Lowes - Chain Store Roses vs. Reputable Rose Distributors

harmonypMarch 20, 2011

I have a serious budget, but will be turning into a serious rose gardener as well. I have a garden full of Lowes bareroot grade #1's, and container #1's and #1 1/2's. Their blooms last year were lovely - not a one was I disappointed with (except the #2 I got from Home Depot which is useless). I've spent anywhere from $1.75 (75% off unsold bareroots), to $6.99 (not yet blooming grade # 1 1/2 containers).

I've read enough to have the impression that in the long run I'd be better off with roses from named vendors - the Weeks, J&Ps, etc. But - they run from the $24-$35 range per rose.

I'd be interested in opinions on how much difference the lower cost vs. higher cost roses will make in the long run. My Lowes are all growing and blooming like gangbusters.

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radagast(US east coast)

Many folks start with roses from "big box" stores, and while those roses *can* work, in the long run, you are better off with roses from more specialized vendors for a few reasons:

1) Better quality plants. Yes, you pay more, but you'll get a bigger, stronger plant in return, and that's worth it.

2) More varities. Big-box stores only carry what moves quickly. If you want something different, in nearly all cases you need to go to a speciality vendor.

3) No surprises. The speciality nurseries are far less likely to sell you a mis-labled rose, a rose with a disease, etc.

The folks on this forum can direct you to the best rose nursies.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 12:52PM
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teeandcee(Florida 9b)

I've never had any luck with chain store roses, but if you're enjoying them and they're doing well and you're on a tight budget then enjoy them. :D

Once you get addicted you'll be spending $$ on that one rose that will make your garden perfect until you see that next rose that will perfect it even more. And so on, year after year after year.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 12:57PM
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karenforroses(z5 NorthernMI)

I've had varying luck with big box store roses - some have thrived and many haven't - I've had much better luck ordering directly from rose specialists (i.e. David Austin, Palatine, Roses Unlimited, etc.) or from reputable local nurseries. On the other hand, I've gotten some real gems from Lowes. The biggest risk for me has been mosaic virus - a higher percentage of my big box roses have been virused. Another thing that has made a difference is WHEN I purchased them - the big box roses I've had the best luck are those that just came off the truck.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 1:16PM
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kstrong(10 So Cal)

I buy both -- depending on varieties. Almost every year I find some interesting things in the Lowe's collections from Certified Roses that cannot be found in independent garden centers or online. This year it was Waiheke, Sacred Heart and First Impression, all from Lowes. Last year, my prize find there was O'Rilla. If you choose carefully -- looking at the varieties, the quality of the "above packaging" canes and wiggle/shake the plant at the collar of the packaging to make sure there are roots and they are attached, then you can find some nice roses. And they do guarantee them -- if something dies, you can take it back and they will provide another.

That said, we all like to support our independant garden centers and online venders also. So I buy from both sources, but just do it more carefully when dealing with the less-good box stores. This year, Lowes had a fairly good selection of roses (which are on the 75% off rack here in SoCal now), but Home Depot was completely useless. But I haunt them all.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 1:23PM
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karl_bapst_rosenut(5a, NW Indiana)

You can find sources who sell less known and better roses for less than the prices you mentioned. You may have to get bands (newly rooted cuttings) but they grow into larger roses, it just takes a little longer.
Part of my enjoyment is watching these smaller plants develope. another source would be to learn how to root cuttings. Start small and go on from there. Visit a rose show, join a rose society, or both. You see many different varieties and want every one. Often the exhibitor will let you have the bloom and you can root your own. Society members will let you take cuttings from their gardens.
Right now I have over 20 rooted cuttings from last summer that I have to find a place for. All are roses I didn't have and they cost me nothing but my time and a thank you to the person who gave it to me.
The first 10 years of my obsession, roses were the all consuming thing in my life. They're still the biggest part but I now have time for other things, except during pruning season that is.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 3:02PM
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Maryl zone 7a

Since we are talking about buying chain store roses someone might want to comment on those waxed things they get in in early spring. I've never had any luck with them, maybe because of our climate, but that's what's around when spring fever first starts up here....As with everything you buy the rule is always Caveat Emptor. Just because it comes from a local private nursery not all of their roses are superior. I noticed one of our few private nurseries around here, trying to save costs I'm sure, has 1 1/2 grade roses potted up this year. Once they are leafed out it would be very easy not to notice. Another nursery won't display their potted roses until they are "leafed" out. Cynical perhaps, but I ask why? Still another long gone nursery was selling roses infected with RRD. I know they knew it, but they continued to leave them in amongst their general roses for sale anyway. Labor to move them was apparently not available, or they just didn't care. Selling quality merchandise is still up to the honor and ethical integrity of the people in charge of the operation. Not all mom and pops operating stores of any type are up for Sainthood...At least at the box stores we know to look twice....Maryl

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 4:13PM
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You don't say where you live, but if you are here in Fla. you need to be getting roses grafted on Fortuniana and the big-boxes don't carry them... I haunt both Lowe's and HD and have never seen any grafted roses which is a shame here, because of the nematodes in the soil those roses won't last very long, maybe a few years at the most... also they carry roses not suitable for this climate... I get all my roses either from a local Nursery where they carry grafted, from Nelson's in Apopka, or I order from K & M Nursery where they graft, and sell plants suitable for this climate... both sources run abt. $20. each.... sally

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 4:24PM
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Ah yes location - Zone 9b, Northern California. Very hot, dry summers. This year, a VERY wet winter with a few weeks under 30 degrees at night. Never heard of RMV until this awesome forum. Sounds like in my zone though, it may not be that serious. Although I've allowed a little PM and a few aphids on a few Lowes roses, almost everyone I've purchased has had very healthy green leaves, with no spotting or yellowing.

