You can save money on plants right now, if you use this expert insider tip

Do up your garden on a budget by making like the experts and picking up a bargain (or five)

Garden filled with potted plants, set on a patio against wood panelled walls
(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you're desperately wondering how to save money on plants (because let's face facts: making all of our garden ideas a reality is an expensive hobby!), you've likely eyed up your local garden centre's end-of-season sale... albeit with suspicion.

How, you've wondered, can it be worth buying any of these bedraggled-looking plants? It's end-of-season! Surely they'll die just as soon as I get them in my garden borders?

Here's the thing, though: you can hack the system and nail all of those garden trends  with a basket full of those very same plants... if you only know what to look for.

How to save money on plants

Learning how to save money on plants is a skill every green-fingered person on a budget needs to learn. So, what's the easiest way to do so?

A wooden stepladder with pots of plants and herbs beside a trellis fence.

(Image credit: Future PLC)

'Most of us are guilty of buying on impulse with our eyes, whether it’s a pair of shoes or something delicious for tea,' says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries. 

'We also do it in garden centres and nurseries, with the industry built on those so-called "impulse plants" that look fabulous and tempt us to buy them, even when there’s not a square inch empty in our gardens!'

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants, which he established after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex in 1992.

'But what about the unsold ones?' muses Morris. 'Past their best and not so tempting anymore, but on sale and cheap to clear... are they a bargain, or would you be better saving your money?'

Therein lies the million dollar question – or the wilting-allium-going-for-a-fiver question, at least. And, as is so often the case with these things, the answer is a complicated 'yes, but...'

'It all depends on what kind of plant it is,' explains Morris. 

Rust coloured raised planter with wall hung plant pots

(Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole)

According to Morris, any bargain bedding plants you spot 'will be a waste of cash, if they are reduced then there’s a good chance that their season has already passed,' which means they are best to avoid.

However, if it’s a hardy perennial or a hardy shrub (check on the label if you’re not sure), 'then you could indeed have a bargain on your hands'. 

'Chances are that any flowers will have faded, and the foliage might look a bit drab and sorry for itself because the compost has run out of fertiliser,' continues Morris. 'My top tip is to check out the root system!'

How to check the root system of an on-sale plant

If you're trying to figure out how to save money on plants, you'll need to start getting a little more hands-on with the bargains you spot at your local garden centre.

'Slip the pot off gently and see if there are plenty of healthy roots in the compost,' says Morris. 'If so, then it’s a buy recommendation, you have yourself a bargain. Plant it out in your garden or re-pot it and it's sure to thrive.'

Outdoor sofa on deck with tassled throw and yellow cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole)

Generally, Morris says, it's a good idea to avoid snapping up any of the following 'bargains' in your garden centre's end-of-season sale:

  • Seasonal/annual bedding plants.
  • Anything that has died because it hasn’t been watered, as chances are too high that it won’t grow back and the risk isn’t worth taking, even when its cheap.
  • Anything with visible pests and diseases – you don’t want to transfer them to your garden.

If you follow all of the above advice, though, you could be onto a winner – according to Andrew O'Donoghue, one of the co-directors at Gardens Revived, that is.

'Picking up on-sale summer plants at your local garden centre during the end-of-season sale is a smart move for several reasons,' he says, explaining that there's more to it than learning how to save money on plants.

A headshot of Andrew O'Donoghue from gardens Revived
Andrew O'Donoghue

RHS-trained gardener Andrew O'Donoghue set up Gardens Revived with his brother, Christopher, in 2018  to create a thriving family business. Together, they have worked on residential gardens, listed buildings and gardens, flower shows and large estates with some exceeding 70 acres – many with historical significance.

'Sure, yes, you can get these plants at discounted prices, allowing you to beautify your garden for less,' continues Andrew. 'But it's also worth noting that these plants are often well-established, making them easier to care for and more likely to thrive.'

Better still, Andrew notes that picking up on-sale plants 'is an environmentally-conscious choice, as it reduces waste and encourages sustainable gardening practices.'

As if we needed any more excuses to go empty our pockets on bedraggled-looking plant babies! If you need us, we'll be browsing the £5 table at our local garden centre...

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.