Cheap Plants: Making the Most of the Bargain Rack

Savvy gardeners know how to scour the bargain rack for cheap plants. Learn the tips and tricks to bring them back to life.

Psst! Hey, you! Yes, you over there with the shopping cart full of full-priced blooms. Want to save some money? Follow me. We’re headed to the clearance rack for some cheap plants!

Cheap Plants

Don’t be afraid of their scraggly leaves and drooping buds. There’s plenty of life in these plants yet. They’re not all worth your time and effort, though, so let’s talk about what to look for and how to bring these garden bargains back to peak conditions.

Pick and Choose

Start by considering the overall condition of the plants. There are several reasons plants wind up on the clearance rack.

  • Are the plants full and healthy, but not currently in bloom? Plenty of nurseries mark these down since customers want instant gratification when they plant. But if you can be a bit patient, you often get a second or third flush of blooms during the growing season.
  • Are they leggy and overgrown? These can always be cut back to encourage new bushy growth.
  • Brown and wilted? This can be a toss-up. Sometimes a good soaking can bring these back to life, but it’s not guaranteed. Proceed with caution.
  • Does the plant look perfectly happy and healthy, but it’s marked down anyway? Snap it up! Stores frequently need to clear shelf space for new stock, so they move older arrivals to the bargain rack. Good fortune for savvy gardeners!

You’ll also want to consider whether the plants are annuals or perennials. Perennials are often a good bargain because you’ll have them for years to come. In fact, fall is a great time to plant perennials. Even if they don’t flower again this season, they can establish good root systems and be ready to burst into bloom the following spring.

Annuals may not be such a good deal, depending on their condition and how much time is left in your growing season. If they have healthy foliage and buds but no blooms, go for it. If they’ll need to be cut back to flourish again, you’ll need at least a few weeks or even longer for it to be worth it.

Cheap Plants

Tender Loving Care

OK, you’ve found the best cheap plants on the bargain rack and brought them home. Now let’s bring them back to life.

  • Begin by removing any dead leaves or spent blooms, and check for any signs of disease or pests you may need to treat.
  • If the plants are leggy and overgrown, cut them back hard to about one-third their original height. This will allow them to flush back out in strong new growth.
  • With the plants still in their original pots, water them well and allow excess water to drain out the bottom. (Unless the plants seem to have been over-watered, in which case you’ll want to let the soil dry out before planting instead.)

Time to plant! The usual planting rules apply (click here if you’re new to this). Overgrown plants may have pot-bound roots, so take the time to loosen them if necessary. Feed as you plant, amending the soil with a balanced fertilizer or plenty of compost. Water in well, soaking the soil around each plant. Try to avoid getting water on the foliage, as this can sometimes cause rot.

Over the next few weeks, continue to water every day (or less often depending on the plant type) and you should soon start to see signs of new growth and blooms. It takes a little time and TLC, but cheap plants from the clearance rack may soon become your favorite garden secret!

Looking for more money-saving secrets? Click here for more garden bargain ideas.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.