Ideas for Low-Cost Gardening

Add green to your landscape while keeping some in your wallet. Check out our best money-saving tips to help your garden and your budget thrive.

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Buy plants that fit your climate and soil conditions.

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  1. Gardening

Choose a Perfect Fit

Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) doesn't tolerate heat, humidity or poorly drained soils, so planting in the Deep South or in wet soils is a recipe for failure. Instead, this summer bloomer is a long-lived garden stalwart for USDA Zones 3 to 8, in well-drained soils.

Take Cuttings

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Use cuttings instead of buying more plants.

If you love the coleus you already have, there's never a need to buy more. Simply take cuttings in the fall, pot up the new plants, keep them indoors by a window for the winter and you'll have plenty of instant color for the garden after the last frost in spring. For more varieties, exchange cuttings with friends, neighbors or garden-club members. Shown here, 'Indian Summer.'

Shrub Cuttings

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Take softwood and hardwood stem cuttings to propagate some of your favorite shrubs.

The method and timing for woody-shrub cuttings depends on the variety. For common flowering quince (Chaenomeles), August is the best time. Softwood cuttings, dipped in rooting hormone, are usually successful.

Outsmart Pesky Critters

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Choose pest-resistant bulbs.

Squirrels won't eat the so-called "tommies" — Crocus tommasinianus — here, 'Ruby Giant.'

Replicating Bulbs

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Choose bulbs that multiply.

Unlike most tulips, which tend to weaken every succeeding year, some bulbs just keep going, replicating themselves with no effort from the gardener. Plant a few dozen daffodils, and in five years, you're likely to have many more. 

Non-Invasive Plants

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Invest in self-seeding plants.

Cleome, like hollyhocks, cosmos, forget-me-nots and shasta daisies, sow themselves but aren't invasive. Snap a picture of each plant so that, come spring, you'll be able to distinguish the leaves of a "keeper" from a weed.

Lasting a Lifetime

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Choose long-lived perennials.

Plants like scabiosa, wallflower and hardy mums typically last three to five years. Other perennials like blanket flower, columbine and coreopsis are equally short-lived but reseed freely. Still others are long timers; such garden stalwarts include bearded iris, daylily, hellebore, astilbe and bee balm, to name a few. Peonies, above, are extremely enduring, sometimes lasting for more than a century. 

Divide, Then Multiply

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Multiply your plants by dividing them.

Some plants like daylilies, bearded iris, yarrow and ornamental grasses need to be divided every few years to reinvigorate them and to reduce overcrowding. What you'll gain for your efforts are new plants to expand your beds and to share with friends.

Watch for Flowers

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Check when they flower.

When a particular perennial is best divided depends in large part on when they flower. Spring-blooming astilbe can be divided in fall or early spring.

Resting Period

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Wait until the plant is "resting."

Bearded iris is best divided about two months after it finishes flowering; many gardeners like to divide their irises in August.

Plant Perennials

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Divide fall bloomers in spring.

Late-blooming perennials like helianthus, shown here, are best divided in spring. Filling your beds with a variety of perennials that give successive seasons of bloom, blooming shrubs and colorful conifers means you'll be less apt to load up on trays of annuals to fill holes in the landscape.

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