SHOP BY DEPARTMENT
Houzz Logo Print
farfrae

How is plant quality from 'big box' stores

farfrae
14 years ago

I'd like your opinions or experiences with buying from stores like wal mart or home depot, lowes, etc. I know they won't have the variety a garden center has, but I am thinking more in terms of size and health of plants vs the price. I know they aren't great about watering, but if I got there as the plants were being unloaded.....

We are putting in shrubs and perennials to replace some overgrown shrubs, and I need many things. I am trying to economize a bit. So have you been happy with those purchases from these retailers?

Comments (28)

  • primgal36
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have bought some things from Lowes. This will be the first season which I'll be able to see what they do. I have bought some from Menards and had pretty good luck with them. I bought a shrub rose, peonies, liatrus. They all have done well, I tend to buy what appeals to me, or if it's something I've been looking for.
    Hope this helps. Good luck.

  • Nancy
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I've had no problem with health of plants I've bought at any of those you mention. Our local Lowes must be an exception, I don't think I've ever been there but they are watering something. I've bought their clearanced stuff that has been as little as .25 for a gallon perennial that looked really good, but had finished blooming. Most all have grown well. If you are looking for a specifically named daylily or hosta, don't count on them being correct, but otherwise I'd go for it.

  • Related Discussions

    Bees in my yard and big box store plants

    Q

    Comments (1)
    I hope someone has an answer for you. I'd also be curious. Remember, honey bees don't have a long life expectancy, so your dead ones didn't necessarily die as a result of anything in your yard, even though they happened to be in your yard when they died. I'd keep the plant for now. Martha
    ...See More

    Tomato plants from big box stores

    Q

    Comments (18)
    Robert, I was new to gardening when we lived in Decatur, so I'm afraid I don't have notes to refer back to for specific varieties. That said, I do remember that we had amazing luck with asparagus, which grew so well that it spoiled us for the future - we have not had anywhere near the results here in Indiana and my husband and I still talk about we wish we'd thought to dig some of those plants and bring them with us when we moved. It was probably the soil rather than the variety (or those specific plants), but we just can't seem to get it established here. For tomatoes, they were just hybrids from the big box store ... I'm guessing Early Girl and Better Boy. We got dozens (like 50) from each plant and I remember being completely overwhelmed and having no idea what to do with them all, LOL. We also grew three different types of corn and got what I now know to be a good harvest, but since I was new to gardening, I was all, "OMG, there are little worms in the corn!!" and my husband kept explaining this was common and nothing to freak out about. ;) There was more -- beans, lettuce, peppers, etc. -- but again, just varieties that were available at the local stores. I was more focused on my flower garden at the time and the veggies just seemed to happen without a ton of effort. I had no idea how lucky I was, LOL. Kathy
    ...See More

    Plant disease outbreak traced to big box stores

    Q

    Comments (2)
    Ahhh! The eggs in one basket syndrome strikes again. Again, we wouldn't have this 30 years ago with thousands of little mom and pop hardware stores selling a few plants from a bunch of different suppliers. Now Walmart nurtures/persuades some big conglomerate to grow six zillion plants and supply the whole chain as well as other chains because they can do it for less. And Bingo... Now was that worth the few pennys saved Walmart? Good luck selling them next year!
    ...See More

    Difference in broken stone mosaic tile from big box vs. tile store?

    Q

    Comments (3)
    Home center stores often carry brand names - usually a limited choice, but still great if you can find what you want. The one thing I will not buy at a home center store is a kitchen or bath faucet that will get a lot of use. The faucets even of the name brands like Delta are more plastic and often have a faux finish - looks like chrome or bronze but is just a plastic look alike. I have used home center tile and my tile installer, when I am not doing it myself, said he has no problem with home center tile. In general, he is very picky. I would watch out for the spacing of small tiles on mesh. I have not had any problems, but I have seen people, just today, have problems with penny tile and small hex tiles unevenly placed on a mesh and the tile setter did not bother to cut the mesh apart and make sure the tiles were evenly spaced. Those may have even been expensive tiles. The OP didn't say, but that is something to watch for no matter where you get your tile if using a mosaic or small tile.
    ...See More
  • wyndyacre
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    If you know what you're looking for and what to look for, there are some good deals to be had at the big box stores early in the season.
    I find the key point is to get there within a week or so of things being unloaded when they are still fresh and healthy. Then there is less chance for them to be underwatered, lose their labels and get knocked around and damaged by thousands of shoppers.

