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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tips for Gardening in Tight Economic Times

Typically when autumn rolls around it is a priority to head to my favorite nursery and stock up on new annuals. Several times. My garden is made up of mostly foundational plants that pretty much thrive all year long. It's Florida ... remember.

There are some perennials that do better in certain seasons than others. Then there are the pockets here and there that just need some color added after the caladiums fade away. That's where the annuals come in handy.

This year has been a little different. With all the uncertainty in the economy and prices rising on every commodity I'm finding myself being more frugal about my garden addiction shopping. There have been a few new purchases but truly nothing like usual at a change of season. I did buy some new elephant ears last month ---you can see them in the middle of both photos above (first one long shot-- the second one close up). There was no tag on it so I don't know its habits or its name. The leaves are deep green with wide white veins... maybe its a taro? I just liked it and knew right where I was going to put it in the front garden.

When I first started gardening (and for many years after) I was so impatient for the end result, I wouldn't have thought about taking the time to pot up my own plants from cuttings. My neighbor used to have me save my empty plastic pots from the nursery so she could use them for just that purpose. I gladly gave her all of mine and never thought twice about doing that myself. No, too messy, too bothersome, too time consuming.

Little did I know, now that I'm getting older (did I say that?) how much fun I would have snipping and clipping and potting up cuttings to root. How satisfying it is to know you propogated your own plants from the resources in your own garden! For me, it started a few years back when I found myself enlarging every bed I had made a few years prior. It just made more economical sense to make the most of what I already had. Now days it makes even more sense.

You can see some of the recently rooted coleus were moved to the front garden last week. After being nursed for a few weeks in a location readily accessible to water but not to the general passerby they were ready for planting. All those little odds and ends pots do have a messy appearance. So I like to keep them tucked away on the north side yard where one has to make an effort to walk around to if they were going to catch sight of them.

Way back in the NE corner (above): I'm gradually evolving this area to a more woodsy and natural feel. Recently I planted ten or so variegated schefflera plants from cuttings that had been potted up in the spring. They will fill in around the combinations of fire bush, dracaenas, bromeliads, clerodendrum, jatropha, euphorbia, oakleaf hydrangea and beauty berry. They will also lend to the fullness I'm looking to acheive. Their size along with foliage of yellow and green leaves make a good blend with the plants already established in that corner.

This week there's a whole new set of cuttings (above) in my little hide away place. I've dug up runners from the snow bush, divided shell ginger, made more cuttings to root of schefflera, polka dot plant, fire bush, clerodendrum, and coccinea salvia. All of these are for another bed I visualize enlarging and planting out in the spring. I'll nurse these here all winter.

Speaking of salvia. I've made several plants from one of coccinea salvia this summer. Just cut off a stem and put it in some good soil. It will look terrible for about a week and then all of a sudden it will perk up and start sending out new leaves and buds. Too easy.

There are times when I combine a purchased plant with cuttings. There are times when I don't bother to root my cuttings first. Such is the case in the three pots above (also visible in the header). The red salvia was bought (on sale). The chartruese coleus and sweet potato vine were cut and poked into the pot. Again, keep in mind, they droop for a couple of days and then perk right up and start producing.

There are many plants that don't need to go in a pot first. In other words they can be divided and placed directly in the new location. Each gardener has to determine which plants in your garden need extra attention to root. It is only those plants that I put in pots.

Here's a rundown and tips that work for me... hopefully they'll work for you, too.
1) Think about the next season. At this point we're thinking about spring.
2) Where might you want to create a new bed or enlarge an existing one?
3) Look around your own garden to see what you could use to transplant, divide, or root for the new area.
4) Design it with these plants in mind. Usually I purchase a few as well but using your plants is a really good starting place.
5) Start with really good potting soil in appropriate sized pots for your new plant.
6) Either dig up rooted plants or make cuttings to place in the pots with your good soil.
7) By the way- I always leave a piece of the rooted plant from where I've dug one up and divided. That way there's one still growing where I took the new plant from.
8) Keep the pots near water so it won't be difficult to keep them wet until they root.
9) Remember they won't all live but that's okay. At least most of them do and that's more than you started with.
10) Don't keep them in the pots too long or they will become root bound just like any other potted plant.
11) Transfer them into the ground or pot when it's time and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
I know many dear readers have been practicing these methods a lot longer than me. What about you? How is the strained economy affecting your gardening? Maybe you cut back somewhere else so you can keep your garden purchases the same?


