When you have a large area you want to fill with drifts of perennials you can soon realize your vision exceeds your pocketbook. Lets look at the ways of buying perennials and saving a few bucks along the way. The question to ask is:
How many perennials do you need?
Sometimes Buying Big Healthy Plants is Best
If you only need three plants to fill a spot in your garden, you should buy nice big and healthy plants in 1 Gallon containers from a local nursery.
Sharing Perennials is even better
An alternative is to divide some in your or your neighbor’s yard when shes out of town (just kidding Dawn). Getting plants that need to be divided are one of the best ways to fill your yard with perennials.
I have some dwarf variegated Solomon’s seal from my neighbor’s yard that were overgrowing their place in her yard. Not surprising they are doing great in my yard too.
Buying Plugs when you need a lot of plants
If you need more, then consider buying smaller sizes such as plugs. Plugs are smaller, younger, and cheaper plants than those in 1 Gallon containers.
My favorite source of plugs are wholesale growers, but plants can be found in smaller sizes at some retail nurseries. You can also order plugs through mail order nurseries. This is a good way if you are looking for hard to find plants. Somebody is growing it and will ship it to you.
Another way to get smaller plants is to have your local nursery order them for you from their wholesaler.
It is best to talk to them early in the season, so that they can add your one or two flats of plugs to an order that they are already making. You may be able to do this throughout the season.
Need lots of plants with little money
What if you want LOTS of plants? Not a dozen, but a dozen dozens for a new garden bed? In this case, you may want to consider growing your own plugs from seed. The best way to do this is to start them indoors early.
Not all perennials are easy to grow from seed. I am certainly not a perennials expert, but I have succeeded with a few of the easier plants. These have included: Purple coneflower (Enchincea purpurea), Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum × superbum ‘Becky’), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia), and Tickseed (Coreopsis)
Some will flower the 1st year
Perennials that are grown from seed usually will not flower the 1st year. If you are patient, this might not matter to you. If you want to see flowers the first year, you should start the seeds indoors at least 6 weeks before your last frost date and pick species that flower their 1st year.
They will not bloom at their normal time this first year, but will be later in the season. Some plants that can be started indoors and bloom the first year include:
- Snowdrop anemone (Anemone sylvestris)
- Sea thrift (Armeria maritima)
- Butterfly weed (Asclepios tuberosa)- I have heard conflicts about whether this one does flower the first year planted.
- Alpine aster (Aster alpinus)
- Early Sunrise coreopsis (Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Early Sunrise’)
- Cheddar pinks (Dianthus gratianopolitanus)
- Blanket flower (Gaillardia)
- Baby’s breath (Gypsophila paniculata)
- Becky Shasta Daisey (Chrysanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’)
- Black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)
- Speedwell (Veronica spicata)
Growing a Monarch garden from Seed
A few posts ago, I talked about how I had decided to plant some of Butterfly weed (Asclepios tuberosa) to provide food for both the adult and the caterpillars of the Monarch Butterfly.
My plan is to remove a peach tree that suffered some storm damage and plant a butterfly garden on the south side of my house.
This garden’s purpose is to help the quickly heading toward extinction Monarch butterflies, therefore it will be mostly their caterpillars host plant, the Milkweeds (Asclepias). There will be a little bit of the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the aforementioned Butterfly weed and the Rose Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).
I will also be growing Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia ‘Goldstrum’), Blanket flower (Gaillardia) and Early Morning Coreopsis (Coreopsis ‘Early Sunrise’) in addition to feed the adults.
I also plan on moving some Purple Coneflower, Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), and May Night Salvia from another area, but I will be growing most of the plants for this garden from seed I started this weekend.
So what are the economics of my plan.
- 1 pack of Early Sunrise Coreopsis $1.59
- 1 pack of Blanket Flower $1.49
- 1 pack of Black Eyed Susans $1.49
- 3 packs of Butterfly Weed $4.71
- 3 packs of Rose Milkweed – Free from a local conservation group
- 2 packs of Common Milkweed seed – Also Free
- 2 Jiffy Pro Hex trays $11.00
- 12 Quarts of soil starting mix $4.79
Total = $25.07 plus tax
I already had a 4 foot shop light and the bulbs to provide light to the seedlings. If you need one you may need to spend another $25 or so.
I will grow them for a couple of weeks until I put them under the light with one warm and one cool temperature bulb. These are not grow lights, but comes pretty close. I will gradually acclimate them to the sun and temperature after the it starts to warm up.
This will hopefully yield 144 plugs ready to plant by May 17th which will be 8 weeks. Plenty of time for most of these plants to be well rooted. Some like the Butterfly weed may be planted earlier.
If I only get 100 plugs at a cost around $25, I am looking at close to 25 cents a plant. They will take a few years to grow in but $0.25 sure beats $3 plant deals you can get at the Big box stores.
If you need a lot of perennials this year and you act quick, you still have time to start them indoors from seed and could end up saving yourself some money. You may also have some fun with your kids or grandchildren. Heck you could even help save the Monarchs.
For more information on the Monarch butterfly’s current plight see monarchwatch.org