How to buy your plants from the big box stores

 

Many of my shade loving plants were off the markdown racks

Many of my shade loving plants were off the markdown racks

So you have been told that buying from Lowe’s or Home Depot is a NO-NO. Why?

My beautiful Magnolia

My beautiful Magnolia

I buy from there all the time and have for years. As a matter of fact, 75% of my yard is filled with revived beauties from the markdown racks. Another 20% of my beautiful bounty is from rescuing what others throw out because it did not thrive or they thought they killed them. The other 5% of my yard is splurge, yes, I have bought a few things full price but off hand I cannot name what plants they were.

I have a 14′ hx 8’w Magnolia I bought wilted and pathetic off the markdown rack 4 years ago as a 4′ stick in a pot with only a few leaves (but when I scratched all the branches they were green). Many plants take at least one if not 2 seasons to return to their original potted state. If it is a blooming plant, you may have to wait a couple seasons for it to reach its full blooming potential.

This container was almost entirely planted from the markdown racks

This container was almost entirely planted from the markdown racks

Well I can speak from years of experience of gardening and shopping how to buy from Walmart. Truth be told I almost never buy a plant from there unless I know it just came off the truck within 24 hours. Why? because the lack of watering and care is atrocious to me. I cannot fathom how they can put a shade plant in the sun, not water it, and then try to sell it to some poor customer for 50% saying it will live…Let me tell you that many times they do not live unless you know how to revive it. I know I could and there are many others like me but if you do not have the patience for a long recovery (takes at least 2 months for most plants to recover and regrow) you will be disappointed and the plant will most likely never reach its full potential. Oh how I could go on about this store…

My beautiful Jane Magnolia (markdown rack for $5 and another stick in a pot) which bloomed 3 times this spring!

My beautiful Jane Magnolia (markdown rack for $5 and another stick in a pot) which bloomed 3 times this spring!

I am not a master gardener nor do I profess to know everything about gardening. However, I can tell you that I have had a green thumb since I was a young girl doing my science fair projects in elementary school on plants and rocks. I have ‘saved’ plants all my life and know that there are tricks to buying your flowers, trees, and shrubs from Lowe’s, Home Depot, and especially Walmart (and any big box store in your area). Do not be afraid to buy your plants from Lowe’s or Home Depot. I know several master gardeners who say to me “I never buy from those places!” Their reasoning is sound but not totally justifiable (in my opinion) because the big box stores many times buy from the same nurseries as many locally owned garden centers and nurseries. {I know this because I have been in the garden center business}. Do not be afraid to buy many of your basic trees, shrubs, and flowers especially from Home Depot who has their nursery provider come handle the plants and keep the gardening staff on top of watering and care. I have to add that this year my local Home Depot has done a phenomenal job of keeping up with their stock healthy- limited availability but for basic gardening I prefer to check them out for myself and clients first. {no I am not getting anything for applauding HD}

Anyhow, I am going to give you a few pointers for buying plants either full price or clearance priced. These tips are important to know even if you go to a garden center because I have found that do not always keep up with the watering either!

Buying full price:

Healthy Gailardia (Blanket Flower)

Healthy Gailardia (Blanket Flower)

  • The plants will arrive from the nursery in full bloom close to the actual bloom time
  • They will come off the truck thirsty because they do not water them before transport because they can get moldy and diseased
  • There are many nurseries that sell to big box stores AND local garden centers
  • The variety at big box stores will be limited (unlike garden centers who specialize) but you can get many basic plants at a better cost
  • Know when the truck comes in so you can get first pickings and before the sun beats down on them on the racks and they wilt and suffer
  • Know what you are buying!

    Healthy no signs of distress or wilting

    Healthy no signs of distress or wilting

  • Read tags and make sure the plants are for your zone-big box order through corporate and they buy by the truckloads so you are not always buying locally ‘zoned’ plants
  • You can plant in the heat but watering is essential!
  • Know when the sales start and sign up for email alerts to ads (Home Depot is usually Thursday)
  • If there are only a few of a plant you absolutely love, buy it because they may never get it again!
  • Watch for sales because sales are usually really good at Home Depot and Lowe’s

 

classic markdown rack at Lowe's

classic markdown rack at Lowe’s

Buying off the markdown rack:

This looks viable

This looks viable

  • half off is standard price
  • Do not buy a stick in a pot-that tree will never be the same
  • If the tree has lost a few leaves and more than 75% of the branches are still green (take your finger nail and scrape to make sure it is bright green)
  • If the plant is soggy wet and the middle is dead
  • If the plant is wilted and needs watered and is still green it is probably still viable