  1. Good morning Meems! Good tips! I have definitely curtailed my gardening purchases in the last couple of years since my HR manager job was eliminated a couple of years ago. Since our gardening season is shorter than yours I invested in a high-quality grow light for our basement, using it to overwinter and propagate tender plants.

    I've always divided perennials, but tender plants became compost at the end of the growing season. Now I bring in tender plants and keep them growing in the basement, propagating many of them from cuttings.

    This year I'm focusing on propagating shrubs, especially hydrangeas, but also experimenting with willows and dogwoods. The nursery owners allowed me to take home some hydrangea cuttings, and I've asked a couple of my clients if I could take home cuttings from their plants. In the case of one client, I'm growing some hydrangea cuttings for her garden, to replace her dying rhododendrons. Since she let me take the cuttings, I won't be charging her for the rooted shrubs, so we both win.

    I also am often able to bring home divisions and seedlings from clients' gardens when they don't want them replanted in their own, and have added to the variety of perennials in my own garden at no cost by doing this.

    Next spring I'll probably buy fewer annuals, and use some of my containers to expand my veggie growing space since my new veggie bed is rather small. Starting annuals and veggies from seeds indoors several weeks before I can plant them outside will also help reduce my garden spending. Shopping clearance plants is also a great way to save money. This fall I got some nice healthy perennials at the big box for $1.50 each at the end of the season that had sold for $7.99 each earlier in the year. Buying clearance perennials is a great way to save, and planting in the fall, they get a jump-start and need less watering the following year, helping to cut the water bill as well.

  2. Hi Meems, what a wonderful tutorial. This is good for new beginners as well as old hands, like me. Most of us are cutting back on those luxery items, and making more from what you have is perfect for these tough times. Another bonus is that there are fewer single specimens and more drifts, using fewer types but more of them, a basic design principle that few of us collector type gardeners like to follow. But it makes the garden as a whole look so much more pleasing to the eye. And I have to say that your garden personifies the word *full*!

  3. I have always trie to root things, divide things or harvest seeds. My problem is I tend to give them away. I have several cuttings in the house right night rooting, will pot them up and they will be ready to move outside come spring. Question, I haven't had much luck rooting fire bush? Any tips?

  4. sorry about the typos, my hands are still freezing from taking the trash to the road.

  5. Meems - this is a wonderful article full of great tips for every gardener.


  6. Some good ideas, Meems. I just enlarged two beds so I may need to practice some economies next spring when I plant them.

    This year I got all my bulbs onsale 1/2 price. Just finished planting the last ones yesterday.

  7. Good morning Meems, A nice read with my morning coffee and toast! I love that you are developing a natural area in the NE section of the garden...I know that you've expressed interest in learning more about native plants. Aren't they deliciously fun to study! Of course...I haven't the faintest idea about Florida natives!

    You've mentioned how easy it has been to propagate salvias...thanks for that tip/reminder...these mints are among my favs and I would love to increase their numbers inexpensively!

    Saving seeds, dividing plants and starting annuals from seed are the money saving techniques I have used. Friends have gifted me with some beauties, too!


  8. This is the first year I've made a conscious effort to take some cuttings. It's an experiment, and I'm not sure how many of them will live, but I'm learning from my mistakes. As my garden continues to expand, buying plants becomes more and more expensive. I'm all for finding ways to cut cost!

    And I musn't forget--since I started blogging, I've had gifts of seeds from some very nice blogging friends, even from the UK! I can't wait to see how they turn out next spring.

  9. Hi Meems-
    This is my first year growing plants from cuttings that I have rooted. I have them in pots still and can't wait to get them in to the ground once spring rolls around. Good post!

  10. You've given me some great ideas - we tend to look at our tropical plants as if they are made of porcelain - we would never think of dividing them. I had my nose up to the computer looking at all those wonderful new plants you've got, recognizing maybe 10% of them, but knowing I've seen many of them at greenhouses/nurseries. I can hear my tropicals quake as I walk down the hall looking for my first experiment.

  11. Hi Meems....good, informative post.....

    You have managed so well with your cutting wonder your garden always looks so beautiful....

