The sticker price on many summer annual flowers is enough to make a gardener feel like fainting faster than a hosta in full summer sun. Individual seedlings and bedding plants may seem reasonably priced per plant, but if you have to fill a large flower bed, the price can add up quickly. If you ignore the impatiens and bypass the petunias, there are a number of other options to bring summer color to your landscape without inflating your budget.
A number of flowers and vines, such as four o'clock, black-eyed Susan, morning glory and purple coneflower, are self-seeding, which means they drop their seeds after they bloom. These seeds produce hearty "volunteer" plants that grow where conditions suit them. Find people growing them, and ask if you can harvest some seeds for free. You may have to wait a year before you can plant them.
In the fall, many garden centers and wholesale catalogs sell mixed bags of bulb varieties, including hyacinth, daffodils, crocus and tulips. These bulbs can be planted in the fall for springtime color. Because these bulbs are sold in bulk, the buyer receives considerable savings over the price of individual bulbs. Mixed varieties that include smaller flowers and older types of bulbs cost less than large varieties and newer bulbs.
Seeds for a wild flower garden are often packaged together and sold as meadow mixes. These mixes may include flowers such as Shasta daisy, poppy, cosmos and zinnia. Just as with buying bulbs, buying seeds in bulk is considerably less expensive than buying individual seed packets or nursery bedding plants. Some meadow mixes come with a blend of perennial and annual seeds. The annual seeds give the garden color during the first year, while the perennials become established. After the first year, the perennial plants become established and fill in with color that returns year after year.