Question. Lots of garden centers are having sales on plants, trees, and shrubs right now. Is this a good time to stock up on all those things I want but couldn’t afford back in the spring?
Answer. It’’s a rare gardener who can resist a bargain on a coveted perennial or shrub, but think before you spend. In theory, plants that are grown in containers can be planted at any time of year, but stressed plants may have a tough time simultaneously adjusting to a new environment and fighting off the summer heat. Check root systems by slipping the plant out of its container –– if there’s a lot of congestion or root die-back, save your money. Remember that plants now on sale have been subjected to retail conditions for several months, and a lot depends on how careful that nursery or garden center has been in maintaining those plants. Droopy, weed-infested, or insect-ravaged plants are not good bargains at any price, especially in the heat of summer.
You should also think about what awaits your plants when you get them home. Do you have a bed or suitable site ready to go? Great –– maybe you should take a chance, and see if you fool the plant into thinking that it hasn’t been moved. But if you are impulse-buying and don’t have a place to put your new purchase, you run the risk of stressing it even further. I should know –– I have a fine collection of dead containerized plants to prove my point.
If you do purchase and plant something now, follow good planting practices (consult your extension shifted the burden of getting the plant through the summer back on to the shoulders of the poor garden center service for more information) and make sure your new acquisition has plenty of water. We’ve been luckier this year in Frederick County than in previous years, but it only takes a day or so of hot sun to shrivel an un-established plant. Watch your newly-planted treasures closely for at least a couple of weeks.
If you can wait until fall, many nurseries will still have plants on sale, some at true bargain prices. By waiting, you will have owner, and you will planting at a safer and more suitable time. Some perennials like peonies, iris, and daylilies are best planted in fall, and almost all trees and shrubs are excellent candidates for fall planting.