    When I buy perennials from the garden centre, where possible I take them out of the pots and divide them into three or four smaller plants.....I did it with many plants this summer, it worked well. Like you I take cuttings.......rosemary, works fact a bit too well......

    I think with the present problems globally everyone will be cutting back.....with my garden I must confess I will find it difficult......there is nothing like a trip to the garden centre and coming home with a boot full of goodies........oh dear I did it today!!!!!

  12. Meems, your garden is such an inspiration. So lush and beautiful.

    I've had a lot of luck with rooting begonias. The trick with rooting begonias is cutting up just one leaf into several sections, as long as you have one large vein in each piece and planting in seed starting soil, then covering it with a bag to make it's own little greenhouse. It's amazing to see the new leaves come up from just a small piece of of the plant.

    Great ideas you've share. Thanks!

  13. Oh Meems, you aren't getting older you are just wiser.

  14. tips I've learned this year:

    - Buy your pansy and snapdragon seeds in March because you'll never find them in the stores in August when you want them.

    - You can water-root Ti plants. (Thanks Meems!)

  15. I have been propagating plants for the past few years. I still buy a few every now and then and I propagate them asap. I started because I needed to landscape the property and didn't want to spend a fortune. Well I have a small nursery now and I grow for a landscaper. The money pays help pays for my daughter's education in the USA as well as my garden helper. I do not advertise and very few people know about my small hobby. I like it that way. When I have a project to do for someone I get the stock from my nursery. I hate to dump really good plants and cuttings. When I have a garage sale I include some plants as well. They are usually the first to go. I am now planning a weekend garden ramble for the public and I plan to include plants on my sale table.

  16. Great posts Meems. I have started to propagate more so that I have more plants. I've started a new garden & have a lot of plants to move, divide, propagate so that I have most to put in the new garden. Next Spring I should have it about full. I also have bulbs that I want to put in it. Some I don't know what they are but will be a pleasant surprise I'm sure.

  17. Meems - what a great post! And what a passionate propagator you are. I'm amazed at the successes you've had with so many different plants. And I'm finding the same is true for me, as I (you know what), I ame saving more seeds and thinking more about the whole life cycle. And now that I've got the greenhouse, I'm excited about doing some of that this winter even. I love seeing that you divided the shell ginger so easily - I have a lot of it and would love to do that, so I've added it to my list! Thanks.

  18. Meems, you seem to have great success with cuttings-it shows in your lush gardens. I am a little envious of you being able to 'stick it in the ground'. Im. sure that wouldn't work as well here,but in a small pot with hormone should do.

    Pass along plants( begging for ones from a friend0 are another good way to save. I plan that next spring along with starting seed indoors again. This topic would make a great subject for you to post about. (Money saving tips in the garden) gathering all suggestions and putting them into one post. Like Dave with the fall colors.

  19. Linda, Not having a paycheck anymore has made me all the more aware of how much I was spending on the garden when I did. So, I feel your pain.

    I like your client bartering ideas as well.

    You do impress me with your tenacity. When you decided to put the lamp in the basement to overwinter I realized what it takes living in your cold clime. I still say I'm pretty sure I would be too lazy for all that carting into the basement. I applaud you.

    I've done the same thing with containers in my (also small) veggie growing space. I tried so hard not to overcrowd this autumn planting and I've gone and done it again. LOL

  20. Frances, I fall somewhere in between beginner and old hand. Still a beginner at this kind of thing... old hand at the every day gardening stuff.

    I definitely repeat many of my foundational plants using them in mass wherever I do plant them. I think it causes the eye to drift from one area to the other and yet it connects the garden and makes for a nice flow from one bed to another.

    My garden is big enough to practice this method which is kind of what I was trying to say in this post. Don't overdo the usage of any one thing but do make use of what you already have. Hope that makes sense.

  21. Darla, You have a great reap what you sow method going on... a principle to follow in all things. I've never done anything with seeds. I do read a lot of other bloggers that get seed from their plants... I honestly don't know the first thing about doing that. MOre to learn.

    I have made several firebush plants this summer. Nothing special really to share... it is one of those that roots from a cutting stuck into some good soil and kept moist for a couple of weeks. I do it outside in partial shade... it might not root indoors???