    I run to Walmart early every year to stock up on basics for starting new beds and pick up boxwoods, golden threadleaf cypress, mugo pines, yews etc. for very reasonable prices. I noticed last year that they had some very nice "Youngii" weeping birches, named crabapples, "Bloodgood" japanese maples, purple beeches.

    For those just starting or someone knowing exactly what they want, there are great deals to be had. Just look for healthy stock, tip the plant out of the pot and look at the rootball, notice if the soil is still moist.

    I also visit the "bargain bin" of the local nurseries at this time of year. I've gotten some great deals on unusual trees and shrubs mostly because they are brown and leafless and many other people don't know what they are. I got a whole flat of 18 different alpine plants one year for $5.00, some of which have turned out to be my most unusual and best bloomers.

  • bean_counter_z4
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have had very good experience with box store plants. I put in two cutting rose gardens some years ago. I bought mostly bare root, bagged roses. All did extremely well in zone 4/5 and all were true to name. I always buy a couple iris and some spring bulbs that appeal to me as I cruise thru some box store. Last year I got some grasses that did well. I have a thing about handling and inspecting perennials. Can't do that with mail order. Last week as I picked up birdhouse hardware, I bought a Sarah Bernhardt peony at HD. I peeked in the bag and it was already sprouting. It's potted and doing well until the ground unfreezes.

  • bullthistle
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    When I purchase plants at Wal Mart, I buy one gallon, then repot them into five gallon and water regularly, because much of their stuff comes from a warmer climate and I prefer watching them closely to make certain they become
    acclimated, then plant the floowing year.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Propagating Perennials

  • duluthinbloomz4
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My experiences have been good - healthy holly and ninebarks from HD last year, along with some different varieties of dianthus and daylilies. Just the other day, 3 in a bag Sarah Bernhart and Felix Crousse sprouting bare root peonies for under $5 a bag from Wal-mart. I'll pot those up for the tinme being. The hosta people generally cringe in terror, but I've gotten nice big box specimens in years past that thus far show no signs of the dreaded HVX.

    The key to the big boxes is to go early in the season and often thereafter. Here in the Northland, stuff flies off the shelves and oftentimes isn't restocked so the rule of thumb is buy it when you see it - the next time you go the selections will be entirely different. I'll be looking for a few conifers this year and will hit the big boxes first.

    With a big yard and old mature gardens, I'm at the point of reconfiguring and replacing so I love a bargain. I feel my chances of success with something from HD, Wall-mart, Menard's, etc. is probably pretty much the same as from a nursery or by mail order; neither of which are immune from selling plants that can fail.

  • christinmk z5b eastern WA
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Last year I bought several plants from Wal-Marts sale racks, including a really healthy Nepeta and bareroot roses for $1.50. Most everything I have boughten there has lived. I buy a lot of plants from Lowes and Home Depot. Often times the plants found from there are just as healthy as the ones from nurserys. There is a local nursery here that is really horrible. I went there one spring and saw that they had some new shrubs in. I went over to look and the were the EXACT same ones from Wal-Mart! They even still had Wal-Mart tags on them! But they were marked more than double the origninal price. So sometimes nurseries are not always the best.
    CMK

  • albert_135   39.17°N 119.76°W 4695ft.
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My experience is that Wal-Mart and Home Despot have good stuff if you buy it soon after it comes off the truck and get it home and transplant soon. The longer it sets at the store the greater the risk of getting plants that have been damaged by poor care.

  • farfrae
    Original Author
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks everyone for your help. I am looking for some basic items, so I will be making regular stops to get plants "fresh off the truck". I do like support some local family owned places, so I will shop there for the more unusual items.

  • boxcar_grower
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have a former employee that works for Winfield Nurseries in Suffield CT. They grow most of the container plants that all the local Home Depots sells.

    Last year I baught a few flats of annuals for Home Depot and I was surpised when I got home all the greenhouse tags were from a local growing in the same town as the Home Depot.

    Home Depot at least, supports local growers and commercial wholesale greenhouses. So you just might be buying local.

  • jackied164 z6 MA
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    At my local Home Depot I find if I get there soon after the plants arrive I am fine and its a great deal (vs the same plants in most catalogs). The selection is usually limited and kind of random but that doesn't bother me. In FL where my parents lived I found it to be totally different. It was like I was at at a professional nursery. I guess it depends on the store and who is working there. Locally it seems they are totally focused on loading everything in to the exclusion of things like watering.