    There is still green in the middle

    There is still green in the middle

  • If the plant is wilted and needs watered and it is half brown and dried up, it is a chance
  • Do not buy any plants or plants close to it, that have any signs of pest, fungus, or spots on the leaves unless you have a containment area and want to buy sprays and wait out the disease Do
  • NOT buy conifers, pine trees, or evergreen if the needles are browning up and falling off because a conifer will never be the same and it will literally can take years for it to reach its potential
  • Do NOT buy grafted conifers, weeping trees, or roses that have been distressed or have lost their leaves because they will never be the same and the original root stock most likely will take over if the plant has been distressed too long
  • DO NOT buy hostas if there are any signs of spotting (see pic)

    Notice the spots on the hosta leaves? Do not buy these or anyones near or from the same grower

    Notice the spots on the hosta leaves? Do not buy these or anyones near or from the same grower

  • Do NOT buy invasive plants regardless how cheap! Plants are deemed noxious or invasive for a reason and the garden centers and big box stores should not even be selling them in areas where invasion is problematic (English ivy, vinca (major, minor, and variegated), periwinkle, Japanese honesuckle, trumpet vine, to name a few)
  • Hydrangeas can be revived and it may take a couple seasons to get them to their full beauty and blooms but if they are 1/2 off and wilted and browning they still can be revived (take home and give plenty of water and plant in the shade and keep watered every day.

    I do not buy plants that look like this

    I do not buy plants that look like this

  • If you find Black eyed Susans & coneflowers are  wilting in the 1/2 off rack take the plant out of the pot and check to see if the roots are still white but if the plant is cheap enough then I usually buy them for the seeds.
  • If a hosta is droopy and turning brown and drying up but you take it out of the pot and root crown and roots are white and still seem pliable then it is worth the 1/2 off sticker but only if it is wilting from lack of water not from a powdery mildew or bug infestation
  • I do not buy roses on the markdown rack. If you are a rose person and know you can save them, then go for it
  • Any bulb, tuber, or rhizome type plant can be saved as long as the tuber, bulb, or rhizome is still hard like a potato.
  • If you have doubts, go with your gut.

Do not let that woman standing there saying to you “oh you should buy this. All it needs is some water and TLC”.

I always step in and say my opinion too. I will not let anyone I see buy something I know they cannot grow. I just am that way. My hubby will never go with me plant shopping because if I hear someone getting bad information I HAVE TO STEP IN AND ADD MY 2 CENTS WORTH. I am not afraid and when I am dealing with someone who believes they know more than me, I whip out my phone and show them my ‘work’.

Enough said…

projects hosta 046There are more and I promise that I will write again about more of my tips on how to buy off the markdown rack. I have to be careful where I take pics now because the new ‘plant specialist’ caught me taking pics and asked me not to do that. Why? One reason is that I pointed out a diseased lot of hosta and then on another day I pointed out that she was giving a customer very bad advice. Okay, that probably was not my best move but I am a plant person and then a people person when I am in a garden center.

That is just how I roll…

I hope I gave you some helpful hints to start. I know the season is about over but there are many markdowns happening now that the big box stores are closing out until fall. Go in the mornings to check out markdowns. Make friends with someone in the garden center to find when the trucks come in. Read the tags and know your zone.

Happy gardening!concrete bench random lily 007

Creating. Inspiring. Gardening without the rules!

10 thoughts on “How to buy your plants from the big box stores

  1. Good post and very good lists of what to do and what not to do. While I would never buy from a big box store at full price, I am very willing to see what perennials they have on markdown near the end of the season, which is right about now. For 75% off of $0.50 each (I’ve seen these markdowns before), I”ll take a shot on a plant I feel pretty good that I can nurse back to health.

  2. Love your article and wish you would go plant shopping with me.I have a green thumb too, and had saved four plants that just about died on me when I planted them here in Ok. I’ve been told that the reason people around here have more bushes and trees than flowers, is because of the weather and the heat. Well, I fight to keep my flowers alive, and not only that, I hate bushes (except dwarf burning bushes), and so far this summer, they are doing fine with the method I’m using to protect them from the bad insects. You wouldn’t believe what I have been using and it works.

    • in the heat and weather have you thought using more native plants? and maybe sowing some seeds? black eyed susans, cone flowers, salvia, speedwell, daisies should all grow where you are.
      I have to have flowers LOL
      and I will bite-what is your method?

  3. all of my plants have come off the mark down rack at lowes i live on ss and it doesn’t stretch too far i have bushes, perennials, and roses and they are all doing great because i have the time to tend to them xx

  4. I REALLY enjoyed this article. Let me encourage you and your readers that if you find a Gerbera Daisy on markdown, if it has ANY green left to the leaves at all, buy it, water it and let it sit for a few weeks and you will have a LOVELY plant for years to come. In the south they will overwinter beautifully, even in snow, and will produce flowers for many happy years. I cut off all dead flowers once the head begins to brown. I also remove any dead leaves as soon as I spot them. They are VERY hardy and always on half off at my grocery once their flowers have gone.

    • My best friend has had one for over 8 years now! In GA they do overwinter but I lost mine a few years back here in VA. So this year, funny you should write me, I bought one off the markdown rack the other day. I love them. Thanks for reminding me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s