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Save on Plants with Alberta Plant Exchanges

Cascades of Time garden, Banff

Plants are so expensive! Thankfully, perennials and indoor plants are often easy to propagate (a.k.a. create new plants from existing ones), and gardeners love to split and share their bounty!

There are very few plants in my house or garden that I purchased. I’ve gotten most of them from friends, family, and Facebook groups devoted to sharing garden knowledge and exchanging plants!

If your plant budget is maxed out this post will help you keep expanding the collection!

Plant Exchange Etiquette

Before you jump into these groups, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Read the group rules. First thing’s first. Make sure you know the rules of the group. These may be listed under Facebook’s group rules, or in a pinned post at the top of the group (or both).
  2. Know the group culture. Take a few weeks to get a feel for the group before you start jumping in. Every group is different, and you don’t want to step on toes. That could get you kicked out!
  3. Don’t hog resources. This means free plants, or asking/giving knowledge. If you are brand new to gardening, make sure to search your question before asking it. If you are an experienced gardener, you don’t need to write an essay for every single question. And don’t throw your hand up for every single plant that comes up for exchange.
  4. Be polite. Don’t shame someone else’s gardening style. Whether they are 100% organic native plants or a pesticide lover – live and let live. You can still decide if you want to accept plants from them, though.
  5. Be safe. All the typical buy/sell/trade group safety applies to these groups. Gardeners are a very friendly group, but bad seeds exist everywhere.
  6. Clean your plants. Make sure you protect your plants and soil from pests. Isolate new pots from others indoors, and rinse outdoor plants well before putting them in the ground.
  7. Give back. Do you have some extra plants, or are ready to split something up? Be sure to put out an offer and don’t just take freebies!
Antique plow in a garden bed at the St Albert Botanical Gardens

Facebook Exchange Groups

This list is far from complete, but will give a good starting point to find plants for cheap or free from local gardeners.

Don’t see your location on the list? Search Facebook for your area plus “Plant” or “Garden.” New groups are always popping up!

Clubs & Society Exchanges

Want to go to an organized in-person event and get a bunch of plants all at once?

Many plant clubs and societies host annual gatherings for plant-lovers to trade, sell, and buy new plants (and if you’re buying the price is low).

Also, check in with your community library! Many small town libraries host plant exchanges in the spring.

University of Alberta Botanic Gardens

Clubs & Societies

If you find you’re loving a particular kind of plant, or type of garden, consider joining a club or society based around it! You will continue to learn, discover new plants, and they often host events where you can exchange plants (that aren’t specifically listed above).

Tipi made of deadfall in St Albert Botanical Gardens

More Ways to Save on Plants

If one-to-one selling isn’t your thing, or you just aren’t finding what you want, there are more ways to save on your plants this year.

Watch for Sales

No one place has the best deals, so watch big box stores and local greenhouses for sales.

Also, get on greenhouse mailing lists! Not all of them are great at sending emails, but if they are you can be the first to know about special deals!

Start Your Own Seeds

Seeds are getting more expensive, but they are still way more affordable than store-raised plants!

Keep things simple to start with and use dollar store red cups or newspaper cups in a sunny window. Note that your failure rate may be higher than with a “proper” set up, but your costs will be much lower.

Propagate with Cuttings

Cuttings don’t work for every plant, but they work for many! It’s ridiculously easy to do.

  1. Snip off a leaf or stem and place it in water for a few weeks. It should start to grow roots.
  2. Stick it into a pot and keep moist.
  3. Let it grow for 1-2 months or more before trying to transplant.

This is a great way to preserve your favourite annuals and indeterminate tomatoes year after year.

Buy in Bulk

Buy small (6/12/18 packs) and fertilize weekly to encourage growth. Within a month and a half you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between these plants and the plants that came in 4″ pots for four times the price.

More Alberta Plant Posts

Looking for more plant-related information? We won’t claim to be experts, but we are fellow Alberta gardeners and plant-mamas and love to write about our experiences.

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