In the past year, at Lowes in Livermore (I've visited every Lowes one within a 40 mile radius and this is the one!) I've found (and purchased):

Blue Girl
CL Blaze
Crimson Glory
Chrysler Imperial
Double Delight
Just Joey
Miss All American Beauty
Mr Lincoln
CL Pink Don Juan
Proud Land
CL Royal Gold
Queen Elizabeth
CL St. Joseph's Coat

Didn't lose a single one through the winter, and all are budding now.

Although now I'm iterating toward a real "wish list", none of which I've found in Lowes (and I have yet to find a worthwhile buy in HD, not particularly happy with my couple buys in Orchard Supply (except for Perfumed Tiger which is AMAZING), and can't bring myself to go to Walmart) - I've already learned a lot from this thread. I LOVE Karl Babst Rosenut's ideas - which validate those of us who are budget tight yet expansion aggressive!

And I confess to having added a handful of David Austins to my wish list. We have an amazing nursery - Regan Nursery - within driving distance with good prices ($16-$19) on bareroot's late winter offering almost every one on my wish list, and I think I'll plan on giving them some business.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 4:49PM
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karl_bapst_rosenut(5a, NW Indiana)

Your list of roses are all older out of patent varieties with most available at the big box stores.
I see you've already graduated to newer and higher priced roses ala Regans. They have good roses, many hard to find and not available elsewhere. Another good source is Armstrong Nurseries, also a California outfit. They carry many varieties exclusive to their nursery.
Soon you'll be buying a rose with no or little regard for the price. Your only criteria will be that you want it.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 7:42PM
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ingrid_vc(Z10 SoCal)

The first rose I bought from HD was mislabeled. I'm mostly interested in the older roses and it was labeled Therese Bugnet but turned out to be a very lackluster hybrid tea. The second was Betty Prior and this one was blooming so I knew what I was getting. It's doing very well and I have no regrets, but 90% of my purchases are from on-line vintage rose nurseries. Stores like HD or Lowe's rarely have the roses I want.


    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 7:52PM
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seil zone 6b MI

You get what you pay for but then if it turns out to not be a good rose or you don't like it you haven't invested a bundle either. And there are some varieties that you can't get anywhere else BUT big box stores. Knowing all that going in buy what you like!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 8:18PM
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anntn6b(z6b TN)

The next thing you need to learn is what Dr. Huey looks like.

Dr. Huey is the rootstock onto which the desirable roses are budded. If the unions are good, you'll continue to have the named roses you bought. If the union fails OR if the rootstock wasn't thoroughly disbudded before the grafting was done, you'll find canes that don't bloom this year and next year bloom a deep red bloom in spring and then no blooms for the rest of the year.

I watched a local gardener plant sixteen roses. Within four years only about five were left after winter damage was finished with the other nine. Of the five, four had been taken over by Dr. Huey. The remainder was a healthy yellow HT or floribunda. The next year, that garden wasn't a rose garden any more but had been grassed over. Really sad.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 11:55PM
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Though usually a dahlia forum contributor, I'll add my 2 cents worth since I have 30 roses (and counting) as well.

My experience leads me to agree with those that say you get what you pay for.

I moved 4yrs ago and was granted sole access to a weed patch they called a yard. So I was able to start from scratch but at that time, money was no object. I happily splurged on HD, OSH and Sloat Garden roses and I by far Sloat sells you a better rose - albeit at 3x the cost. When money later became an object, I tended toward OSH and I am still IN GENERAL paying for that decision.

Their roses never look all that great but they are/were cheap and when all was said and done, I had to shovel prune about 1/2 dozen of them and start over. A couple that never really got going I did manage to transplant and saved them and there are a couple of workhorses that I cherish. But by and large, the box store roses never match the Sloat roses either in plant size, blooms or health.

So in the end, I spent $14 twice per rose versus the $30 I would have spent at Sloat. But I would add that this disparity pretty much applies to ALL plant comparisons of Sloat vs. HD or OSH. I find the impatiens, petunias, snaps, pansies etc are usually more expensive at Sloat but are better quality (as well as different varieties and color availability) than I get at HD. I still BUY at OSH and HD, I just don't expect as much from the plants.

