How to Double the Plants in Your Yard for Free

A woman gardening.

If you enjoy working in your yard, you may already have a plan for how to fill it with colorful and enduring plants. But putting that plan into action might cost you more than you think. Trees, bushes, shrubs, bulbs, plants, and flowers have become big business with an equally large price tag—making it challenging to create the space you want without breaking the bank. There are ways, however, to propagate what you already have, find free plants, and double the plants in your yard for free!

Divide Your Plants

An elderly man propagating plants.

The easiest way to double or even triple the number of plants in your yard is to divide the ones you already have. Not all plants are ideal for division, but many are. For example, after a year or two, a typical hosta plant will have 70 or more eyes. These can easily be separated into groups of around 12 eyes, giving you four or five new plants. Day lilies are another easily divisible plant. To separate these plants, use a sharp spade or knife to slice through the root base. You can do this while the plant is in the ground, or you can dig it out prior to separation and then replace the portion you wish to keep in that location. Most plants will hold well for a day or two if placed in water, but it is best to replant them immediately. Do a little research on the plants in your yard to see if they can be divided. During planting, they can suffer a shock. This shock will be worse in hot or cold temperatures and can kill the plant, so you will want to divide them in early spring or in the fall before the winter temperatures set in.

Borrow From a Friend

Your yard may not have a large selection of plants to choose from. Plus, it’s nice to have some variety. Consider asking a friend or neighbor for cuttings off their plants. Perhaps you could even offer a trade. Give up a quarter of your iris in exchange for some canna lilies and you’ll both have new plants to enjoy.

Plant Seeds From a Prior Year

Many backyard varietals can be grown from seeds. The easiest way to get those seeds free is to collect them from your own plants or from others you know. If you want a garden full of giant sunflowers like Grandpa Jim, ask for a sunflower head at the end of the season. After drying, pluck the seeds and save them for next year.

Ask the Nursery for Free End-of-Season Plants

Cuttings in a planter.

As the season comes to a close, the local nursery may have plants that didn’t sell. For example, a few weeks past prime planting season, you might find the abandoned tomato plants pulled from the greenhouse and set out at the curb for the taking. Nurseries don’t want these plants to go to waste and at a certain point, they can't sell them because they can’t guarantee that they will thrive. For free, you have little to lose by adopting them and giving them a chance at life in your yard. The better your relationship with your nearby nursery owner, the better the chances are they will provide you with free plants, so bring back your empty containers and be a loyal customer.

Finds in Nature

The hills and forests around you provide a natural plethora of plants and seeds for you to harvest. Be sure to check the permit requirements in your area, but most federal lands allow you to harvest some seeds, pods, or portions of plants as long as your techniques aren't invasive and you're respectful to the area. You can get more information here.

Your yard is your sanctuary, but it can be expensive to cultivate and maintain. One area where you can easily save money is on the cost of plants. Use the resources around you and with some planning, you can increase the number of plants in your yard year after year.