Best budget plants: 50 ideas for low-cost gardening
Take your pick from the best budget plants and you'll soon discover that a beautiful and productive garden doesn't need to cost the earth
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Filling a garden with plants can be expensive. But choose the best budget plants and you'll find that money can easily be saved rather than splashing out on expensive blooms that won't go the distance.
For biennials you'll want a succession of flowers in spring and summer. And growing from seed will always be cheaper, so start off biennials in trays from May to July and plant out in the autumn.
Annuals are an affordable way to fill containers and plug gaps in your borders. Make successional sowings for a longer display, or choose online mail order plug plants, but be sure to compare prices and delivery charges.
Climbers are great value plants for their incredible vigor and sheer flowering ability the ones we've chosen are because they bloom continuously throughout summer and into autumn.
Then there are grasses and sedges which can be grown for their foliage and smaller size. These like to be divided every few years, which will increase your stocks at no extra cost and therefore they're the perfect choice for your budget garden ideas.
Many perennials will flower for several weeks. To give the best value, we've selected plants that are easy to divide or grow from seed to save you buying flowering plants or pricey plugs.
When it comes to trees and shrubs it’s a false economy to buy larger specimens that may struggle to establish compared to smaller versions.Therefore we've gone for a mix of deciduous and evergreen plants that will perform over a long period.
We've even covered herbs and edibles which will give you much more bang for your buck. Not to mention a selection of house plants which are good investments for being long-lived and self-propagating.
Scroll on for the full list and pick out your favorites.
Best budget plants for your garden
This perennial is best started from seed. Plant in the first year and you can expect flowers to appear the next. Sow the seeds in pots and plant them the following spring in a sheltered spot. This is a reliable favorite for cottage garden ideas. H90-120cm.
2. SWEET WILLIAM
Perfect for pots and borders, Sweet William have densely packed sweetly scented flower heads which come in stunning combinations of pink, red and white. Grow them in full sun. H60cm.
3. CANTERBURY BELLS
Lofty stems with white, pink or blue bell-shaped blooms add elegance to the middle or back of a border. Start seeds off in seed trays and transplant to their flowering positions in autumn. H90-120cm.
Find out how to transplant seedlings in our guide.
4. ERYNGIUM GIGANTEUM
Happy if given plenty of sunshine and tolerant of dry soils, the branching heads of silver flowers appear above large heart-shaped leaves. Start the seeds off in pots. H1m.
The classic biennial digitalis (foxglove) produces spires of thimble-shaped bell flowers with speckled throats. They're one of the best bee friendly plants and are perfect for cottage gardens too. H1.5m
A delight in spring when sprays of tiny blue flowers froth around spring bulbs. For a change, try pink or white flowered varieties – simply sprinkle seeds where they are to flower, and they readily self-seed. H20cm.
Find more seasonal inspiration in our spring garden ideas.
Dahlias can be relied upon to flower for months, and are one of the best budget plants if bought as tubers. Start them off in pots of compost in February and plant out in May. You can also see our guide on how to propagate dahlia cuttings to get more amazing blooms without the price tag. H90cm.
Want more advice on how to grow dahlias for spectacular blooms? Our guide has plenty of tips.
8. AUTUMN CROCUS
Bring a spring-like freshness to your flowerbed ideas in October to November with this crocus that is the source of saffron, gathered from its three long red stigmas. In August, plant corms 10cm deep in gritty, well-drained soil in full sun. H15cm.
9. IRIS RETICULATA
Bringing a welcome sight in early spring, Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ appears delicate,
but is in fact robust and vigorous. A great value bulb guaranteed to give years of pleasure. H15cm.
A cottage garden favourite that comes in pink, white or blue, look for the more unusual ‘Classic Magic’. Collect seeds to store in envelopes for the following year. H1.2m.
A perennial grown as an annual. Take one sturdy plant and cut stems as cuttings to fill summer containers. Site in semi-shade and nip out the flowers to keep bushy. H40cm.
You can find out how to take cuttings from plants in our guide.
For impatient gardeners who want non-stop colour, this quick-growing annual becomes a mass of pink trumpet blooms. Ideally planted in full sun and perfect for dry soils. H75cm.
