Many people have started collecting plants over the last year or so. It’s become quite the trendy hobby and I can see why! Growing plants is something mindful we can do at home to increase our sense of peace and tranquility. With so many people jumping on the planty bandwagon, prices have increased and some varieties are highly desirable making them difficult to find. Wouldn’t it be nice to get free plants? You can! Let’s look at how we can save a bit of money and get plants for less. Just remember that cultivating a collection takes time and effort so be patient, put in some time and you’ll see great results for less cash.
There’s an old saying; “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” You’d be surprised just how generous and giving planty people are, especially if you ask in a way that is considerate and unentitled. Put the word out to your green thumbed friends that you’d be happy to take any unwanted cuttings off their hands. Don’t say no when they offer something to you, even if you might not be thrilled about the species or particular details about the plant or cutting. A free plant is a free plant and you can put it to good use.
Make a post on a local plant collecting Facebook group that you are looking to start and grow your houseplant collection and would be happy to take unwanted plants, pots or supplies that others wish to be rid of. Most collectors have a plant or two they might not be in love with anymore. Ask and you shall receive – especially if you’re solving someone else’s problem (like giving them some space back!) Even if it’s not a plant you are particularly excited about you can still use it to grow your collection.
How to Ask
- Be nice! Give the person an easy way to say no and don’t press them if they do.
- Be grateful! If you receive something make sure you say thank you and show your gratitude.
- Pay it forward! In a year or two, when you find yourself with extra plants or cuttings, give them to a newbie.
Use those unwanted free plants to make trades for things that might suit your tastes a little better. Grow little unexciting cuttings into full plants that might make more interesting trades. You can set up trades the same way you asked for unwanted cuttings. Just let it be known what you have, and what you’d like in exchange. I’ve obtained many new plant varieties by trading and it’s a fantastic way to meet your fellow plant enthusiasts! Keep in mind, it may take some time to root cuttings and grow things into plants that are suitable for trading.
Remember, you can trade things that aren’t plants for plants. I’ve traded plant stands and pots for plants before but you could also trade things like coffee, artwork, crafts you’ve made and more. Get creative and see what sort of trades you can put together.
How to Trade
- Be clear! Let potential traders know exactly what you have, what condition it’s in, what size it is etc. Is it a cutting or is it a rooted plant? Take photos that depict the state of your trade.
- Be flexible! You might have a wish lists of plants you are looking for but always be open to other options. You never know what species you may fall in love with.
- Be fair! Don’t ask for an expensive rare plant if your plant is very low value. Don’t ask for a huge plant in exchange for cuttings and don’t try to pawn off unhealthy, pest ridden plants for something that’s thriving.
There may be someone in your life who needs help caring for their plant collection. Maybe they have a big plant in need of a new pot and are unable to wrangle it. Maybe they have one that needs to be split in two and they don’t want the second. Offer to do the work it in exchange for a cutting. Put the word out that you can offer help with plants and would be very grateful if you could snag a propagation in return for a job well done.
Propagating is something you should become familiar with if you want to turn those free cuttings into potted plants. You’ll likely be successful with water propagating most plants but there are some where another approach might be better. When possible ask the person who gave you the plant what type of plant it is, and if they know how to best root it. Do a search online to get tips and tricks and you’ll see your cuttings rooted in no time.
Additionally, if you’re trying to green up your home, propagating is a great way to expand your collection. Each individual plant you have, doesn’t have to be a unique species. I have duplicates of several plants in different places in my home and I don’t mind if it’s a species of plant I enjoy growing. You can have more than one Monstera or Pothos or Begonia and propagating off the plants you currently have is a free way to double your plant collection!
How to Propagate
String of Hearts – a quick growing vine that you are likely to find for a trade
Pilea Peperomiodies – This is sometimes called a ‘friendship’ plant because it easily produces off-shoots.
Lemon Lime Maranta – An easy to share species
Begonia Medora – A cane type begonia that is a breeze to root
Buy from Hobby Growers
You can often find a better deal buying small plants from plant groups than if you went to a nursery and bought a larger established plant. Keep an eye on your Facebook buy and sell groups and you’ll get to know who likes to sell off their propagations. Be sure to follow general safety advice (meet in a public location etc.) and avoid buying from plant flippers (Someone who bought the plant at a big box store and is selling it on for profit) as you’ll negate any savings if something goes awry.
Look at Garage Sales and Swap Meets
When we moved away from the north I had to sell all my plants and I sold them at a discount because we were on a timeline and had to get going. Watch for moving sales, garage sales and markets. Some people are okay with haggling in such situations so you might save a few dollars if you can strike a bargain. Just remember your manners if you try to get the price down and be ready to walk away if a deal can’t be made.
At the end of the summer gardening season, some plants can be brought in and overwintered in your home. You might be able to take apart a hanging basket and keep some of the plants until next year when they can go outside again. A plant kept from the garbage is a free plant! Ask friends if they have any outdoor plants they are getting rid of. If you do bring outdoor plants inside be sure to repot them in new soil suitable for houseplants and give them a good once over for pests. You don’t want to bring bugs in with the plants!
Plants to overwinter
Did you know you can grow houseplants from kitchen scraps? You can! It’s fun to grow your pineapple tops, avocado seeds and citrus seeds into plants in your home. A plant grown from garbage is a free plant!
Other planty things to save on:
Soil: Who knew a bag of dirt could be so expensive?! You can salvage soil from other plants (maybe you had one that died) but you should treat it before reusing. Bake soil in the oven until it reaches 200 degrees F for approx 30-45 min to sterilize any harmful bacteria or pests that might be lurking within. You can use a dedicated cookie sheet and cover it over with foil.
Once the soil is sterilized, let it cool and then start adding good things back into it like worm castings to establish a culture of beneficial bacteria for your plants. Use as you usually would!
Pots: When you have plants, you need pots! Plastic nursery pots can often be found for little or nothing on Facebook market place. Look for interesting ceramic and patinaed terra cotta in thrift shops and at garage sales. I’ve also found inexpensive pots at dollar stores. Your plant isn’t going to care if it’s in a used pot instead of a trendy pot from a designer home store. It will grow just as well in a thrifty one! Remember you can grow plants in things that weren’t meant to be plant pots like that little copper canister above. Just drill a drainage hole into the bottom and you’re good to go.
Fertilizer: DIY your own compost if you can! You can mix in things like coffee grounds, egg shells and scraps ( particularly banana peels,) to start. No need to get an entire composting situation going in your house. If you have a food processor, get them chopped into small pieces. Mix in some ‘browns’ like cardboard, nut shells, and dead leaves from your plants and let the entire mix dry out before stirring some into your houseplant soil blend. Processing it down is important so scraps will break down easily and release nutrients as you water your plants.
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to get free plants and grow your plant collection for less money. A hobby is no good if it becomes a source of financial stress and I find putting effort into making plant collecting more affordable very satisfying! Now that I have a larger collection, I’ve been able to sell some propagations and put that money towards buying some more expensive plants I otherwise wouldn’t buy. As those plants grow I end up with cuttings that get me some harder to find varieties from people who are interested in trading for them. Trading is a fantastic way to make connections with people who share your hobby and interests. Expanding your network of knowledgeable plant people is always beneficial and it’s a process I’ve enjoyed so much. I hope you enjoy it too.