Gardening might cost less than other pastimes but it’s usually not without expenses. At a minimum, you might have to buy planters, potting soil and starter plants or packets of seeds. You can actually eliminate most expenditures if you make your own potting soil, repurpose old containers into pots, and even obtain plants for free. Here’s how to track down sources of free plants.
Check out the farm and garden subsection within Craigslist’s sales section. While most of the listings usually have pricetags on them, you might try reaching out to posters that look like their business is large enough for them to have castaways . Perhaps they prune plants and can give you cuttings that you could replant.
If you want to be more direct about what you’re looking for, try posting in Craigslist’s wanted section — a subcategory of sales — and specify that you are looking for plants or clippings. Also try the barter section, and offer up something that would make a logical trade for plants.
Look in the Phone Book
It might sound kind of retro to suggest a phone book search, but that’s where you’ll find a listing of horticulturally-focused businesses, including nurseries, landscapers and even florists.
Call the larger ones and ask them whether they discard plant remnants or even entire plants that are wilting. Calling or emailing businesses first will save you a lot of time otherwise spent schlepping around.
Nurseries, garden suppliers and even florists have certain standards about what they sell — and what they think might not sell well could be your next horticulral project.
Ask them if they are about to throw away any plants and offer to take them off their hands .The more you can phrase things to sound like you are helping them and the environment, the better your chances might be.
Note that it requires a lot more work to revive languishing plants than to work with healthy plants — be prepared for the possibility of failure. Hopefully, not having paid for the plant might take away some of the sting if it dies.
Landscapers can also be a gold mine of plantable castaways. Just about every day they’re working these gardeners prune a great deal of greenery that includes some items you might be able to replant. Again, try to phrase your request in a way that conveys you want to help them and make it clear that you can come to them and take on all of the relocation of the plants.
They might even be able to give you healthy plants that they’ve uprooted from other yards for aesthetic landscaping reasons — however, these plants need to be replanted immediately in order to survive, so you’ll need to build a relationship with landscapers to get to a point where they’ll confide in you about when and where they might be likely to have uprooted plants.
Clip What Looks Good
You might have more control over the outcome of free gardening efforts by clipping the plantable portions off of any plant or tree that you like. Remember to ask for permission before you clip anything that isn’t in your own yard.
Strive for additional diplomacy if you don’t personally know the owner of the property the plant appears on; get to know the owner so you can phrase your request in a way that appeals to the individual.
You’ll probably have better luck if you ask people you already know. Put the word out to your friends that you’re interested in either clipping from their plants or taking any plants they don’t want.
If nothing turns up from your network, join gardening groups; there are oodles of them on Facebook, including ones with localized memberships. The latter might yield the most choices for obtaining clippings — especially if you offer some form of barter when dealing with people you’re just getting to know.
Save Your Seeds
If you already have at least one plant, you might on your way to owning more: Save the seeds from the plant and then replant them at the time of year recommended for that particular species of plant.
You’re probably thinking about saving seeds from the fruits and vegetables you consume. As long as the produce was grown organically, this should work. Apparently, seeds from nonorganic produce might be sterile.
Readers, have you tried to source plants for free? What have your experiences been in this area?
Jackie Cohen is an award winning financial journalist turned turned financial advisor obsessed with climate change risk, data and business. Jackie holds a B.A. Degree from Macalester College and an M.A. in English from Claremont Graduate University.