One of the best budget hardy annuals, sow once and it’ll pop up every year. Pot marigold is a useful companion plant to repel tomato and bean pests, the petals are edible. H45cm.
Want to know more about the benefits of companion planting? Find out what plants you should grow side by side in our guide.
Californian poppies are one of the easiest plants to grow, simply sprinkle into gravel gardens or garden borders and plants will self-seed. Single blooms appear above ferny blue-green foliage. H30cm.
15. PHACELIA TANACETIFOLIA
This annual has an architectural beauty with its unfurling cymes on strong stems that make good cut flowers. The scented flowers are magnets to bees. H45cm.
16. NICOTIANA SYLVESTRIS
Statuesque tubular white flowers provide a heavenly evening scent. Easy from seed, start in pots and transplant. Plants will self-seed in milder regions. H1.5m.
Perfect for tubs or borders, there are hundreds of clematis varieties available in many colours. Check supermarkets for large-flowered varieties, such as ‘Hagley Hybrid’. Heights vary.
Our guide on how to grow clematis has lots of expert tips on growing this stunning plant.
18. IPOMOEA LOBATA
At its peak from late summer to autumn, this tender climber likes a sheltered, sunny spot. Start seeds in pots and plant out in May. H2m.
No garden is complete without a rose. If you're new to learning how to grow roses, look for repeat-flowering varieties such as ‘Climbing Iceberg’ (pictured) as bare-root to plant from November-March. H3.5m.
For a budget-friendly way to get more roses in your garden, head over to our guide on how to plant bare root roses as these are cheaper than buying potted plants.
20. LONICERA 'SEROTINA'
Not all honeysuckles are scented, but this one produces a lovely strong fragrance. It's great for wildlife garden ideas, flowers for a long period, and plants are usually available for under £8/$11. H7m.
There's tips on how to grow honeysuckle in our guide.
21. PASSIFLORA CAERULEA
Passion flowers are much tougher than you’d think. These tendril climbers require initial support against a warm fence or wall. Easy to propagate from cuttings. H9m.
22. FESTUCA GLAUCA
This vibrant blue evergreen grass is one of the best plants for winter pots. It can be grown from seed, the leaf colour colour intensifies with sun and drought. Evergreen. H15cm.
23. STIPA TENUISSIMA
Tactile, flowering stems of the pony tail grass sway in the breeze. Plant in a sunny spot in well-drained soil, they’ll seed around. H60cm.
Check out how to grow ornamental grasses for more ways to introduce these stunning plants to your planting scheme.
24. UNCINIA 'EVERFLAME'
Guaranteed to brighten a dull corner, this tough evergreen sedge makes a spreading mound and perfect pot plant. Prefers moist soil. H30cm.
25. ANEMANTHELE LESSONIANA
The pheasant grass is a star for dry shade and pots, its leaves changing through reds, oranges and greens topped by tiny cascading flowers. Evergreen, readily self-seeds. H1m.
What better sight in summer than umbels of yellow flower heads covered in insects. Leaves have an aniseed flavour, collect the aromatic seeds while still green. Readily self seeds. H1.5m.
If you've read our guide on how to grow thyme, you will already know there are so many thymes to choose from. Some form attractive little mounds, others are ideal gap fillers between paving, such as the creeping T. serpyllum (shown). H8cm.
A great choice if you're considering how to create a herb garden. A small pot from the garden centre will spread and increase to make a substantial clump. Cut back after flowering and propagate by cuttings or division. H50cm.
29. ERIGERON KARVINSKIANUS
For flowers from spring to winter, look no further than Mexican fleabane. Masses of small white and pink daisy blooms are perfect for pots. H30cm.
30. LYCHNIS CORONARIA
From grey, felted rosettes rise magenta flowerheads that easily self seed, look for the white ‘Alba’. Prefers well-drained soil. H75cm.
31. ERYSIMUM BOWLES'S MAUVE
This short-lived wallflower takes the prize for an extended display if planted in full sun. Expect to pay around $6 for a small pot, plants will quickly bush out H75cm.
32. ALCHEMILLA MOLLIS
Lady’s mantle is a useful self-seeder for filling gaps in paving and borders, producing frothy, lime green flowers. Ideal in dappled shade, not a fussy grower. H50cm.
