How I Get New Garden Plants for Free

There's amazing potential to get plants from ones that are already growing.

collecting flower seeds
Collecting seeds from flower pods.

Muriel de Seze/Getty Images

If you are new to gardening, you might not have discovered yet just how much your garden can provide to expand and perpetuate its own existence. No matter its size, there are plenty of ways to make use of the resources at your disposal and to get new garden plants for free—from the plants you already grow!

Looking around, you will find plenty of opportunities to propagate plants from anyone's garden— your own or that of your neighbors, friends, and family, or even from wider surroundings. To inspire you to try this, I will share some of the ways that I have already gotten (or plan to get) new garden plants for free.

Saving Seeds

Saving seeds is amazingly easy and straightforward. Some plants can be more challenging to collect seeds from than others, but you should still give it a go. 

If you have grown heirloom or heritage crops over the summer, it is well worth letting some of them go to seed, in order for those seeds to mature fully. I do not save seeds from all of the crops I grow, but I do always come away at the end of the season with a good number of various seeds to sow the following year.

Another interesting thing to consider is choosing plants for your garden that self-seed readily, especially native plants. Self-seeders will basically do the work for you and increase their population in your garden year after year.

Taking Cuttings

While some plants are easy to propagate from seed, others do better with cuttings. There are a number of different plants that grow well in this way, and some cuttings will take root even without the help of a rooting hormone. Using a homemade willow rooting solution can improve your chances of success when taking softwood, semi-ripe, and hardwood cuttings.

In the last month I've taken cuttings from my lavender and rosemary plants. Over the winter, I plan to take hardwood cuttings from a range of fruit bushes in my forest garden. You may also be able to take cuttings from other people's property if you see something that you love, but you should always ask first.

taking a cutting of a monstera plant
A home gardener takes a cutting of a monstera plant.

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Dividing Perennials

Another important way that I increase plant stocks in my forest garden is by dividing herbaceous perennials. Not only does this keep mature parent plants healthy, but it also provides me with new plants very easily and quickly.

For example, I divide plants like comfrey and hostas. This involves lifting any clump-forming perennial and carefully separating the roots before replanting the remaining part of the original plant. The other section is split up to provide new plants, which can then be placed elsewhere in the garden.

Swapping Seeds and Plants

You should think about swapping seeds and plants with friends, family, and others in your community. Sometimes it's possible to find organized seed and plant swaps, or if no such events exist, perhaps you could help set one up. Schools, churches, and community centers are all good places to connect and cooperate with other gardeners and growers.

Swapping seeds and plants can also be more informal. When my mother-in-law visited a month ago, she brought some lovely flowering perennial plants from her garden and left with some rosemary, mint, and a red currant cutting from mine. There is great potential to swap seeds and plants with other gardeners who may be interested in doing so. In spring, people often sow more seeds than they need, and have seedlings or young plants that can't fit in their gardens, so they may be willing to share. 

Populating a garden does not need to cost the earth. Even on a very limited budget, you can create a truly beautiful and abundant garden. As your own garden continues to improve, you'll find that you have an ever-growing opportunity to gain even more plants for free.