  • Pieter zone 7/8 B.C.
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The biggest thing about the 'big box stores' is labeling, it's not always as labelled. Also, with things like Hostas be on the lookout for HVX.

  • rusty_blackhaw
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    As to plant quality from these stores, it'll vary considerably depending on the staff and what training and experience they may have had, and personnel turnover ensures that these factors will change without notice. It's certainly more of a lottery experience than you'd have at a good local nursery.

    My take is that if you're interested in mass plantings of common items, have enough experience to recognize good stock and get to the store before it's had time to deteriorate, you'll save some money and do OK. If you want more unusual items, the savings tend to be minimal.
    I mostly shop at these places for bagged soils and other supplies, as well as seasonal bargains.

    The appeal of even badly run big box stores can be summed up in this quote I just found on the Garden Watchdog (the writer was talking about a mail order nursery with a poor reputation, but the sentiments fit many shoppers at GigantoMart as well):

    "I have ordered from this company several times in the last few years. I have about half of the plants I order die, but I still say my experiences with them are positive...I still plan on ordering from them in the future because you just can't beat their prices!"

    (insert eye-rolling smiley here)

  • deb2
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I agree that a major problem with HD is labeling - not only the lack of labeling, but incorrect labeling. Most people wouldn't know the difference. I've bought a red-flowering, disease resistant crabapple only to find that it was a pink, less disease resistant crabapple. The May Night salvia wasn't May Night either, and the Mountain Fire Japonica was a different variety. As for annuals, no labels so you don't know what vbariety you are buying - all petunias are not the same! Having been in the nursery business, it is very frustrating since I know which plants are superior to others. I no longer buy from HD.

  • rosysunnygirl
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    HD for me is a giantic waste of energy to even look, but I still do. "GigantoMart" (ha!) is much the same, unless it's for common shrubs. As someone earlier pointed out, you can find a lot of the more common shrubs (boxwood, arborvitae) at very good prices there.

    Where I have luck, in terms of the bix boxes, is Lowe's. Often, I've found stuff that I've seen in catalogs there on the cheap. Sometimes, I don't even think they know some of what they're selling -- in a way that's good for those of us who DO know plants! Last season, I bought a ton of plumbago, some "Jolly Bee" geraniums, some "Peach Melba" heuchera, a couple of plants of "Etain" viola, a "Nahno Blue" and a "Royal Red" butterfly bush and I eyed a "Grace" smoketree and some "Sweet Heidi" geraniums.

    All of the stuff I bought was less than $3 a pot, in most cases, about $1. I could've really cleaned up had I bought at regular price. In some cases, these weren't even plants the "real" nurseries carried. It pays to at least go take a look. You never know what you might find that's on your list, or might be on your list the next year...

    There's a Lowe's that opened at the tail end of fall right across from one of the nicest nurseries in my area. It'll be interesting to see what happens with prices and selection at both places.

  • farfrae
    Original Author
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks for your stories. It is good to know that these less expensive plants can work out. I am going to check out some places this weekend, although we might get some snow on Saturday.

  • Donna
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I agree with all that has been said. Here is one observation I have made that was not mentioned. In the last few years, Wal Mart has carried alot of annuals that are labelled "Melampodium", or "Marigold", etc. They are less expensive, yes, and the plants were heatlhy. But when I planted them in my beds en masse, I found that they were not consistent in size. This says to me that they are planting cheap seed that may be what you get when you allow hybrids to volunteer: some short, some tall, etc. Because of this, I have become more careful to watch for Named Varieties.
    My habit in previous years has been to take an afternoon a week and visit every big box and local nursery in town, so that I don't miss out on something that only comes in once. But with gas so high this year, I am really grateful that I have started so many things from seed!

  • blueangel
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I must chime in,in defense of HD
    They do not label the plants the nursery
    suppling the stock dose,they do business with
    local growers but do not own the plants
    til they are sold sorta like a consignment.
    the shipments arrive on Mondays,wensedays
    and thrusedays and some on saturdays.
    The HD is not responsible for watering of the
    plants the nurseries are and have staff there to tend
    to the plants they are only there a few hours each day
    as the have several stores to cover in a day some are
    only at a location for an hour at a time depending on
    how many stores the have to cover.Yes some employeies
    of home depot will water .I can't say for the other box
    stores only the HD.

    Blueangel

  • dirtdiver
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    If I look at my garden over its history, most of what's alive or has performed well over time has been from dedicated nurseries. (I've bought far more at those places too.)

