Where can you buy affordable plants? Here are the 7 best places to look for cheap plants

My love for plants hasn’t waned over the years, but I have become more mindful of what I bring into my home these days. To put it plainly, I don’t want to overspend on things that could, you know, wither away with enough neglect. Unfortunately, novice plant enthusiasts can unwittingly drop a lot of money on fairly basic plants that might not make it, especially as brands capitalize on spring trends. Plants require a lot of maintenance and upkeep, but there’s no way anyone should be paying $50 for a 4-inch jade pothos, even during inflation!

Over the years, I’ve been digging around for the best places to buy affordable plants with relative success. If you’re on the hunt for cheap plants, keep reading to discover the best places to find wallet-friendly foliage. 

Finding affordable plants at plant swaps

I picked up the begonia for $5 and the string of turtles for $10 at a local plant swap. The cutting in the container was a freebie!

If you’re looking for inexpensive houseplants, consider hitting up your local plant swaps. During the warmer parts of the year, my town’s plant lovers host monthly park meetups for trading plants. Quite frankly, most people will bring plants to sell, although I’ve also scored some sweet plants through good old bartering. Not that I’m really complaining — local plant sellers usually offer amazing prices. Plus, even if you show up to a swap empty-handed, the event hosts usually offer small freebies. 

Finding affordable plants at flea markets

Succulent haul
These succulents and cacti were $2 a pop at the flea market.

Every quarter, I visit the West Wind Capitol Flea Market in San Jose with my dad. Besides finding amazing prices for DVDs, clothes, fresh produce, and home decor, I always come across unbeatable deals for succulents — often $2 to $5 bucks for healthy, not-too-common succulent and cactus plants. I try to go to the flea market as early as possible in the morning to avoid crowds and afternoon heat — and to get the first dibs on the available inventory. If you’re looking for cheap succulents in bulk, I recommend checking out a flea market, especially if you live in the Southwest. I’ve also seen plenty of other cheap outdoor plants, including Asian herbs and fruit trees.

Finding affordable plants at grocery stores

Look at these beautiful calatheas from the Trader Joe’s in Davis.

From Trader Joe’s to Grocery Outlet, I’ve found so many lush plants at grocery stores! Grocery store plants often get overlooked, but you never know what you might find hiding in the floral department. (Just talk to the people who have found Thai Constellation Monsteras at their local grocery store.) Grocery store plants usually don’t cost any more than $20, unless you’re looking at big statement plants. And chances are, you’ll also find plants already potted up in cute metal or ceramic planters, which eliminates the need to buy pots. Although if you did want to find affordable plant pots, I have an entire blog post on that very topic! 

Finding affordable plants at big-box garden centers

You can truly romanticize a stroll through The Home Depot during springtime.

Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Walmart — there’s a good chance that you live near a big-box store with a nursery. These places are probably your best bet for buying cheap perennial plants and basic houseplants — you can often find 4-inch plants for $5 to $15 and 6-inch plants for under $30. Some of these stores, like Lowe’s, even have clearance plants. That said, I would carefully inspect big-box store plants before bringing them home, since I find that they tend to be prone to issues such as root rot and pests.  

Finding affordable plants at local nurseries

Rainforest Nursery in Manteca has a greenhouse for their indoor plants.

Since many local nurseries are small businesses, they tend to set higher prices than big-box stores. Don’t let that deter you, though. In my experience, you’ll probably find healthier and rarer plants at your local nursery. For only a few bucks more, you’re investing in a higher quality plant that’s less likely to die on you. I also recommend following your local nursery on Facebook or Instagram — they may, every so often, advertise plant sales around holidays. 

In my part of the Central Valley, I love digging around Rainforest Nursery and Poot’s Cactus Nursery during springtime. When I’m looking around the Bay Area for plants, I also like to hit up the Plant and Pottery Outlet in Sunol, Payless Hardware, Rockery, and Nursery in San Jose, and the SummerWinds Nursery in Cupertino.

Finding affordable plants online

Rooted box
I ordered a huge cactus from Hey Rooted a few years ago. It’s now thriving in my mom’s succulent garden.

Is it even possible to find cheap plants online? Buying plants online is admittedly not my thing, but I’ll occasionally try my luck at finding affordable plants online. Some of my favorite online shops include Succulents Depot, Hirt’s Gardens, Rooted, and Zensability. Etsy is also often tempting but a real gamble, unless you’re buying from a legitimate plant business. Make sure to comb through those reviews! You can also check an online platform like Facebook Marketplace to get in touch with local sellers.

If you’re interested in finding affordable rare plants online, I would honestly just wait it out. Plant trends pretty much die down after a year or two. Once upon a time, plants like hoyas and pink princess philodendrons were exorbitantly expensive online — now you can probably find them collecting dust at your local Save Mart. 

Finding affordable (or free!) plants through gardening friends

My plant friend (and former work friend) gifted me this beautiful silver dragon alocasia plant.

Friends aren’t really a place, but you get my point. (A spiritual place, maybe?) Having plant friends is awesome because fellow foliage fanatics tend to have a wealth of gardening experience and, obviously, a wealth of plants. I love getting cuttings and super discounted plants from my plant friends. You can always look for local plant Facebook groups and gardening clubs to connect with plant lovers nearby. 

Plant collecting can quickly grow into a pricey hobby, but keeping your costs down is definitely doable with strategic shopping. It’s always great to start locally, then look around online once you have a good grasp on prices and your plant care capabilities. So go forth and find great plant deals, my foliage-loving fronds.

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