Here’s how to get the best deals on plants and shrubs

Here’s how to get the best deals on plants and shrubs

Garden centers and nurseries are filled with color and overflowing with merchandise right now. It’s hard to go by without buying some plants. (You can never get enough, right?)

If you are making a large purchase, especially for expensive shrubs and trees, take the time to shop around.

A recent survey — published by the Center for the Study of Services, an independent nonprofit consumer organization — shows that price and quality vary widely from place to place.

Checkbook surveyed prices for 27 different plants at large garden centers, hardware stores, and nurseries in and around seven cities: Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

“Our mystery shoppers found significant price differences at the local garden centers we surveyed. Some charged five times more than cheaper stores for the same size and type of plants,” said Kevin Brassler, Checkbook’s executive editor.

some examples:

  • Prices for lavender (#1 container/6-inch pot) ranged from $4.99 to $15.99 around Puget Sound
  • The price of False Cypress (Container #3) ranged from $12.98 to $57.50 in Boston
  • Boxwood prices (bin #3) ranged from $12.49 to $69.50 throughout the Delaware Valley.

The big companies have the best prices, but what about the quality?

If you want to pay the lowest possible price for your plants, shop at one of the big chains. Home Depot (29 percent below average) and Lowe’s (26 percent below average) had the best prices in all seven cities in the Checkbook study. While none of the independents surveyed beat The Home Depot or Lowe’s on price, they did score much higher on quality.

“Home Depot and Lowe’s got very poor reviews from the customers we surveyed about their overall quality,” Brassler said.

Here are the average quality scores (out of 100) from customers surveyed by Checkbook in the seven cities:

Quality of products

  • Home Depot: 38 percent
  • Lowe: 44 percent
  • Independent stores: 83 percent


  • Home Depot: 25 percent
  • Lowe: 32 percent
  • Independent stores: 77 percent

comprehensive quality

  • Home Depot: 33 percent
  • Lowe: 39 percent
  • Independent stores: 78 percent

“This is one of the few topics we cover at Checkbook where there’s actually a relationship between what you pay and what you get,” Brassler told me. “Stores that offer high-quality plants and great advice tend to charge higher prices.”

NBC News best called Home Depot and Lowe’s. Louie didn’t respond.

The Home Depot said it “strives to give our customers the best value and convenience.” The company said in its statement that it is “pleased to see customers coming to us for the best prices and product selection.”

I think a lot of gardeners are like me, we shop in more than one place. If you just need some annuals for your back deck, go to one of the big box stores to get the best price.

On the other hand, if I’m looking for an expensive tree or shrub that I expect to grow for years and years, I head to my local nursery. I know I will be paying more, but the plants are high quality and the advice I get is priceless.

These plants may come with a warranty

Some stores guarantee their plants. If something goes wrong within a reasonable period of time, you may be able to get a refund or replacement. At Lowe’s and The Home Depot, perennials, trees and shrubs come with a one-year warranty, so save your receipts.

So, when you go plant shopping, especially if you’re buying something expensive, check the warranty and find out what you need to do to keep that warranty valid – there may be caveats. At a convenience store or nursery, see if you can get this guarantee in writing.

Stores that offer high-quality plants and great advice tend to charge higher prices.

Kevin Brasler, Executive Editor,

Some shopping tips

Make sure the plants you take home are in good condition. Healthy plants will live longer and look better.

So what should you look for?

  • Verification of papers: Look for signs of disease, such as brown or gray areas or spots on leaves or stems. According to HGTV, you want leaves that look “tough and perky, have a strong color, and show no signs of mildew, black spots or severe insect damage.”
  • Soil testing: It must be moist. If it dries and becomes hard, move.
  • Check drain holes: Look at the bottom of the plant container. Excessive white residue indicates over-fertilization.

Before you leave, ask for instructions on proper planting and care.

paying off: How to choose the best sunscreen, according to the opinions of dermatologists

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