Beautify Your Yard with a Container Garden on the Cheap

Today I have some tips on planting and on how to find supplies on the cheap for a container garden.

When we’re looking to add some charm to our garden, we look for large organized yard sales where we can find both plants and planters. A few weeks ago, we attended one such sale that was raising money for a seniors association. We found BRAND NEW planters for only $1 – and because we got there early in the morning, I spied a plant stand hiding behind the table (which you’ll see later in the reveal). I scored 3 pots and the stand for only $6.00! At retail I think it would easily have cost well over $40 to purchase!Yard Sale for Charity_BOF.jpgWe didn’t find any plants that we liked  at this particular sale but we did find some succulents a week earlier at a street festival for just a dollar or two each. I used them in the hypertufa planter I made last year. It looked scant when we first planted it.Succulent Planting 018_BOF.jpg

Before long the succulents spread and filled in the hypertufa planter. The chair we found curbside looked lush as the plant material grew and spilled over the sides!

Another tip for finding plants on the cheap is to look at your local big box or even grocery stores. They often have seasonal displays outside the store in summer – that sometimes even spill into the parking lot – for very reasonable prices. We found three stunning plants at our local Canadian Tire for only $2.15 each – a fraction of what we would pay at a nursery. They were tiny at the time of purchase but soon grew huge while they were waiting for me to decide where to plant them (if you didn’t get a lot of rain like we did, you might have to water them often to keep them alive in their tiny pots)!

I find that the trade-off with buying on the cheap at big box stores is that they often don’t provide tags indicating the name of the plant and how to grow them, but I was confident they’d be perfect for the front yard. These were all marked generically as ivy trailers but the one on the left looks like coleus to me and then two of my readers confirmed that the second one is Persian Shield and the third one is Tradescantia or Wandering Jew. I love it when my readers teach me a thing or two!Planting_Summer 2017 069_BOF.jpgWe moved everything into the garage because the clouds opened up and pelted rain on us. That’s what I love about container gardening; you can do it anywhere!

Before you plant anything into a container, make sure that there are holes in the bottom for drainage so your plants don’t suffer root rot. Our bargain pots had indications for the holes, but on close inspection we did need to drill them.Planting_Summer 2017 030_BOFWe had some leftover landscape cloth so cut out some circles using a lid as our template.Planting_Summer 2017 024_BOF.jpgThen we inserted the cloth into the bottom of each container before adding soil; this will keep the soil from leeching away with the water and staining your patio beneath.Planting_Summer 2017 042_BOF.jpgWe use a potting mix recommended for outdoor containers; it contains some perlite to retain moisture (which you can see as white ‘dots’ in the soil).

Create an indentation in the centre of the soil; ensure the soil is flat at the bottom so there are no air pockets when you add the plant (any gaps will dry out the roots).

Planting_Summer 2017 051_BOFWhen you remove the plant from the container it will likely be tightly wound or ‘root bound’. Tease away some of the soil so the roots can spread once planted – but don’t remove too much. Make sure the soil doesn’t come any higher than the original level of the unpotted plant. If it does, remove the plant and make the hole a little deeper. Gently fill in with additional soil to close in the hole – but firmly pack the soil down to prevent air gaps.Planting_Summer 2017 053_BOFOnce all three containers were planted, I watered them and placed them into our new plant stand where they are now on display in front of the house.Planting_Summer 2017 068_BOFI love how the black stand and taupe containers tie into our neutral walkway and the plants add a hit of colour. The plant stand folds compactly for storing in the winter – an added bonus!

Looks like there’s no rest for the weary; it’s time to cut the grass again 🙂Planting_Summer 2017 060_BOF.jpgOther budget friendly container gardens we’ve planted over the years include a cedar box we built ourselves out of scraps to hide a drainage pipe in our backyard…

Garden_Summer 2010 054_BOFA concrete planter we found on clearance at a garden centre at the end of the season….

Garden_Summer 2010 001_BOFA vintage enamel pot we found at a flea market (we’re growing a hosta in this one)…Garden_Summer 2010 029_BOF

… and lastly some planters found at a big box store. These weren’t a cheap buy per se, but they last year-to-year so are good investment when averaged out. My best advice would be to buy bigger ticket items like this at the end of the season when the stores are clearing their seasonal goods. You can also find good buys on larger planters at content sales or online when people are moving out of state or province. Keep your eyes open for online garage sales also; you can sometimes reserve an item before the day of the actual garage sale and nab it before anyone else has a chance to.

