Which DC area garden center chains have the best plant prices?

When it comes to garden centers, a locally based consumers’ group finds you get what you pay for and, if you’re particular about plants, you might want to pay more.

“This is one of the few topics that we cover here at Checkbook.org where we find there’s a quality-price relationship,” said Checkbook.org executive editor Keven Brasler. “If you want really high-quality plants and you want good advice, you’re probably going to have to pay more for it.”

Brasler believes, though, that most average gardeners are most interested in good prices.

“The big chains — they’re really hard to beat for price. They offer really low prices,” he said.

Comparing the “all-store average” price for similar items, the Checkbook report on garden centers found the following:

  • 12% lower prices at Meadows Farms Nurseries;
  • 24% lower prices at Lowe’s;
  • 34% lower prices at Home Depot.

Checkbook shoppers discovered enormous differences in prices among garden centers, so it pays to shop around when choosing plants.

For example, for lavender in a 6-inch pot, prices ranged between $7.99 and $25.

For a boxwood in a 3-pound container, prices ranged from $19.95 to $54.99.

Checkbook advice for plant purchases include:

  • Avoid plants that have been placed on hot pavement.
  • Check that roots haven’t dried out. They should be whitish not brown.
  • Shrubs and trees should have sturdy branches and no scars on the bark.
  • Get pruning, feeding and spraying instructions.
  • A comprehensive receipt should detail what is guaranteed for plants listed with common and Latin names.

“Get a receipt that shows what the guarantee is,” Brasler said. “A lot of these places have really generous guarantees, especially considering it’s up to you to take care of the stuff and not kill it.”

An old gardening proverb is that you don’t put a $20 plant in a $2 hole.

Before planting, be sure to choose the correct spot for sun and shade needs. Check that there’s appropriate drainage, that the soil type and acidity match the plant, and that the location allows the plant to mature with plenty of space.

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook is providing WTOP.com readers ratings on 92 area garden centers for a limited time.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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