Propagate the Frugal Way

Erin Conant

I love to visit our local nurseries and window shop. At my stage in life, plants are a bit of a luxury item and if I come away with a cute 4-inch perennial or a couple of packets of seeds it’s a big deal.

I’ve often wondered how folks grew their gardens before there were stores just for purchasing plants or online warehouses with every seed variety you could imagine available.

Whether you’re at the same stage in life as I am, or have a deep desire to be as resourceful as possible, these are just a few ways to continue expanding your garden and keep those hard-earned dollars in your pocket.

  • Save seeds — Seed saving has been in practice for most of human kind’s existence. And it’s very simple: collect and store seeds from all manner of successful crops or single plants, in anticipation of growing them again next season. In the spring of 2013, I purchased sweet basil and Thai basil and placed them in a 5-foot-square raised bed. Every consecutive season since then, I’ve had hundreds come up from seed in that same bed – all from two 4-inch plants. If you’re more interested in collecting and saving the seeds of native Texas perennials, I recommend this book.
  • Cuttings – Also known as asexual propagation, cuttings are another way to make “copies” of existing plants at no expense other than time and patience. When done correctly, one can literally take a healthy piece of an existing plant, place it in an appropriate growing medium (soil, perlite, etc.), keep it moist and allow it to create its own roots and leaves over time. Some of the easiest plants to root from cuttings include salvias, mints, and opuntias (cactus). If you’re interested in trying it for yourself, here’s a great set of instructions.
  • Plant division – It’s really as simple as it sounds! Many plants can be dug up, pulled apart (including the roots) to create several more plants, and then replanted. Plants that are notoriously easy to divide and replant are society garlic, bicolor iris, red yucca, bulbine, and most ornamental grasses. Do be aware that this method of propagation is best done in the fall and winter.

Though somewhat challenging, I’ve had great fun exercising my resourcefulness muscles. And I hope I’ve inspired you to propagate frugally.

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