Finding free plants is one of the best ways to add to your garden without spending a dime. You really can have a luxurious garden for next to nothing if you know how to get free plants. From flowering plants to foliage accent plants, vegetable plants, and even shrubbery--many of these are available for nothing or next to nothing.
It's Easy (and Fun) to Get Free Plants
You might be surprised at how easy it is to find plants for free. From roadside picking to construction site exploration or even trading with your gardening friends, finding free plants is actually a breeze, or at least, breeze-adjacent.
Let's face it. It's a great idea to save money on your garden. Plants are not cheap. This way, if they don't make it, you haven't wasted any money--just a little bit of effort, and sometimes it really isn't much effort at all!
If you've got a brown thumb like I do, it's even more important to save money this way. It's not fun to spend heaps of money on plants only to have them die on you. This way, you can work on turning your brown thumb to green without throwing a lot of "green" away.
You can even get your kids involved in gardening more easily without worrying too much about mistakes!
Kids or no kids, here are some easy ways to get plants free or on the cheap.
Have a Plant or Seed Swap
Think of this as trading cards or a cookie swap, but for gardeners. Chances are both you and many of your gardening friends have an overabundance of a certain plant or certain seeds.
Rather than just throw them out, host a plant or seed swap. Everyone trades with everyone else. Everybody gets new plants, and nobody pays a dime!
Divide and Conquer
Finding free plants can sometimes be as easy as looking in your own beds. Many plants like hostas and daylilies and almost all decorative grasses grow to be many times larger at maturity than when they started out.
Dividing these plants is a simple matter of digging up a portion of the root system and transplanting it to another part of the yard. Your plants and your budget will be happier and healthier for it.
This year, I'm getting some herbs (catnip, lemon balm, and mint) from a friend since hers have multiplied. All I'm paying for is shipping!
Become a Seed Saver
Saving seeds works great for both flowering and vegetable plants. Collecting seeds from your self-pollinating flowering and vegetable plants allows you to start up your garden early next year and do it at no cost.
You can save seeds from sunflowers, tomatoes, beans, corn, and lots more. This seed saving guide from Find Gardeners has the lowdown on everything you need to know.
Look in Your Own Backyard
Finding free plants can be as easy as giving your yard a good once over. People often forget that they can find all kinds of great free plants right in their own yard.
You can find small starts / seedlings of every kind of plant from trees to flowering plants in your yard. They're usually incredibly easy to transplant, and they're often the perfect fit for your yard or garden because they're either native to the area or have already been proven to do well in your climate zone.
You can use rooting hormone to help you grow your own plants from cuttings. Now, not all plants are created equal when it comes to using cuttings, but with the only cost to you being the purchase of some rooting hormone, it's for sure worth a try to see how it goes.
Check the Curb
Curb shopping is another great option for finding free plants. It is exactly as the name implies. You're just shopping around on the street curb.
This time of year, people are dividing and thinning the plants on their property. They might even be replacing plants. What do they do with the excess plants and bulbs that they don't need? In many cases, they put them on the curb, hoping that another gardener will make good use of them. That's you!
I've done this a few times and have a lovely flowering plant next to our front walkway as a result.
Hit Paydirt at Construction Sites
You may not have thought of this one, but you can get all kinds of free plants at construction sites if you're lucky. Construction sites of all types are great places to find perennials, native plants, and even mature shrubs, all ripe for the taking.
If you know of any construction in your area - whether it be building sites, road expansion projects, or other renovations - call the construction company. They might agree to save plants or even give you access to the site to dig them up yourself.
A similar tactic to curb shopping is looking on websites to find free plants. Sites like Craigslist, Freecycle, and Facebook Marketplace are excellent places to start.
When the weather begins to warm in spring, and people begin dividing and replacing plants, they'll often leave a "curb post" on one of these sites. These posts alert the public that they can find free plants on the curb of the house listed.
Of course, if you want to go this route, you'll want to check the sites often since FREE stuff often goes fast!
Even if you can't get them for free, you can really score some deals. I just bought some great rhubarb plants for only $5 each. And update--literally 2 days after publishing this post, I reached out to a lady offering sedums in a Facebook group I'm in.
Take Advantage of Catalog Promotions
Remember way back in the 90s when people could sign up for music club memberships and get X amount of CDs for a penny or for free? This is basically the same thing but for plants.
Find a plant and seed catalog from which you've never ordered, and you could score an average of $25 in free product. You won't always find a deal like this, but surprisingly, you'll find it often enough to make scouring the internet worth it.
Mailing Lists are Your Friend
Of course, buy-one-get-one isn't totally free, but it's pretty darn good. After all, twice the plant for the same amount of money is a really good thing.
Ask Around at Churches and Schools
Both churches and schools periodically change their landscaping or have to do structural improvements or additions to their buildings. When spring rolls around, ask your local churches and schools if they have any plans that will require them to move plants and if you can have some or all of them.
In addition to landscaping and construction projects, schools and churches often have gatherings, services, etc. that may feature potted plants. Most of the time, these plants just end up getting tossed. If you can get there in time, you might be able to bring home some lovely plants for free.
We've scored some plants this way just as a natural result of spending time socializing after programs were over.
Offer Digging Services
You can post free plant-digging services on sites like craigslist and Next Door, a web portal for people in neighborhoods to communicate with each other.
The idea with digging services is that you will come and dig up plants that your neighbors no longer want. You get free plants, and they get free labor. Everyone wins! In our last home, our neighbor had tons of Lily of the Valley and Daylilies, and they were happy to get hand them off anytime.
Raid the Nursery Infirmary
Nurseries are often only able to sell the most beautiful, most healthy plants. After all, no one wants to buy a plant that looks like it's ready to give up the ghost.
That's your queue to score some freebies. Ask the store manager of your local nursery if they have any plants destined for the dumpster or in the dumpster already. Many times, a plant that looks like death in a pot really just needs a touch of TLC to bounce back!
Peruse Your Kitchen
You can grow all kinds of produce for free from the leftovers in your kitchen. Garlic, onions, and the like can be planted to produce more plants.
Besides those plants, you can also grow pineapples, lettuce, potatoes, celery, and many more foods from kitchen scraps. Yes, you seriously can regrow vegetables and more!
Your Garden Can Be Cheaper Than You Think
Now that you are armed with all of these ideas, it's time to put them into practice. From curbside shopping to offering digging services and even hosting your own little plant swap meet, you can find free or cheap plants almost anywhere. So start searching, and you'll be finding free (or inexpensive) plants for your garden or yard in no time!
Please share your tips for finding cheap or free plants or a great free plant score experience?