How to Garden on a Budget – Making the Most of the Bargain Rack

We are savvy gardeners, we garden on a budget, so on our garden centre visits we scour the bargain rack for cheap plants, which can often look dead, and have learned the tips and tricks to bring them back to life.

Do not shy away from their scraggly leaves and drooping buds – there is plenty of life in these plants yet. The most important rule though is that they are not all worth your time and effort, so let’s talk about what to look for and how to bring these garden bargains back to peak conditions.

Pick and Choose

Start by considering the overall condition of the plants. There are several reasons plants wind up on the clearance rack.

Are the plants full and healthy, but not currently in bloom? 

Plenty of nurseries mark these down since customers want instant floral gratification when they plant. If you can be a bit patient though, you often get a second or third flush of blooms during the growing season. Some can look amazing in a hanging basket and others in your garden.

Are they leggy and overgrown? 

These can always be cut back to encourage new bushy growth.

Brown and wilted? 

This can be a toss-up. Sometimes a good soaking can bring these back to life, but it is not guaranteed so proceed with caution.

Does the plant look perfectly happy and healthy, but it is marked down anyway? 

Snap it up! Stores frequently need to clear shelf space for new stock, so they move older arrivals to the bargain rack. Good fortune for savvy gardeners!

Annuals or Perennials?

Consider whether the plants are annuals or perennials. Perennials are often a good bargain because you will have them for years to come. In fact, autumn is a great time to plant perennials as they can establish good root systems while the soil is till warm and be ready to burst into bloom the following spring.

Annuals may not be such a good deal, depending on their condition and how much time is left in the growing season. If they need to be cut back to flourish again, you will need at least a few weeks or even longer for it to be worth it. If they have healthy foliage and buds but no blooms, go for it. 

Tender Loving Care

Once you have found the best cheap plants on the bargain rack and brought them home, it is time to offer them some TLC. 

Begin by removing any dead leaves or spent blooms, and check for any signs of disease or pests you may need to treat.

If the plants are leggy and overgrown, cut them back hard to about one-third their original height. This will allow them to flush back out in strong, new growth.

With the plants still in their original pots, water them well and allow excess water to drain out the bottom. (Unless the plants seem to have been over-watered, in which case let the soil dry out before planting).

Time to Plant

The usual planting rules apply. Overgrown plants may have pot-bound roots, so take the time to loosen them if necessary. 

Feed as you plant, amending the soil with a balanced fertiliser or plenty of compost. Water in well, soaking the soil around each plant. Try to avoid getting water on the foliage, as this can sometimes cause rot.

Over the next few weeks, continue to water as necessary and you should soon start to see signs of new growth.

Garden Secrets

It takes a little time and TLC, but bargain plants from the clearance rack may soon become your favourite garden secret!

We picked up three roses and a hosta last year from the clearance rack for less than £15. Two of the roses were just finished flowering and only needing deadheaded. Once planted and fed, they flowered again. The third had frost damage to the tips so we pruned it back, repotted, and fed. The hosta had some leaf damage but we tidied the leaves, repotted, and added another hosta to our collection. Last week we picked up two helleborus reduced to half price and a beautifully sarcococca.

So do check the reduced section in most garden centres and nurseries, and by choosing wisely and offering some care to your bargain purchase, you can save a lot of money in the garden.

Tom’s Hidden Garden is located in Bonnybridge, Central Scotland – a small garden with over 630 different plants, 200 containers and 30 hanging baskets. Tom Williamson has been developing the garden over the last 35 years, working with David Gallacher over the last 10 to create its unique look. Tom is a keen gardener, planting where he thinks a plant will be happy. David is a time-served gardener in commercial gardens and landscaping. Catch up with more secrets of their garden and their success with plants on their Facebook group.

One comment

  1. I also love to save plants that are on clearance or on its last leg at the garden centers. I feel like I am giving them new life. Great post!

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