    Cameron: thank you. I have a feeling you already know everything I offered. :-)

    Marnie: You know something funny? I don't plant any bulbs in the fall. I read about it on northern blogs but honestly I haven't found any for the spring that do that well down here. Last spring I bought some bare root plants for the first time and online and snagged them for 1/2 price... any thing "on sale" makes a girl feel accomplished.

  22. Gail, I have the most wonderful book on Florida natives. I agree they are most exciting to read about and of late I've been spotting them roadside and testing my I.D. skills.

    The only salvia I've propogated was the coccinea. I haven't tried any others. It was just a fluke really. Or I guess you could say the usual way we gardeners discover these things. I was trimming one back and couldn't bear to throw all the growth away. Since I have been into my experimental propogation I decided to stick them in a pot with some plumbago I was already rooting. The salvia is now an overflowing container of red. The plumbago is much smaller but when they were both blooming late summer it was quite a treat.

    Last week I put some salvia cuttings directly in the ground. It remains to be seen if they survive.

  23. Rose, Hi. You know the great thing about these types of experiments is that you really have nothing to lose and so much to gain don't you think? My entire garden is the result of trial and error. Starting from seed is a whole other level of patience. The only thing I've had success with in that area is my zinnias last year. It was (I know, gasp) the first time I had EVER planted from seed. In my defense, :-)I don't think planting from seed is as common down here... but maybe I am totally wrong about that and I just don't do it. Except the veggie garden of course... and that's a whole lot of fun.

  24. Susie, it is a very good feeling to know you are growing your own "anything" isn't it? I'm sure your spring will be very full of successfully rooted plants. Can't wait to hear about it.

    Barbara, I'm impressed you can identify the "houseplants". I hardly know any of the plants north of my zone except the really common ones. It will be interesting to know if your experiments work indoors.

  25. Thank you. I find it hard to believe that you do not use seeds. I have a neighbor that is always saying, "Did you REALLY start that from seed?" I do root a lot of things from cuttings just some things don't do well for me. I'll keep trying though.

  26. Cheryl, the method you describe is exactly how I got started multiplying plants. A few springs ago while creating a very large bed I decided to try dividing what I had purchased. One has to have a little more patience than one has had in the past but it worked out so well. I spent half the money and got so much satisfaction from the process that it started me on the road to enlarging many more beds. Now I can create entire areas with plants I've propogated myself. What could be better?

    Except of course like you said... a trip to the nursery and a car load of more plants.

    Marina, Thank you. I've never done that with begonias but it sounds so interesting.

    I have rooted lots of angel wing and dragon wing begonias though. I just top out an existing one with a stalk of 1/2" or more in diameter and put it in some good soil. Keep it watered for a couple of weeks and it will take off in a container or directly in the ground.

    Lisa, Thanks. Somehow wiser seems to be directly connected with older though.

  27. WG: Good tips on the seeds. I take it you put them in the ground in the fall? Never have planted those from seed. I gave up on pansies a long time ago. Gets too hot here too fast. Snapdragons have always been a favorite but don't buy them often for the same reason.

    Ti plants root if you just stick them in some good soil, too. OR dig up the shoots that come off of the mother plant. I move those around to new locations all the time. I've also started using the red sister ti (or draceana- never know what to call them) in container plants... that's lots of fun.

    Islandgal: Your property is beautiful and you have done a marvelous job propogating. AND building pergolas like I wish I had... (maybe someday). Great idea for earning some extra money. I actually thought about doing that very thing this summer when my side yard looked a bit like a small nursery. Of course, I'd need some clients first in order to make any money. LOL

  28. Lola, you are doing exactly what I am doing. It is the most economical way to grow your own garden. You must share when you find out what those bulbs are!

    Diane, Now that you have that wonderful greenhouse you will be gardening all year long and making so many of your own plants.

    The shell ginger sprouts new plants and I just go in to a large one and divide it by cutting through the rizome. Mostly I put them directly in the ground if I know where I want them to go. The ones I have potted up I am saving for next spring - a new bed is forthcoming.

    Beckie: I'm the first to admit that if I couldn't just stick them in the ground I wouldn't be much of a propogater. Gardening takes many hours in a week around here all year long. I honestly don't have enough time to do all I want to do. Who does, right? But my soil is really good... I think that is the key. Keeping cuttings near water is another key. That way you don't forget them or think you don't have time to run some water on them while they are taking root.

