More Free Plants!

More Free Plants!

Free Plants! The best possible price you can find right? Last week I was struck by a post at everyone’s favorite ranting website. The post discussed the “lies” of gardening and one of those supposed lies was that you don’t have to spend money to get plants. The author implied that to get good plants you have to spend good money. To me…well…that’s just ridiculous.

The author cited several ways to get free plants and how they just weren’t quality plants of any account. She completely left out propagating plants. You can get almost any plant to root in some way shape or form. How do you think they amass so many kinds of plants of the same variety in the stores? All those fancy echinaceas won’t come true from seed so they do root cuttings. Those beautiful shrubs you see are propagated through stem cuttings. Sure they take time to grow from a little 6 inch cutting to a large bushy foundation planting but you absolutely CAN get great plants for free. All you have to do is know someone who has the plant you like and ask to take a few cuttings at the right time of the year – then propagate!

Oh wait – maybe it isn’t completely free – you might have to pay for gas to get to your friends house…

…but if you were going there anyway it’s FREE!
So what free plants have I made lately? I’m glad you asked! 
Firethorn or pyracantha – greenwood cuttings made about 6 weeks ago. 5 of 7 rooted.

River Birch – Betula nigra. The first two cuttings from this batch of 5-6 rooted a couple weeks ago. These two took a little longer but are well rooted now.

Hydrangeas! Two of them are my favorite variegated lacecap kind. Easy, easy, easy to root! Did I say easy?

‘Otto Luyken’ Cherry Laurel. These root just the same as a the Schip laurel. Of course these would probably all be termed as ‘boring’ plants but you know what? The smallest ‘Otto Luyken’ you can buy in the stores runs about $20. Larger pots can be over $50. I have to say I like the price of the free ones!

So what do you think? Do you have to spend a ton of money to have a great garden?


Dave has written since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 4 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave has a side business growing and selling heirloom vegetables and herb plants through Blue Shed Gardens and works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Great post Dave. Yeah, I'm not so sure that to get good plant you have to spend good money. I mean how did the growers and breeders get them in the first place. Is there a specialty store where you go to spend good money for good plants so you can make good plants that people will spend good money on?

  2. Dave, you are a master propagator! I used to do a little of this years ago, but you have to have room to keep all of the starts. I don't anymore but am still fascinated by the process. Great post!


  3. Great post – and timely, as I am about to go out and take cuttings of some of the tender plants I have enjoyed this year. I garden on a very low budget, so propagation is my friend. I'm a rank amateur, and have so far failed on larger plants, but do OK on perennials and the like. Thank you for inspiring me to have another go at the hazel and Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'.

  4. Add to that price the money and time you've put into your greenhouse and the effort of raising a baby plant to be strong enough to make it through a southern summer. Most of us do have to spend good money to get good plants. I tried propagating- followed all your directions. They rooted, but I had no where to keep them and I put them outside too soon. Lost them all and realize I can't do it here- I need plants that can go out immediately.

  5. Mr Brownthumb,

    That is a very good point about the breeders. They have to generate their stock somehow!


    Thanks! I do have the room but it doesn't take up much space if done on a smaller scale.


    Larger plants can be more difficult which is why many like the redbud you mention are typically grafted. I've been trying some redbud cuttings but no luck yet. One of these days I may try my hand at grafting.


    I have yet to use my greenhouse for any plant. It's not ready yet. I've gardened for three years at this house without it and made hundreds of plants through cuttings. You don't have to have a greenhouse to do this. When acclimating the plants to the garden I put them in a shaded area until they have grown used to the weather. A shady tree will work. I don't know how much space you have but you really don't need much. I was propagating willows back when we lived in an apartment. Sometimes just putting the new cuttings in pots near established plantings where they can be sheltered will work. Yes like you said it all takes effort but effort does not mean you are spending a lot of money.

  6. I know I'll keep trying ("gardener"="eternal optimist") and see if it works for me to put plants outside. I know it would help if I didn't forget about them! I'm learning a lot from your blog, so please don't take that comment as criticism.

    At what size do you generally let a plant fend for itself when you've started it from seed or a cutting? (Yes, that varies by plant, but say, for a coneflower or for a hydrangea, as two different examples.)

  7. Jill,

    Criticism is welcome and it isn't such a bad word. Frequently people take offense to it but I didn't take any offense to your comment. Often differing views and criticism make people come to better realizations about how to go about things. We learn from each other!

    It all depends on the root system of the plant and the time of year. Some plants if planted in the spring like perennials and annuals I've planted right in the ground. Basil and salvia come to mind. Hydrangeas grow root systems very quickly and a plant started in spring might have a good enough root system to plant in ground by fall. Some other gardeners plant directly into the ground right after treating with rooting hormone. There are many ways to do it. I just like pots because I don't know where I'm going to put stuff! For a coneflower I would plant them out in the spring if the root system fills the pot fairly well but might wait until fall if it doesn't. Of course I've planted some plant right in the ground with rather straggly roots and they've done fine! As long as they are kept well watered they can succeed. Also you might consider planting the pot and everything where you eventually want the plant. You can pull the pot up and replant the plant in that location if that is where you want it or move it easily if not. The ground will protect it from drying out in the pot as fast.

    As a greenhouse substitute for overwintering you could make a small hoop house with plastic and PVC for a very small amount of money.

    Just some ideas!

  8. You are so correct Dave! You have so so so many FREE plants from your propagating methods. I take cuttings from the Pothos and create new plants as well. Okay, I bought the first plant but the others I have were all Free! Plus I have some wonderful plants for free from pass-a-longs from other gardens! Free is good in the garden and you SHOULD Write your own book on Free Plants!!!

  9. I'm surprised you haven't mentioned the bathroom and window sills. 🙂

  10. Skeeter,

    I tend to think of it in total cost per plant. If you buy one then every one you make after that spreads out the cost over the others. There's nothing wrong with buying a plant – I've bought plenty! I just don't think you have to spend a ton of money for a great garden.

    And what Jenny (my wife) says is true. I have used many window sills for plant starts!

  11. Very good post. I agree with you on the Rant. I was going to do a post called 'Caring is Sharing' about propagation and how you get so much more than just the plant. You touched on that a bit with visiting a friend. I got the same impression that you did from the rant and felt the need to respond on my blog rather than leave a comment.

    I did that earlier this week with one of my posts called 'Gnome – Found Dead'. There is so much seriousness going around, but as a perpetual propagator,I saw more to the process than just raising the little plants. And working with a nurseryman, I do have to use purchased plants, but I slip in my home raised ones as well into client's designs.

    You bet me to the punch. Great post.

  12. I read that same article that you did and was shocked by it also. Plants can be so easy to propagate and fun too! I recently posted about one said "free plant".
    By the way, I received the Eco-smart giveaway package today, and I can't thank you enough! I love trying out organic products, so I can't wait to test them out!

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