    I'm just not that crazy about buying perennials at the box stores, though sometimes I can't resist. Certain things that are tough as nails, I'll buy without much hesitation if I like the variety. But I've bought lots of things that have died after a season when I thought they shouldn't have. Sometimes I wonder if some of the growers are channeling effort into lush and instant top growth at the expense of solid root systems--I don't know. And I agree that the plant stock often doesn't get much attention or water once it's off the truck.

  • peter826
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I buy a bit at Lowes, but usually only the clearance stuff. Last year I was snagging Firewitch Dianthus for $.25-$.50/pot, only because they were done flowering. I generally don't like to pay the retail price for their stuff (I winter sow most of my plants), but I can't pass up the clearance shelf. I have noticed some stores clearance things out much faster than others, so sometimes it pays to make the rounds.

  • SandL
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I suppose it depends on the store. I have shopped at HD and at Wal-Mart a few times. However, my experiences there have not been that great since most employees have little to no gardening knowledge. Thus, they know absolutely nothing about taking care of the plants in stock.

    Lowe's, on the other hand, I've had great success with. Most of the staff seems to know what they are talking about and will let you know when the next shipment is coming in. Granted, this is the Lowe's I go to. I can't speak for all of them. So, generally speaking, I go to Lowe's for all my plant needs unless I'm looking for a hard-to-find item. I have a large hosta garden derived mainly from Lowe's - four years strong.

    For all other items I go to Johnson's nursery, here in Wichita. They have been family owned for generations, hiring only horticultural students as help. I consider it my second home I'm there so much! LOL!

    Other than that I buy from Bluestone Perennials.

    Heather

  • farfrae
    Original Author
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Thanks again to all of you for your replies. Most places around here have not stocked up yet, so I haven't bought anything yet.

  • ljrmiller
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My boxed plants (bare root perennials and tender bulbs) from box stores are all doing well so far--except for a peony. I planted the peony out and my oldest cat decided that was The Perfect Potty Spot. Considering the soil there is heavy clay, and he isn't exactly a digger (two apathetic swipes with a paw and he's done), this shouldn't be a problem. Trouble is, a young neighborhood cat (who has befriended my three older cats) took that to mean that this is the MAIN pottyspot, and he digs holes to China! We shall see...

    As for potted plants, so far so good. I bought two lovely 2-gal. (#2 can, actually) Hellebores, one a double, for $9,97 each, and a small but pretty red, ruffly Heuchera for $3.97 at Lowe's. I try to get there on Thursday or Friday afternoons, after the trucks arrive and unload.

  • razorback33
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Since I have been in the Horticulture business for almost half a lifetime, I know many of the personnel at and/or the reputation of the local Nurseries that provide plants to the Box stores. I seldom buy anything there, except potting mix and mulch(they are cheaper on most items, than the wholesale suppliers).
    The closest one to me is a HD and I frequently find the vendor personnel there, unloading and placing plants on the sales tables. HD has no employees, except cashier(s) in the garden area. If someone needs assistance loading heavy items or a few bales of straw, the cashier has to summon someone to help.
    They also have automatic sprinklers for the plants inside the fenced area and most of those look fresh. Outside tables and racks are another story! Watering of those seems to be a hit & miss proposition and after several days in full sun temperatures, well in excess of 100, they are ready for the compost bin.
    As to Hostas at my local HD's, I know the vendor and their source of plants. I buy them from the same source and have never experienced any problem with HVX. But every area has different vendors and unless they have experienced personnel that recognize the symptoms, it is possible that you could be purchasing infected plants. On the other hand, that problem is not limited to the Box stores.
    Rb

  • mxk3 z5b_MI
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'd be lying if I didn't say I've purchased a few items here and there over the years from the box stores, but the bulk of my purchases come from local nurseries.

    I know the OP wanted comments on the quality of the plant material, but as far as I'm concered there's more at stake here than just plant quality and price issues.

    If we as consumers don't support our local places of business - in this case our local nurseries, but also our independent local grocers, speciality boutiques, etc. - eventually they will disappear, which is already happening. If the reputable, good local nurseries board up the buildings, what's going to be left? Common plants that are seen in everyone else's yard and municipal plantings etc. (nothing wrong with those plants, and yes I grow commoners, but the delights of the horticultural kingdom extend beyond hostas, shasta daisies, coneflowers, Knockout roses, and yews....) and staff who know cr@p about the merchandise for sale.

    Your local nursery owner and hopefully the staff is (or should be) the expert you go to help and advice, and they generally gladly offer it to you. They can be a treasure trove of knowledge, with particular regard to what does well in YOUR local area.

