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Where Should You Buy Your Plants?

June 2018
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Ok, so you’ve got this picture in your head about what your landscaping project is going to look like once you’re all done. You’ve researched various plant varieties and know exactly what you want. The question now is whether you’re going to buy your plants from a big box store or from your local nursery.

If you’ve already started to shop around and look at prices, you’ve probably noticed that the big chains usually offer plants at lower prices. But why? And more importantly, is there any difference in the quality of the plants that they are selling? After all, if the plants you buy don’t last the season, then you really didn’t save, did you?

Why Chain Stores are Usually Cheaper Than Your Local Nursery

The biggest reason that chain stores can offer plants at lower prices than most nurseries is simple economies of scale. Larger buyers can purchase larger quantities of the same plant – and because they are ordering in bulk, growers are willing to offer them at a discount.

It’s possible that your local nursery bought plants from the very same grower as that big box store down the street, but couldn’t get as cheap a price because they did not have the same buying capacity.

In contrast, however, not all plants are grown or can be bought in bulk. And that’s one of the reasons why your local nursery is more likely to have a larger variety of plants to choose from. So if you’re looking for popular plants at lower prices, a chain store might be the place to go – but if you want to have a garden that is full of rare or native plants, you’ll probably have better luck at your local nursery.

Where Do Big Box Stores and Nurseries Get Their Plants?

Chain stores are more likely to order their plants from large greenhouses that ship province or maybe even nationwide. These greenhouses typically are quite generic and grow plants that haven’t specifically been adapted to a particular climate.

Nurseries, on the other hand, are more likely to buy from local growers or perhaps even grow their plants themselves. When you buy these plants, you can be confident that they will do well in your growing zone.

How In-store Care Affects your Plants

Another thing to consider when purchasing your plants is the knowledge of the people caring for them before you buy. If the same grower provides the same species of plant to both a nursery and a big box store, it is safe to assume that each plant will be roughly the same quality on the day they arrive.

Plants, however, are living things. The amount of water, sunlight and plant food that they receive while they are in-store can significantly affect their health and quality. Usually, those who work in local nurseries have a greater knowledge of different plants that those who may work in a chain store.

While paying more for your plants does not always guarantee better quality, knowing a bit about the differences between big box stores and nurseries can help you make your decision.