Another Reason I Don’t Buy Plants at Home Depot

So this past Saturday I headed to my local Home Depot to buy some of those big brown paper yard waste bags. It was a cold day, about 33 degrees, and the ground was still frozen – but warm enough for some spring clean up.

home depot spring

But Home Depot wasn’t going to be distracted by the local weather and soil conditions. Because it was SPRING, which means it’s time to sell plants. And there they were, shelf after shelf of plants of all kinds. Now, I suppose the pansies and other early spring annuals can be excused. People can keep them outside until the ground thawed, or put them in containers.


But this was inexcusable: pincushion flower (Scabiosa columbaria) – already in bloom. Now in a normal year pincushion flower in Chicago might bloom in May. In this abnormal year I doubt they will be in flower before June. Where did they ship these in from, Venezuela?

I felt like lodging a complaint with the SPCPG (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants and Gardeners). What happens when a homeowner hacks a hole out of the frozen earth as a new home for one of these innocent perennials? I really don’t want to think about it.

And they claim on TV to offer expert gardening advice?

Am I the only person driven crazy by this?

Oh, and they didn’t have any brown paper yard waste bags in stock.


60 Comments on “Another Reason I Don’t Buy Plants at Home Depot”

  1. Ok…so I was just going to write a post on their latest commercial.. …”let’s get busy greening up, spraying, blah blah blah….the basis of their commercial is spraying a bunch of crap on your lawn to create a “green” garden! Ha! Is that not the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard! Makes me sick! Thank you for putting this out there. I don’t shop there for plants cause like Tammy said from Casa Mariposa they spray their plants and I just don’t think people think about that. Have a great week Jason!

  2. That is totally crazy. They probably planned this based on last year’s weather when it was so warm. I wonder if their buyers have to place their orders six months ahead of time or something? (Alas all I know is the rag trade.)

  3. This sort of thing is strange and bothers me as well. Just a few weeks ago, I asked a buyer at one of the box stores why on earth they had petunias out in March. (Mother’s day is usually the earliest that we can put out warm weather annuals.) He surprised me by saying that customers had asked for them and that he was getting requests as early as February for tomato plants. I guess that people like to buy early, fail and re buy. While nurseries whose owners make their living selling healthy plants and need repeat customers and word of mouth advertising will advise you not to take a plant out of their place unless you have a greenhouse, Home Depot/Lowes, etc. don’t need to worry because plants are a loss leader for them. In addition, they can always say that they’re sorry and offer to refund your money because of the full year guarantee. I’m thinking that buying palms, phormiums, etc. that I know aren’t hardy here, keeping the receipts, and returning to get live plants each spring with the refund might be a good way to have pristine looking tender plants year after year.

  4. It is because of point of sale transactions. For most of the big boxes the plants do not become their property until it sells, then the grower and the big box share in the receipts. The loss is all the growers, and the big boxes put the pressure on when to delivery and the date is usually chosen by looking at a calendar not out the window.

  5. I’m writing a post about this right now. We’ve had tomato and pepper plants everywhere for a few weeks and we shouldn’t plant those for a few more weeks. I did ask the Co-op yesterday why they put them out so early. He says people start asking for them even though he tells them it’s too early. He finally gave up trying to inform people and just orders them. He did say he always gets another big order in when it’s the right time to plant. That way, he gets to sell to them twice!

  6. Oh I agree. I get so annoyed with garden centres for the same reason though as they all just want to cash in on gullible non/semi gardeners! I looked for a hellebore in February… none left – all sold out (in flower) 6 weeks earlier!

  7. Home Depot sponsors our GardenFest, so I cannot say anything derogatory about them. People could plant them in pots, enjoy them while in bloom and when the weather warms, let them have their days in the sun. Just bring them back inside at night or on cold days until a few weeks from now when the weather is more forgiving to plant outside. The store has the plants on fixtures with wheels and takes the plants inside at night. I do agree it is far too early, but the store goes on when people start to think about getting out in the garden. As a designer, I can tell you many think about it too early. We have to tell them the ground cannot be worked. Home Depot replaces plants lost too if I am not mistaken. I knew someone that took them back each year for replacement.

      • It does not seem good business “encouraging” people to be buying plants out of “season” although the calendar does say spring. As a designer, I have to make sure homeowners respect weather and seasonal conditions for install times, but often they WANT to start far too soon. Home Depot recognizes there is a branch of homeowners willing to take that risk. Why are they any different than the independent nurseries and growers? Greenhouses are now open in our area and selling. Home Depot goes with market trends, so if competition is open for business, they gear that portion of their store in that direction as well. It is not much different than selling Christmas items in September. Just my thoughts, because not being a home gardener and working with growers and nurseries, I do know what drives business in this market and it is people buying services and product.

  8. I hear you, but Garden Walk Garden Talk has a valid point. And here, I’ve noticed that even the local, family owned nurseries, which should know better, sell all kinds of perennials that will never be perennial here – oriental poppies, primroses, you name it. Many have a 1-year plant replacement policy, and I’m sure they will be shelling out new poppies and primroses, just as Home Depot will be shelling out new scabiosas.

