinsettias grow into trees or hedges.