One of the easiest plants to grow and propagate by cuttings in early summer. Intense ruby-red flowers set against dark reddish purple fleshy leaves of ‘Purple Emperor’ are a highlight of autumn. H50cm.
A bold beauty that requires little attention. Admire the flowers from August to October, the largest can be found on ‘Goldsturm’ (shown). H60cm.
35. SALVIA MICROPHYLLA
Renowned for being one of the longest flowering and easiest to grow plants, look for the reliably hardy ‘Hot Lips’ and ‘Wine and Roses’ (shown), with red and purple flowers that change colour through the season. H90cm (3ft).
Perfect as a hedging plant. Buying a quantity from a specialist supplier makes economic sense – the plants will be smaller than garden centre plants but are more affordable. Heights vary.
Want to create a new garden boundary quickly? Our guide to the best fast growing hedges has plenty of suggestions.
37. EUPHORBIA CHARACIAS
Shrubby euphorbias can be found at very affordable prices online, look out for those with attractive variegation. In spring each stem is topped by heads of greenish bracts that last for months. Prefers well-drained soil. H1.2m.
38. HIMILAYAN BIRCH
This stunning tree offers a quick to mature screen with dazzling white bark. Small saplings will establish quickly in any soil. H8m.
39. BUDDLEJA DAVIDII
The sun-loving bush is a magnet to butterflies and produces an abundance of flowers for months on end if diligently deadheaded. Thrives in dry soil and a
sunny spot. H2.5m.
40. EUONYMOUS ALATUS
The winged spindle bush turns glorious shades of crimson and red in autumn. For small garden ideas try ‘Compactus’, ideal as a low hedge or for growing in containers. H1m.
Grow ‘earlies’ that crop when potatoes are at their most expensive. Plant seed
potatoes in old compost bags or in the ground to save compost, in succession from March to April.
You can discover more tips on how to grow potatoes in our guide.
42. SALAD LEAVES
Harvest loads of cheap organic salad leaves with cut-and-come-again types and baby leaves. Make successional sowings from March-Sept, in pots or trays. Try: rocket, mizuma, spinach, ‘Salad bowl’ and cutting varieties.
When it comes to how to grow tomatoes, the best way to save money is to grow fewer plants well and concentrate on quality rather than quantity. Try ‘Gardener’s Delight’ or cherry ‘Sungold’ for good flavour. Start seeds off in pots indoors from the end of February to March.
Cheaper to grow than to buy and it tastes much better. Open-pollinated varieties adapt well to different soils and climates, try organic seeds of the supersweet ‘Damaun’.
45. FRUIT TREES
Small fruit trees and bushes are economical to buy as bare roots and usually establish well. Red and blackcurrants can be multiplied by taking cuttings.
Our guide on planting bare root trees has advice on how to successfully grow these types of trees.
Prolific croppers, one plant can produce 15-20 courgettes in the ground, slightly less in a pot. Harvest when young and regular picking will encourage more to come.
Read our guide on how to grow courgettes for more tips.
47. RUBBER PLANT
Seriously uncool for a time, but Ficus elastica has come back into fashion as a one of the best indoor plants. The solid colouring works alongside other houseplants. Plant in a well-lit spot, water only when dry. H3m.
48. DRAGON TREE
Dracaena marginata will give a sculptural look and can be picked up cheaply. Tolerant of low light, if it begins to look lanky, start new plants by cutting stems into sections. H90cm.
A graceful trailing houseplant for a shelf or indoor basket, pinch back the branches to keep the plant bushy and use as cuttings that will root quickly in water. Keep moist and well lit.
Already considering how to grow succulents to add some interest to your indoor garden ideas? For little outlay there are many types to choose from – aloe, haworthia and crassula plants look attractive grouped together in shallow ceramic bowls of gritty compost. Heights vary.
Teresa has worked as an Editor on a number of gardening magazines for three years now. So she is lucky enough to see and write about gardening across all sizes, budgets and abilities. She recently moved into her first home and the garden is a real project! Currently she is relishing planning her own design and planting schemes. What she is most passionate about when it comes to gardening are the positive effects it has on our mental health to grow and care for plants, as well as being great for the environment too and help provide food and shelter for wildlife.
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