Yes, I admit it. I have a problem. I have being struggling with plant collector’s syndrome for over a decade now. The only thing that has kept my yard from being a complete jungle is the fact that the other syndrome I have been struggling with is tightwaditis. My support group has required me to write this post on how to save money buying trees and shrubs as part of my recovery process.
Tip #1 – Make a wish list of plants and be patient waiting for deals
Impulse buys often blow the budget. That or you end up with a plant you don’t know what to do with. I am picturing my wife’s eyes rolling this moment. If you want a big list, get Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propogation and Uses(*affiliate link) and start reading and searching the internet for pictures of cool sounding plants.
#2 – Befriend plant collectors and take orphans
While this usually works better for perennials that tend to outgrow their space and need dividing, but can apply to small trees also. Some people like to get rid of a plant they bought in a previous buying spree when they find a better one they can’t fit in their yard.
#3 – Save money buying trees and shrubs from local conservsation districts
These government agencies are trying to encourage reforestation and wildlife habits and are not focusing on making a profit. Take advantage of this if you are planting large properties, want to use native plants, or are just like me and CHEAP. These plants are usually small and therefore you do need to be patient, but this can be a great way to save money buying trees and shrubs.
Search Google for your county, state and the phrase “conservation tree sale” to see what’s available in your area.
#4 – Buy bare root trees from mail order nurseries
I have two Asian pears I have gotten from Stark Brothers that have done fabulously. Plus it’s kind of cool to get these little sticks in the mail that in a few years are decent size trees. Some examples are Stark Brothers, Cold Stream Farm, and Jung. Definitely a good choice for fast growing fruit trees as you can find great varieties.
#5 – Buy bare root trees from local nurseries
These may be harder to find, but a lot of wholesale nurseries have spring bare root tree sales. Search “Bare root tree sale” and your city or county and see what comes up. You can also call around and ask. Most wholesale nurseries do not want anything to do with retail customers, but some make exceptions for these once a year events. These sales will get you larger trees and shrubs then those you find from your conservation districts. Here is one in my area.
#6 – Buy spring flowering trees in the summer
Nurseries often sell red buds, crab apples, and magnolias on a discount about a month after they are done blooming. They count on the impulse buys that customers have when they see it in bloom. You can be “smarter than the average bear” if you note which varieties you like the flowers on and then come back later for a deal.
#7 – Save money buying trees and shrubs at end of the season sales
Nurseries often put their plants on sale for 25-50% off. You may be able to get some for 75% right before they close for the season, but these are usually really picked over plants. This may be the most effective way to save money buying trees and shrubs, but it is hit or miss.
Tip #8 – Try the big box stores
A lot of their plants are of lower quality including being root bound in pots, having poor grafts, and bad branching structures. If you are a discriminating plant picker you can get great deals at these stores. 50% off of a $99 Japanese maples means you might get a tree for $50 that retails for $200 at a local nursery. Note you CAN overpay at these stores too.
I hope some of these tips can save you some money.
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I usually go to the Home Depot and Lowes type of stores in the fall for deals on trees and shrubs. I picked up 3 Eastern Red Buds (over 6 ft tall) a couple years ago at over 75% off! Granted, it was early November, but they all lived. I’ve also dug up and transplanted 6 ft tall maples from my dads yard in late October. They lived too. The key to keeping things alive is simple: dig a big hole, add lots of compost, and water it at least once a week (especially in spring) all season.
Hope this helps.
Michael Lee says
I by no means have a green thumb, but I like great landscaping. One question I have is how you would keep plants alive after their prime planting season? I feel like if I tried to plant a tree or bush after it flowers, it will just die.
They don’t. In fact, the best time to plant woody plants is when they are dormant.
Ben Proctor says
I really liked your advice on how I can save some money for planting trees in my yard. I am always looking for the big end of season sales, but I had never thought of going through wholesale nurseries to buy bare roots to plant. I think this is a fantastic idea that would save me a lot of money. I will be using these tips a lot while I am looking for trees for my yard.
Good post. I have ordered bareroot plants and they can be more affordable. They tend to be smaller, though, and so will take longer to achieve substantial size.