10 Tips For Growing A Stunning Organic Flower Garden On A Budget

Practical ways to stretch your dollar when growing an organic flower garden.

March 16, 2017
organic flower garden
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Anyone can create an instant, knock-your-socks-off flower garden with a truckload of expensive blooming plants from the local garden center. But creating a stunning flower garden can be done for surprisingly little money if you are willing to invest some time and creativity. Here are some tricks for getting the most bloom for your buck.  

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

organic flower garden
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Visualize your flower garden

You want a flower garden that looks good, and part of that is making sure it's manageable enough for you to maintain it. So choose one very visible, somewhat small area for your flower garden in its first year, leaving some room to expand, should you want to, in the future.

Then, before you select your specific plants, make a rough sketch, including garden measurements, notes on how much sun your garden will get once any of your trees get leaves (a great plant in the wrong spot is a waste of money), and thoughts about what colors and heights you’d like to put where.

Related: 10 Unusual Spring Flowers You Need To Grow This Year 

marigolds in an organic flower garden
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Pick the right annuals

Start with annuals—plants that last for one season and then die—as they grow and flower fast. Go for a few types of big, bright varieties that bloom from late spring until frost and plant them in groups for maximum impact. Some great choices are multi-bloom sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, poppies, and Mexican sunflowers. Even better, some annuals, such as larkspurs and bachelor buttons, will sprinkle their own seeds into your garden at the end of the season, providing you with dozens of new plants the following spring.

Grow your annuals from standard organic seeds (they cost less than modern hybrids) once warmer weather arrives. A packet of seeds will produce dozens of plants for the cost of a single nursery plant, and many will outperform stressed store-bought plants.

If you do buy annual plants, buy them in small pots or multi-packs, and look for plants that are in bud rather than in flower. 

Related: 5 Easy Annuals Every Low-Key Gardener Needs

perennial yarrow flower in organic garden
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Pick the right perennials

Choose a few perennials—plants that come back year after year—to start from seed the first year.

Perennials that flower in the first year are a great place to start. These include butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa, not to be confused with the invasive butterfly bush), yarrow, coreopsis, gaillardia, and rudbeckia

Other perennials will take a couple of years to fill out and start making a big show. Select those that are hardy in your zone (check catalog or packet for info) with a long bloom season. Lean toward those described as being “easy to grow,” “low maintenance,” and “long-lived” and those native to your area. Tall plants, such as large ornamental grasses and perennial hibiscus, add height and impact.

For perennials that are difficult to grow from seed, shop for small plants locally or shop online for very young plants sold as “liners” or “plugs.” Mountain Valley Nursery is a reputable online organic nursery. 

Related: 5 Trouble-Free Summer Perennials

nasturtium flowers in organic garden
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Include edibles

Include some edible flowers, like nasturtiums (shown above), and attractive veggies (scarlet runner beans have bright red flowers and many swiss chards have vibrantly-colored stalks) to recoup some of your investment.

Related: 9 Flowers You Didn't Know You Could Eat

morning glory flowers in organic garden
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Create height

Create height fast by growing annual vines like morning glory or sweet pea on existing fences or an inexpensive DIY trellis made from branches or bamboo canes. You can also hang flowering baskets from shepherd’s crooks.

organic seed packets for flower garden
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Coordinate a seed swap

Get in touch with your gardening friends, or anyone you know who’s interested in growing their own flower garden, and coordinate a seed swap. Decide who will buy which seeds and then split the packets. Most packets contain more seed than the average herb gardener will need in several years, so splitting up multiple packets can end up being a big money saver. If you still have leftover seeds, save them! Most flower seeds remain viable for at least two years past the date on the packet, so store them in a dark, dry, room-temperature location.

Related: Why You Should Always Plant Flowers In Your Vegetable Patch

dividing iris flowers for organic garden
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Divide and conquer

Multiply plants you already have by dividing expanding clumps every few years and rooting cuttings. If you have gardening friends, they may be more than happy to share or swap divisions (rooted sections of large plants) or cuttings (short sections of growing stems).

Here's an example of how to divide irises and a basic guide to propogation.

sea glass to add decoration to organic flower garden
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Add some (cheap) flair

Make your flower garden extra enchanting by painting found objects such as wine bottles or figurines with bright enamel and using them as accent items. You can even make your own hypertufa planters or concrete stepping stones studded with bits of colorful tile, sea glass, china, or glass pebbles.

Related: 8 Tips For Growing An Organic Vegetable Garden On A Budget

organic plants brought indoor for winter
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Save flowers for next year

Before frost in the fall, take cuttings from your favorite bedding plants to root, grow as houseplants all winter, and use to make cuttings to root and plant out the following spring. 

end of season organic flower sale at garden center
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Jump on end-of-season sales

Shop for marked-down perennials at the end of the selling season. A scruffy, pot-bound perennial will usually take off and grow once it has space to grow. You may even be able to divide it before planting. Also consider buying marked-down seed packets in the fall for use next spring.

Related: 10 Tips For Growing An Organic Herb Garden On A Budget

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