Some gardens are full of unique and rare flora and fauna from around the world, but I’m a simple girl, and cheap garden plants are the way to go for me! I do have aspirations to get into the more difficult or rare plants at some point, but for the moment, frugal simplicity is top priority! There are so many different directions you can go in and methods you can use in your own garden, and each garden is perfect for each gardener! In this article, I’ll be focusing on the low maintenance and cheap garden plants method. First, I think it’s important to know what criteria I have for a particular plant to be listed in this category.
What is a “cheap” plant?
My idea of a cheap plant is one that meets the following criteria:
- Grows easily in native/available soil
- Establishes easily
- Has low maintenance requirements
- Propagates quickly/easily
The interesting this is, that even though a particular variety of plant might do exceptionally well in the soil, establishes easily and propagates similarly, they might have high maintenance requirements of either time, effort or money. You might find a low maintenance plant that establishes easily and grows well only to find out propagation is a headache. So while you may be able to find a plethora of plants that meet almost all of these criteria, I will be focusing on plants that meet all of them.
Grows Easily in Native/Available Soil
One of the most common frustrations with novice gardeners is the concept of soil health. “Why can’t I just dig a hole, plop the plant in there, and water it?”
Well- you can- technically.
You will, however, be more likely to spend more time, money and effort in the long run by having to buy more and more plants, because without matching the plant to the soil, you’re unlikely to have that plant live very long.
There are all sorts of different elements in soil that have a wide variety of effects on the grasses, flower, herbs, veggies, trees and shrubs growing in them.
Without having to go into a lot of the specifics, you want to find native/hardy varieties that can survive and even thrive in soil that might not be exactly what they’re looking for.
Plants can take years to truly establish a root system that will allow them to survive with only casual tending. It is during this period that taking care of and nurturing your garden is essential.
As a busy wife, mother and entrepreneur, I really like the ones that can get in and get settled quickly. This allows for more time of enjoyment and less overall tending.
Most often there is what’s called a tap root which is considered the “spinal column” of each plant.Be careful, because if you break it, the likelihood of the plant surviving is severely hampered, if not gone completely.
When a transplant or seedling is put into their main pot or spot in the ground, they often don’t seem to do much at first. This is not true. There is often a flurry of growth going on, but you just can’t see it
The roots start spreading their little tendrils out and help to both anchor the plant in place and get as many nutrients and water as possible from it’s immediate surroundings. Once the roots can support the physical plant itself and the energy/nutrient requirements for the little seedling, the growth above ground begins.
During the establishment phase, there will often be more growth below the ground than above. No need to worry though. With a nicely established root system, you can expect many more seasons of growth!
Has Low Maintenance Requirements
For those that have read any of my other posts, you’ll notice that maintenance requirements are kind of big deal around here.
I have a big and busy family, and however much I love getting out in my garden, it can quickly get “put on the back-burner” by other, more pressing, demands on my time.
Due to this fact of life, I tend to make the maintenance requirements for a particular plant one of the most important qualities on my list of pros and cons.Maintenance is not just watering either. Maintenance has a dollar sign and an Epsom salt bath attached to it too.
Weeding, pruning, fertilizing, and pest control are all part and parcel to having a garden.As I have yet to find a way to age in reverse, all that hauling of garden supplies, bending over and working with my hands in the dirt can end up taking it’s price out of your body as well as your wallet.
If you don’t compost, fertilizer is not cheap. If you don’t maintain or prevent your critter ecosystem you can end up with a pricey pest problem. If you don’t do your research on your zone or the particular plant, you can end up having to haul a plant indoors and back out again in the winter at the expense of your back- or a dead plant.
These are all things I consider when assigning a level of maintenance for any particular plant. Finding one that will not leave you with a broken back or wallet is essential.
Question 1: What is propagation?
Question 2: Why do I care?
OK, so propagation is how a plant makes more plants. You would probably think, “seeds, duh.” But you would be wrong in some cases. There are some plants that make no seeds, or- if they do, it’s very rare.
For example, hibiscus. You rarely see hibiscus seeds, because most often, hibiscus are sold by cuttings. (That’s not to say there are never hibiscus seeds, it’s just rare.)
A mature plant that has offshoots that can survive on their own when removed from the “mother”.
Propagating easily and quickly means that you will have the option to thin them out (ie. removing a percentage of the existing plants) and make more without doing harm to the existing mother pant. It’s important to do your research here as well. Just a few minutes can mean the difference between essentially doubling your plants, or having none.
Examples of Cheap Garden Plants
I live in zone 8, so please make sure to find out what zone you live in and find varieties or other types of cheap garden plants that will work in your zone! I will be putting together a list for a multitude of zones for even more details soon!
For my zone, my favorite cheap garden plants are:
Every Garden is Unique
With each different gardener, you have a different idea of the ideal garden. Some are smaller with very rare and particular flora from around the world.
Others are vast and sprawling with well cultivated native plants.
Either way, there will almost certainly be times when other things in life take priority. In those cases, I like knowing that at least a portion of my garden will still thrive.
It’s in those times that things are crazy busy and (often) stressful, an escape to a place of simplicity and growth can be essential to our mental and spiritual health.
Keeping at least a few cheap garden plants is a great way to bring a little joy and life into our busy modern world.
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