Garden_Summer 2010 009_BOF

One of my readers, Lucy, (you’ll see her comments below) just got me thinking about propagating plants so I’m going to give it a try on the three plants that are featured in this post; after all, there’s nothing cheaper than free! And of course, I’ll post about that here to let you know how it all turns out 🙂

UPDATE: time got away from me and I only ended up propagating a clipping from the Tradescantia or Wandering Jew. I first rooted it in water and then planted it into some earth. It’s been overwintering indoors and will be ready to take its place outside again soon.

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If you enjoy gardening, or have plans to landscape this summer, check out some of our other garden posts on how-to:

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11 thoughts on “Beautify Your Yard with a Container Garden on the Cheap

  1. Your right the plant to the left is a Coleous, middle I don’t know but right hand one is a Tradescantia or “Wandering Jew” it likes a position with indirect light is ideal. If it’s too dark the leaves will become lank.
    The variegated varieties should be in a lighter spot in order to prevent the leaves from reverting to green.
    Water moderately, avoid standing water; the soil can be left to dry out a bit between waterings.
    If the leaf edges turn brown, the humidity is too low. Tradescantia do not like draughts. Can be grown outdoors but protect from frost. Really easy to propogate and has tiny purple flowers.
    Lucy in England

    • Thanks so much for that information Lucy; it’s so helpful to have! I suspected that 3rd plant was a Wandering Jew and I too have no clue about the middle one but I think I may have to move it to more indirect light 🙂 I don’t think I’ll have to worry about draughts this season; we’ve had rain practically every day for weeks.

      I’ve never propagated anything before, but maybe I’ll give it a try!

      • Hi Sara,
        Glad my comments were helpful 🙂 re propagating on this one it’s super easy
        Fill a small glass with water, put clingfilm (sarran wrap?) on top. Make a small slit in the top.
        Break (don’t cut) below a leaf where you see a joint, put this into slit so it’s just touching the water.
        Position in light but not direct sunlight, in a few days you’ll see roots forming. When you’ve got a decent amount of root pot up.
        My personal policy is if it’s leaves are coloured then out of direct sun but never in shade.
        Coleus you should be able to propagate in the same was as “Wandering Jew”

        • Wow Lucy – thanks! I’m definitely going to try this; they’re all beautiful plants and propagating them is even cheaper than buying them – lol. I think you’ve already got me thinking about another project to write about!!

          • 🙂 I’ve been wracking my brains because I’m sure I’ve seen the middle one or something like it before. I think it might be a UK houseplant. If you google identify plant you’ll find a site where you post a pic and it gets you all the info on it for free.
            If you let your coleus flower it will drain it’s colour, nip out tops to keep bushy you can propagate the tops.
            These plants would make great prezzies especially the “Wondering Jew” in a macrame hanger that emphasised it’s colours 🙂

          • I’ve had a lot of success with reverse google images; just haven’t tried it on this yet. With plants it can be tricky.

            Funny you should mention Macrame! I just got back into crochet, but Macrame is another thing I want to try my hand at. I just started a new separate craft category ( so you’ll definitely see something coming up on that. Using my new propagated plants is a great idea 🙂

    • Hi Alys – thanks so much for identifying that last plant for me!! It’s so great to have readers that contribute to my learning too.

      It’s always fun to hear about other’s flea market scores. What do you think your best flea market score (or other find) has been? Hubs once found an old Mecanno set at a flea market and paid only $20. I almost talked him out of it because the box was so dinged I didn’t think it would be a worthwhile buy but when he got it home and opened the box it was mint! Turns out it was worth a few hundred $$s!

      • Wow! I love hearing stories about unexpected treasures. I’ve never bought or found anything valuable from a monetary sense, but I’ve found many treasures that were just right at the time. For years, I had a small stand I used for house plants. It was made from clear acrylic with kidney shaped shelves. It was originally used in a department store display for perfume. I found it at our local cancer store for $2. In my incredible broke college days I found a small wicker shelf on the top of a dump heap. Score! We’d gone with my boyfriend’s dad, and while we waited, I got out of the truck and snagged the shelf. I was tickled.

  2. I love all your creative and unique planters Sara. We have a metal chair just like yours that can do with a bit of an up-cycle and turning it into a planter is just brilliant. You’re going to have so much propagating your plants. It becomes a little but addictive and I found, depending on where you buy the original mommy plant, that the successfully propagated babies are often stronger. Enjoy your beautiful garden

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