What has been your experience purchasing plants from the big box stores - Lowes, Home Depot, Fred Meyer, etc. For the most part, I steer clear of these, thinking they may be full of bugs or not watered regularly (some certainly look pretty scrappy). I don't, however, want to become a plant snob, so am wondering if my fears are founded or not. I presume their prices are less than a nursery. I have to actually drive to get to a big box (and gas becomes an issue), so I rarely frequent them. I also don't do well in big stores - Costco is not even remotely in my universe. Reactions?
Granted, the care may not be top notch but the plants are as good as anywhere else and like you said usually a lot cheaper. I doubt you will find many bugs/pests in big box stores because they don't grow the plants, they just sell them. Plants do dry out (usually a good watering will revive most) and do get overwatered but that can happen anywhere. Anyway don't buy those if they look like they are near death especially at full price.
The one thing a big box store usually does not have is rare plants (although sometimes they get a small shipment in).
It never hurts to window shop - you might be surprised.
If I buy from a big box some rules to follow, Buy shortly after they are delivered, never buy during or after a cold or hot spell, Look them over well.
However they may not always be the best price. If you can support your local nursery, if you don't they will disapear.
Thus far, I've been a pretty loyal local nursery person, and I am much more comfortable wandering around a smallish place where knowledgeable people will help me out. With my giant project looming (in need of many many plants), I thought maybe I should explore a bit outside my comfort level.
I have purchased plants from most of the "box stores". Fred Meyer always has their flats of annuals for $9.99 around Mothers Day and they take good care of their stock unlike many others. Costco sells at such volumes that that they are always have new stock and good buys can be found. I have never had a bug or disease problem. Since the major local nursery nearby has closed I have been missing wandering around one.
The thought of Costco kind of scares me, I've only been in a few times and found them overwhelming. I do have to go to the office store at Smokey Point today and perhaps I'll see if Costco allows a guest walk-through to see if it is something I could tolerate. Didn't know they also had plants, maybe that will help.
I will buy perennials and annuals almost anywhere, but I do check for bugs and always take the plant out of the pot to look at the roots. That after many misfortunes when I didn't.
As a rule, I steer clear of shrubs at Home Depot. I have found that they look great when I put them in the ground, then struggle to survive, many dying after a couple of seasons. I'm wondering if they are overly fertilized in order to put on rapid growth at the growers so they can get sold more quickly.
I've bought flats of annuals at costco, and I've bought bulbs in those bags. I can't say how they did, though. Lily virus is rampant in imported lilies so I like to buy those from local growers. Also Hosta virus is rampant at the big box stores. I once saw a hosta that clearly was taken over by hosta virus at my local Lowe's. I told the person working there that the plant should not be sold and he replied that it was 'supposed to look like that'. Not impressive.
I did a walk-through at Costco and was overwhelmed with the sheer size of it, and underwhelmed with any significant 'deals' other than the supplement department. Looked to me like most stuff was about the same as anywhere else, except of course for the giant containers of food, which my husband and I would take a year to consume. I didn't have the best attitude going in - not my place I guess. C'est la vie.
You have to be ready for a costco experience. I have found the prices to be significantly cheaper on the things we buy, but we shop there less now that it's just the two of us. I love the 'business' costco up in Fife. I bought great stainless steel measuring cups for less than 3$, and a set of measuring spoons for about the same price. They have really nice, sturdy cooking equipment for very reasonable prices. I wouldn't have to go there more than once or twice, though.
I guess my general thought is: if I didn't feel compelled to go when I had two eating-machine teenage boys at home, why bother now with an empty nest? As springcolor encouraged in another thread, I try to patronize my local shops as much as possible. And, less gas consumption for me as well.
I can't speak for Costco but I go to Sam's about once a week. I don't buy plants at Sam's because that isn't their specialty but I have bought large containers (very inexpensive nice decorative pots), big bags of potting mix, some yard tools, and other garden amenities over the years. I plan on shopping at Sam's as long as I am close to one.
The big box stores (Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's) all have exciting plants from reputable growers and are very low in price compared to most small nurseries. For example, I bought a one gallon pot of Hosta 'Blue Angel' at the farmer's market for $12 (one plant). The next day I bought the last two 2 gallon pots of Hostas at Home Depot for $12.98 a pot with several plants in each pot. One was 'Guacamole' and the other was 'Paul's Glory'. Why pass up a deal like that? The same seller at the farmer's market was selling miniature hostas in 4 inch cups for $12 but I bought the same small hostas at Walmart the year before for $2.50 to $4 (depending on size of pot). Sellers have to be competitive or carve a niche (offer something that no one else offers) or go under.
I also support local growers if they have what I want at a good price. I just visited a hydrangea garden this past Sunday and bought five hydrangeas from him and his wife. But I also bought a hydrangea earlier this year from Walmart plus a few from other local nurseries (I don't boycott stores unless I get very poor service or products).