If we have anything like the Summer we had last year it will be a blessing to have a garden to sit out in. This could be the ideal year to create the garden you’ve always wanted and a good place to start is by changing the planting. Like everything else the cost of plants has soared so I wrote this blog to offer my top 10 tips to reduce the cost of buying plants. I look at how to buy your plants, where to source them from and what size to buy as well as tips on how to make sure they’ll thrive. I hope you find my guide useful and follow my tips to ensure your money is well spent.


You don’t need to buy plants in pots. Many plants can be bought as ‘Bare root’ which just means without soil. Because most plants have a dormant period, often late Autumn and Winter, when they are not in active growth; they become available to buy in this form at this time of the year. Plants are much cheaper when they are sold as bare root because there is no cost in potting them up and keeping them watered.

bare root roses

Examples of the types of plants that you’ll find sold as bare roots include hedging, roses, shrubs and some perennials too. Traditionally roses were only planted in Winter as bare root stock and head gardeners would plan their tree and hedge planting as a winter project. You’ll find there is a wide choice of plants that can be shipped at this time of year particularly if you look at specialist nurseries. And because the plants are in their dormant phase, they are lighter and need less packaging which makes them easy to deliver without risk of damage. When you receive them do follow the care and planting instructions as they often need rehydrating before being planted out.


As with bare root plants, many flowering bulbs are much cheaper to buy in their dry dormant state. And again shopping with a specialist nursery will give you a far wider choice than a garden centre. You’ll find tulips, crocus, dahlias, alliums, daffodils to name but a few, all of which will bring a welcome pop of colour to your pots and borders.



Look out for heavy discounts at the end of season for bare root, dry bulbs and seeds. I am signed up to the newsletters of my favourite suppliers so I don’t miss out. There will always be a corner in the garden centre where the plants in need of a good home will be put. You never know what you will find. Rocky road?


Try growing your own plants from scratch for the cost of just a few pounds. You might assume that you’d be restricted to just annuals however with the increased interest in cut flowers the choice of both annuals and perennials has increased enormously recently with some really attractive colourways now on the market. I particularly like and Green and gorgeous for their curated choice of seeds and particularly helpful sewing guides.



This simple method for increasing your existing plant stock doesn’t require green fingers or special gardening equipment.

Perennials grow and over time increase the space they occupy. Particularly strong perennials can become thugs and take over a border while other perennials, although increasing the overall space they occupy, develop a dead centre where the oldest part of the plant has run out of steam, creating a hole in the flowering. In both cases it’s good gardening practise to ‘Lift and divide’ perennials as needed. This can be anything from every 3 to 5 years. This practise not only controls the overall appearance of the border but also the health and vigour of its flowers.

Carefully dig down deeply around the whole perimeter of the clump and then lever the mass out completely. Placing the large clump where it is easy to work, start dividing it into smaller clumps by using two forks back to back for very heavily congested root balls or a sharp knife for more fleshy roots. Ideally make the clumps the size you would buy from a garden centre. Replant these smaller clumps back into the border having added fresh compost and any other nutrients you feel the soil needs. You are likely to have left over clumps which can be potted up or planted elsewhere.


This is another method to increase your stock from existing plants and involves taking cuttings. It is not difficult but does require some bits and bobs. On TV Gardener’s world regularly shows how to take cuttings and of course utube has a tutorial for everything. As with growing new plants from seed, propagation is an immensely rewarding way of having more plants in your garden.

plant cuttings


If you have sewn your own seeds or lifted and divided your perennials, you’ll definitely have some surplus plants. These will come in handy to bring to any seed and plant swops in your area. Even if you don’t have anything to bring you’ll know already that gardeners are a generous lot and most times of the year there are plenty of spare plants and seedlings being offered around. You can tap into this rich seam by looking out for plant sales at your local village hall or community café. And you’ll know already, if you belong to a Gardening club that many have a members table that is bursting with plants for sale at very low cost.


Big does not mean better. At the beginning of the growing year in March/ April garden centres and online companies sell small plug plants very cheaply. These small plants need potting up into the next pot size up and then grown on for a month or so. In that time they will have developed a good strong root system while the weather warms up ready for them to be planted out into the border.

plug plants

Another cheaper size to buy perennials is the square 9 cms pots. Again if these are planted at the beginning of the growing season they will become the same size plant that you would find in the more common 3 litre pot at the garden centre.


You don’t always need to be in the trade to use a wholesale nursery. For many their criterial is a spending threshold or a minimum number. You might need to create an account to access their availability lists.


Incorrect plant spacing is very common. Either leaving too large a gap between plants so that they’ll never knit together and just fill up with weeds, or planting too close together that they’ll look great for a year or two but then grow into each other.

To avoid this measure out the planting area you want to fill and then divide it by the spread of the plant to calculate how many you will need. And, even if you don’t know the exact variety of plant you will end up buying most perennials can be grouped into small medium and large from which you can anticipate their eventual spread.

Image of tools for planning planting in a garden. Garden courses in somerset bath bristol and wiltshire

If you are mixing shrubs with perennials, there will be large gaps when you first plant up the border because shrubs take many years to reach their eventual spread. To plug the gaps with instant  flowers try sprinkling the seeds of a non-invasive annual flower while the shrub expands to fill its allocated space.


Landscape contractors assume a 10% failure rate for newly planted borders so it is worth taking every step to ensure the plants get off to a good start. I total agree with the gardening phrase Spend a penny for the plant and a pound for the hole it really does reap rewards.


The first step is by making sure your new area is totally weed free. Some weeds can be easily removed, such as annuals, however perennial weeds are harder to eradicate quickly especially if you have not removed all of the roots. Where you do have perennial weeds I would strongly advise you weed in passes and anticipate waiting a few months before the area is ready to plant into. By expecting that a certain percentage will return and then repeatingly removing them, over time they will be much weaker and hopefully only return in small isolated areas. This way you can really keep ontop of any that resurface.


By choosing Spring or Autumn to plant your new border you can benefit from the high levels of natural rainfall and avoid the extremes of cold and heat. Heat causes any new plants to become stressed as well as not having an established root structure to absorb all the water it needs  by need to water.

I hope you have found my top 12 tips for saving money on new plants helpful and they have spurted you onto making this the year you create the garden you have always dreamed of.