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Houseplants on a budget

Are you broke as a joke or just can’t justify – to yourself or your partner – that you should buy more plants? Here are my top tips for acquiring plants, pots and soil for free or next-to-nothing. May this advice help your houseplant jungle continue to grow without breaking the bank!

Plants Without a Price Tag


Propagating plants involves taking part of a mature plant (this could be roots, leaves or stems) and stimulating it to grow. That sounds like a magic trick, but it’s really quite simple and your plant cutting does 99% of the work! Here’s what you do:

  1. Identify the plant you want to propagate – maybe it’s a plant you already have or something from your friend’s collection.
  2. Do a little research on what type of cutting works best for this plant (stem, leaf, or roots), and how it likes to re-grow (either in soil or water). There are loads of helpful tutorials all over the internet to support you through the process. Here’s our tutorial on snake plant propagation. Snake plants are a ubiquitous, easy-care and air-purifying houseplant so they are a great place to start!
  3. Take a cutting from the parent plant and propagate! Once it has new growth in the form of roots or leaves you can plant your baby if it’s not already in soil and watch it grow into a beautiful, thriving houseplant.

Propagating plants is by far the cheapest way to grow your houseplant addiction… ahem…collection, because nothing is cheaper than free!

The Secret Secondary-Market
…Well maybe it’s not so secret anymore because these communities of plant enthusiasts buying, selling and trading all things plants are thriving! Now more than ever with the aid of apps like Bunz and Facebook it is super easy to find plant cuttings, mature plants, tools, pots and all sorts for trade or sale by other plant lovers in your neighborhood.

Monstera cuttings for trade on Bunz

For instance, maybe you just pruned your monstera and have a bunch of cuttings ready to propagate. You can post a picture of your cuttings on Bunz and mention plants from your wish list that you’d like in exchange for your cuttings. When the right person spots your ad, you can make a trade. This way you’ve just swapped cuttings you may otherwise throw out for a new plant to add to your collection. How great is that?!

Grow from Seed

Did you know mature plants purchased at your local nursery or home improvement store can be 10 – 100 times more expensive than growing from seed? Seed packets cost just a few bucks on average and include 10 – 200 seeds per pack. That means you have room for error if your first few seeds don’t work out, or you can cut costs even more by splitting seed packets with a friend!

We love growing from seed and have great resources to make your seed-starting adventure a walk-in-the-park. Plants such as basil, african violets, nasturtiums, peace lilies, english ivy and coleus are easy seeds to begin with. Check out these videos to get started: Why I Grow From Seed and How to Get Started and Starting Seeds Indoors.

Pennies for Pots

Recycled Pots

Houseplant pots can have a steeper price tag than the plants themselves! But if you’ve got a creative spirit or a few minutes to browse the internet for ideas, you can come up with tons of options for up-cycling household materials into beautiful and quirky pots that show off your personality and divert waste from a landfill. I’ve got two examples to ignite your creative fire:

1. Tea Tin Pot. When I finished the last tea bag from a souvenir tea-tin brought home from Scotland I had a sentimental urge to keep it. The tea tin was both beautiful and a gift from my mother. I was so happy when I realized I could convert it into a pot! I simply popped a parsley plant I had in a generic plastic pot into the tin – et voilà! And should I choose to plant something directly in the tin one day, all I need to do is drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage and it will be good to go!

2. Milk Jug Hanger: The next example comes from our gardenstead Facebook community. Colette Atkinson received the funky hanging basket depicted below from her sister. It is a painted milk jug with the bottom sliced off! A fabric ‘head scarf’ is wrapped around the jug to complete the look.

Photo Courtesy of Colette Atkinson
Dollar Store

For those of us who are looking to purchase instead of create, head to the dollar store for bargain pots! I am amazed at the variety and quality of pots and gardening goods available at dollar stores. I have picked up several cheap and cheerful pots, pruning shears, trellises and more at dollar stores and they are still in good shape years later.

Dirt Cheap Soil

City Compost

If your city or town has a composting program, they might make the compost they create available for free to the community. For example, the City of Toronto allows residents to pick up free compost on Community Environment Days and at select drop-off depots in the city.

Turning Trash into Gold: DIY Compost

Take your food scraps and plant clippings and turn them into nature’s true gold: soil. There is a huge variety of at-home composting methods that are easy to set up and maintain. You can store composting bins inside or outside your home and in a variety of sizes to suit your space.

Photo Courtesy of Emily Gernat

In most houseplant cases, compost is best used in combination with different materials (like perlite and peat moss) to create an optimal potting mix. And in some cases, like with succulents, compost should not be used at all. Identify what type of soil your plant prefers and find a potting soil recipe that meets its needs.

With these tips and tricks in hand, go forth and enjoy your passion for plants with abandon!

yellow petaled flower by elias sorey unsplash

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