    • I’ve generally found the independents to be better on this score than the big box stores, thought hey are not entirely innocent. And even if they replace the plants, it’s still an awful waste. Plus, don’t deprive me of my righteous indignation, it gets me through the day.

  9. Larger chains and stores over here do the exact same thing Jason – it’s not limited to the states. I’ve often spoken to folks buying such plants and telling them it’s way too early and should not be planted out but many have just told me that if they are selling them it must be ok. It’s their money, I tried my best!

  10. To be fair to them I think they are improving. When I first moved here I routinely saw them offering plants that couldn’t possibly survive but over the years the selection has been improving. Maybe they got a new manager that knew more about plants? Who knows.

    i like going to independent greenhouses because I like to support local business and they tend to have more native plants. The only trouble is that they can be pricey making gardening an expensive hobby and out of reach for people on a budget.

    It would be nice to have some real alternatives for people. Plant swaps are a wonderful practice. I can see something like what Wangari Maathai did in Africa working here. She offered instruction on identifying native plants & how to propagate/nurture them. That is a free source of appropriate plants for local people.

  11. What’s frustrating about this is how irresponsible it is. A novice gardener is going to take HD at their word and try to grow the plants before it’s warm enough. Stuff like this is what scares people away from gardening. But I don’t think HD cares. It’s all about money and turning a profit.

  12. I really have enjoyed this post and have been drafting a similar post as well. Another watch out I have learned long the way is to be careful about the seasonal, road-side pop up shops you see in the parking lots. The plants aren’t always ideal for our environment and the folks who sell them to you are long gone when everything has died.

  13. Pingback: Another Reason I Don’t Buy Plants at Home Depot | gardeninacity | Ron 'de Sapto

  14. I’ve been to Lowes and Home Depot this week, and both places were chocked full of plants that, even here in the South, should not be planted yet. In fact, both stores had merchandise stacked everywhere in the store and all over the parking lot. I guess they are expecting a busy season.

  15. Just an fyi… home depot claims to replace tropical plants under thier guarranty. Well tropical plants are not perenials in a zone 5-6. If the plant is not in it’s warmer zones the plant can be deemed an annual and should not be returnable.
    Also anybody who returns plants and they are dead within a couple of months should not be buying fish or pets either. Plants need food and water too and need to be tended to grow. Some people fall for this one year warranty crap but I believe that it is 95% resposibility of the consumer to care for the plant. If they do not know how to then there are plenty of articles, books, videos and lastly asking your local garden center on proper care of the plant.
    Buying a plant should be personal and people should be selective as the plant is going to give as much enjoyment to them as they care for it.

    • So, what are your views on me returning a pepper plant that died, one of six plants I bought from Home Depot (three tomatoes and three peppers)? The peppers are all planted in the same soil, watered regularly but not too much, with full sunlight, following the care instructions to the letter. Out of my six plants, one has died within a couple weeks of being planted, the rest are thriving and beginning to produce fruit. Is this an instance of consumer error, or did I pick a bad plant, in which case I should be refunded? If it is indeed a bad plant, then shouldn’t I be entitled to that refund? How is Home Depot supposed to differentiate?

  16. I think it’s amazing how they can have plants flowering at completely the wrong times of year. I think in order to get the best from these kinds of deals you really need to know the plants and their conditions and make the decision from that. Plants tend to be mis-labelled, or they have just been unloade off the plane form the tropics, which is why the plants look so good. The best is seeing people carrying out house plants such as orchids in the middle on winter – the flowers won’t be happy if the shock of the temperature difference doesn’t kill them first!

  17. I have to say I think this is absurd you’re even upset about it. First of all, plants don’t have feelings so if they die, they die. While they exist (especially in the early early spring) they provide for bees which is important in itself. So there’s that. Second of all, unlike what the other person said home depot purchases them at wholesale prices and the gardeners are paid so no small business man is losing out on this end of the deal. Most large scale flower farmers are growing in warmed greenhouses which is why things bloom early. It gives the plants time to mature and be in full bloom by peak selling times because nobody wants to buy unbloomed plants… people want to see and smell what they are buying. That’s basic retail 101. Third, home depot covers them at night to prevent frost damage. And fourth, an uneducated consumer is not home depots problem. They buy in bulk knowing there will be losses. The weather is unpredictable and we could just as well have an early thaw than a late one. That doesn’t mean home depot encourages people to buy plants too early or to plant them too early. It just means there are a lot of dumb consumers. And just because a plant isn’t native to your area doesn’t mean someone can’t care for it and for it to thrive. Some people tend them inside, or in planters, create shade or sun… change the soil. Just because it doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else. And for those complaining about the return policy… seriously who complains about a GOOD return policy? Home Depot and Lowe’s are pretty easy going about tree and plant returns and IMO that’s a great thing. It doesn’t matter if it was a soil issue or you didn’t water it or you just got a dud. It’s a GREAT policy when you have huge expenses like landscaping trees. I’ve taken advantage of this policy on boxwoods and arborvitaes and it was a lifesaver.

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