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Find Your Green Thumb without Wasting any Green

March 21, 2009

photos by back_garage

photos by back_garage

I used to spend money on plants. I’d buy them at the lovely garden center near my apartment where they were pricey, and because I’d invested money in them, I was afraid they would die. So I never experimented with them.  Over the years, I’ve learned the key to keeping houseplants: live without fear of moving them around, trim them, or re-pot them if necessary.  I found I never experimented with expensive store-bought plants (in expensive store-bought pots) because I thought change would kill them.

Then I mastered the art of the hand-me-down, the clipping, and the dumpster dive.  With these low-cost (or no-cost) acquisitions, even if you fail, you learn something but you don’t lose anything.

A house-full of plants without spending a fortune

  • Ask friends for cuttings from their plants.  This works well for Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane), Devil’s Ivy, Jade plants, Wandering Jew and rubber plants.  Many established home horticulturists have successfully replanted cuttings from their own plants and know which plants work as donors.   So if you know a plant person, hit them up.
  • Dumpster dive salvagable plants you find in alleyways or dumpsters.   Some plant centers throw out plants they can’t sell, so their dumpsters are often an excellent source of free greenery.  Just keep an eye out for pests or obvious disease, and keep dumpster dived plants away from your other houseplants and animals (like on a back porch) until you can establish their health.
  • Estate sales are an excellent place to find cheap or even “free to good home” plants, especially in vintage homes where house plants have had several decades to grow and flourish.  You’ll find strong, well-established plants, and many are pre-potted!
  • Big box hardware stores are one of my favorite places to check around back to see if any “bruised” plants have been tossed.  They’ll also toss out cracked planters and stuff.

Don’t forget the planters

I often find beautiful vintage ceramic planters at estate sales. My favorite is Haeger Potteries, which are also easy to find on eBay or Etsy.  Hull Pottery is a close second.  Shawnee Pottery has a great line of figural planters which you can find on the cheap.  Their deer-shaped planters make excellent containers for cacti.

Thrift stores are also a great source of planters, especially if you get creative. Look in the housewares department and think outside the box: glass bowls, vintage enamelware saucepans, chip and dip sets, even plastic bathroom trash cans make excellent planters.  If they don’t work out, you haven’t spent a fortune on them, so you can re-donate them and try something else.  No matter what offbeat object you use as a planter, be sure to line the bottom with something that helps the water drain away from the plant’s roots, like gravel, broken pottery or pebbles.

Check out my Flickr set for some of my favorite plants and planter combinations, or check out my blog BackGarage for other great second hand finds.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2009 8:29 am

    Love your idea to look for plants at estate sales. I think they’re often overlooked. Estate sales are also a great source for garden tools!

    • March 22, 2009 9:56 am

      Glad you like the guest post. I will be sure to tell Katherine about your comment. She had some overlooked, but very obvious seeming, ideas about where to salvage plants. Many of us rescue dogs and cats, why not plants too?

      Best!

  2. March 26, 2009 5:47 am

    Great advice! My apartment is filled with cast-off plants that the neighbors in my high-rise building gave up on. It’s exciting to take a plant half dead from neglect and nurse it back to health.

    I haven’t been keeping newly found plants away from the others until their health has been determined, as suggested, and so far I’ve been lucky. But that’s a smart idea and I’ll do so from now own.

    • March 29, 2009 10:03 am

      Thanks for stopping by Nest In Style. Isn’t it fun nursing your plants back to health? Pat yourself on the back.

      I clicked over to your site, very cool! I’m sure Katherine would love to hear your nice comments. I will let her know.

Trackbacks

  1. Recession Proof Gardening: a BackGarage Guest Post « Nest In Style
  2. Recession Proof Gardening: a BackGarage Guest Post | aHa! Home and Garden

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