    Your idea is a good one. It might work well in the spring when all ya'll in the north are working your gardens and have propogating on the brain like I do right now Thanks for the great suggestion.

  29. Darla, I know it's crazy. Although I don't know a single gardener down here that does use them except for a few annuals and the veggie garden. Our nurseries are open and full of plants all year long. Maybe that's why... I'm not sure. The only appeal to me would be saving $$$$. Is there something I'm not thinking about? Because I DO LOVE the feeling of growing veggies from seed.

  30. I've got the little mini-nursery thing going on in my yard too. Just rooted 11 variegated schflerra this past week for next spring's garden expansion plans. Plants are no longer inexpensive and I get a lot of satisfaction out of growing my own.

  31. No, I think you have thought your gardens out wonderfully. Seeds are a little time consuming at first. I just love the fact that I put a little something in the ground and it grows to something wonderful. Also, like me, people tend to give seeds away faster than plants. I hope to have a beautiful butterfly garden this coming spring/summer to share. I do enjoy looking at your blog, sometimes I go back there a few times a day and think..hmmmmmm?

  32. I can't believe how far behind I still am! But I'm just about caught up... for now. Meanwhile, I did leave you a little something... here. 8-]

    And back to the topic at hand... I finally trimmed my leggy begonia and have several new plants coming along nicely. *beam*

    Have a JESUS-filled day! ^i^

  33. Meems,
    Thanks for the great tutorial and "you can do it" spirit. I've always divided my perennials (and given most away), but the only things I've propagated by cuttings are a few hard to find coleus. With economic times as they are, I'm thinking more and more about propagating pricier things I'd like to have more of. Next year, it's more seeds and cuttings for me - so thanks for the good words.

  34. I am so glad I can garden with you via the net as I sit here after a 17 degree low last night and a dormant garden. Enjoy it extra for me.

  35. Susan: Hey, did you see the begonia you gave me made it into the first pic and tried to get in the fourth pic? I really LOVE the way it has made its home here. THANK YOU for passing it along.

    It is so easy to root schefflera and I use them so much around here. I know you will put yours to good use in the spring. I'm always curious which garden you are working on?

    Darla, you are too sweet! I know the thrill of the seed where the veggie garden is concerned... I just haven't had the same thrill where annuals have been tried. I will give some more a try next spring just for fun. I keep meaning to e-mail you about your offer, too. Do you have any left?

    Sophie, good for you, I'm sure you're farther along than you let on. You always have so much going on.

    Kim, coleus are the easiest aren't they? They will root in water, if they touch the ground, a cutting stuck in the ground... just about any way you look at it ...I don't think I should be buying another coleus plant forever.

    MNG, Wow. 17 degrees in TN? Well, I am sure it was cold everywhere because it was in the upper 30's here. That's really cold for us. You can garden with me anytime... come on by and pick up a shovel...

  36. this is most interesting but i have some questions. when most of the plants freeze how can you possibly do cuttings at least at this time of year. i must have some bear in me cause i always feel like hibernating in the winter. somedays i don't even like to venture outside unless i have too. i am a fl girl at heart within the weather realms at least. i have been saving my seed from everything this year because i want the same heirloom tomatoes that i bought at the market or found last year and don't know if i will be able to find them next year. plus it doesn't cost me anything to save some seeds from the produce i really like.
    i feel like such a newbie in tn because for the first 7 years of being here i had someone else doing my gardens and i just did puttering. but now i have a whole lot of yard and a whole lot to do. i need to learn to divide and conquer with my plants.

  37. This summer I fed my diluted pee (ten parts water to one part pee) to my peppers and tomatoes. That was the only fertilizers they got. I explain why it's important to not flush your urine down the toilet in my peoplepowergranny blog tonight. Vote in my poll and let me know if you would be willing to save your pee for your garden, or if that is just too "uncivilized" for us evolved folks.

  38. Great post Meems. I didn't know salvia rooted that well. I love the coccineas too and will definitely take your information and try it in my own garden next season. I wonder if the blue & black salvia would do as well?? Those are more expensive so it would be fabulous to be able to propagate them and save some money. Thanks for sharing your success stories. Your garden is so refreshing.


Have a blessed day,

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