    Add to that there are plants to be found in the local good nurseries that just aren't found at the box stores or the chain stores.

    The nurseries in my area for the most part **stand behind their merchandise** (there is one exception that comes to mind, but I don't frequent that place often) and take pride in what they sell and in their chosen trade.

    I've said it before, and I'll admit it again - I am fortunate to live in an area with top-notch nurseries, and I agree not everyone has access to what I do. If you don't, consider the good independent mail-order places - at least you're supporting an independent that way, and the good mail-order nurseries are slowing disappearing, too.

    If you've tolerated my diatribe this far down, thank you and I hope you take it to heart - SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT NURSERIES!!!!!

    And if you're strictly a price shopper and have no concern for the bigger issues at stake, don't come b*tchin' to me when you local nurseries, grocers, boutiques etc. fade slowly and then disappear altogether and all your left with is a great big homogenized local community - because I'll tell you right where to stick it......

  • mxk3 z5b_MI
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm sorry if my above post came across as harsh and/or rude. I stand behind what I said but realize it may have come across as harsh, and for that I apologize, I meant no offense to anyone.

  • ljrmiller
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Mxk3, I fully understand your point. I'd spend MORE at the locally-owned nurseries in my area if they got plants in earlier. I live in a "banana belt" in my area--my zip code runs from hardiness Zone 7 (my neighborhood) to hardiness zone 5 less than 5 miles away. That's true of the entire Reno-Sparks area.

    The result is that I want cold-hardy annuals like pansies and snapdragons far earlier than most gardeners in this town because I *can* plant and enjoy them earlier in the year. Locally-owned nurseries, quite sensibly, don't carry them that early. They bring the plants in once most gardeners in the area can safely plant them out. That's a full month later than I can. So I turn to the big box stores, where plants are brought in only as loss leaders, early enough for my planting needs, but far too early for most.

    I don't rely on big-box nurseries, not by a long shot. They simply don't carry enough "cool plants" to satisfy my compulsive need for chlorophyll. Once the growing season is well under way, my buying shifts from the big-box stores to the local nurseries. I'm an equal-opportunity buyer. Yes, I have a favorite nursery, and I make a point to stop there first on plant-purchasing expeditions. Then, even if I found and bought what I set out to buy, I go on to the other nurseries, just as long as I'm out, and just in case there's something else I'd like to have. The big box stores get included in my rounds, but they don't constitute the bulk of my purchases at that point.

    I also buy a lot of my plants via mail order, because in spite of good variety at local nurseries (taken in aggregate), there are still many plants I can't obtain locally. An inventory of plants I'd consider "fairly complete" would run to the entire Forestfarm catalog, an old (pre-Burpee) Heronswood catalog, a Plant Delights catalog, and a Bluestone Perennials catalog, all in one location. I'm sure I'm forgetting several vendors in my wishlist, but I think you can see how I crave far more variety than the local nurseries (even including big box stores) can reasonably supply.

    The other shortcoming (and again, it's a perfectly sensible shortcoming) of the locally-owned nurseries is their heavy reliance on plants proven completely hardy in my area. I tend to be an experimental gardener, perfectly content to accept a fair amount of winter kill, and content to accept far more failure than the average garden center customer. Selling plants hardy only to Zone 7 would tend to result in a great many unhappy customers at the local garden centers. So again, I rely on the big box stores, with their clueless buyers and loss-leader philosophy, to supply me with quite a few "experimental" plants. Some of the experiments have been splendid successes, but most have ended up in the compost heap after the second killing frost. I don't expect local garden centers to cater to a lunatic like me.

    In the end, I'd love to shop exclusively at the locally-owned nurseries in my area, but that would limit my choices of plant material and delay some of my spring container plantings. It isn't fair to expect those nurseries to cater to my quirks and risk tolerance. The locally-owned nurseries can't afford to take the risks I can, and I don't expect them to do so. I shop at the local independent nurseries as much as I can, and I'll have to leave it at that.

  • jo_in_tx
    14 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I prefer to buy from local, independent nurseries, but I have had great success with plants from Lowes and Home Depot. I think the plants sell quickly in my area, so fewer plants get neglected.

    I have never had any success with a box store rose. I'm not that patient to nurse those babies into full-blown beauties.

Sponsored
Bull Run Kitchen and Bath
Average rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars195 Reviews
Loudoun County's Expert Kitchen & Bath Renovation Firm | Best of Houzz