I think that is what most people are saying on here too.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 1:33AM
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teeandcee(Florida 9b)

****The next year, that garden wasn't a rose garden any more but had been grassed over. Really sad.****

That is sad because there are so many healthy alternatives that gardener could have changed to. Instead they probably now tell others that roses are almost impossible to grow.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 9:55AM
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As I was doing my daily inspection yesterday and now more informed, I did notice one rose, Paradise, that from what I've now read appears to be showing signs of RMV. I chopped off the culprit areas (then read that that is useless). I'll keep a close eye on her. I think in starting this thread, I wanted gut instinct confirmed, that there is rational reason to spend the extra money and buy from the quality vendors. In the "cup is half full" philosophy, any losses will just be an opportunity to replace with a new must have!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 10:33AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

As Kathy said, if you are very selective, you can sometimes find good ones. Fresh straight off the truck is much better than the ones that have sat drying in the heat for weeks. Comparison shopping does pay off.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 11:58AM
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wanttogarden(USDA 9b, Sunset 15, N. Calif.)

Fill your garden with good roses from Lowes if that is what your budget allows. Then in few years, buy one or two good bare root roses from Regan ($16-$20) to replace a few that did not do well. You can then compare to see if there is difference in rose quality. Make sure to let us know too.

Don't forget you are growing roses for your enjoyment, any rose that brings you joy is a good rose.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 5:00PM
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As someone else from Livermore, I should tell you that Regan's has a fall sale that just can't be beat. They mark everything remaining at half off. At that stage, you just can't beat them.

Also, I'm sure you've discovered Alden Lane (sigh) the very best general nursery ever!!! I don't buy roses there (because I like old and Austin roses) but they have quite a selection. In the summer they start marking theirs down. Usually in August they're pretty inexpensive there. Also, Alden Lane has those bonus bucks for use in August -- I always go shopping there on August 1. They take very good care of their roses so they aren't beat up and dried out by August.

Have fun! Livermore is a wonder climate for roses if they're the heat loving kind. You should try a tea (if you have room) -- they just bloom their fool heads off in our summer heat.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 5:20PM
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Debbie - thank you for the information about Alden Lane. I have been there, but they seemed pretty pricey. Nice to know about late summer - I'll visit them again then. The one time I decided to drive to Regan Nursery, I just by luck happened upon their September sale. I came home with a few fruit trees, but was so overwhelmed by their rose selection, I felt lost. This year I'll go prepared with my lists. I've never seen a bigger, better selection in one place. If I hit the lotto, I'll be driving home with about 100.

Hmm - Livermore / Corgis. Bet you know my veterinarian!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 7:47PM
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wanttogarden(USDA 9b, Sunset 15, N. Calif.)


Just be advised that not all varieties are available during Sept. sale. Some varieties sell out during summer before sale. But still a very impressive selection for $15 / 5gal.

If you want something that they don't have at that time you can get them bare root in Jan. You can even buy them online and indicate "pick up" instead of shipping. That way you have time to research them as you order.

Speaking of research, I think you know about HelpMeFind.com. You can also ask people who live in California about health, vigour/size and flower power of your roses since we have a bit of different growing conditions. For example, some roses that are praised for their health, rust or mildew here. Some of English Roses grow to be monsters and some of them don't bloom ofter here.

Don't forget to stop and smell the roses.


Here is a link that might be useful: Regan web site

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 8:28PM
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mike_in_new_orleans(9a/ coastal LA)

HarmonyP,I hope you haven't thrown out that poor Paradise rose with the signs of RMV. After all, it isn't contagious except through the propagation process, so it won't spread to your other roses. It is very common among big box store roses and still appears sometimes in reputable nurseries. The serious vendors seem to be taking it seriously and trying to glean it from their rootstock sources and budwood source plants, but its hard to eliminate completely because it often doesn't "show" itself at times. But anyway, RMV tends to, over time, weaken the plant and reduce productivity and resistance to diseases and winter frost, but different roses seem to show varying degrees of resistance. So once you know you have it, you might as well keep the plant as long as it seems to be growing and producing ok. I've had some infected specimens that still produced beautifully for several years.

As for vendors, I think it makes perfectly fine sense to do what you've done. I did the same. Early on, I could not afford a lot of expensive plants but wanted to expand my varieties.I've had some great Lowe's roses and even from (gasp) Walmart. But once I got to a point where I no longer had room for many more roses, I naturally felt comfortable being much more selective, and the specialty vendors were there ready and waiting. I just got rid of roses that didn't please me. That was many cheap roses, but also some expensive ones. I don't consider the expense entirely wasted, because I satisfied some curiosity about the variety. I've had a few that were first purchased cheap and then replaced from a serious nursery, such as Chrysler Imperial and Elina. But I've also kept some of those cheapies for many years. One of my best workhorse roses has been Paradise, purchased from Home Depot, which I agree is generally one of the worst sources to buy from. Go figure.

The big box stores definitely mislabel much more often, but you know what, I've had that happen from some of my favorite nurseries, too. It happens. One of my favorite roses ever was an obviously mislabeled red rose from Kmart (back in the early 1990s). Even friends with the Mobile Rose Society never were able to identify it, but it was a gorgeous,voluptuous velvety red rose of impressive size --and thorniness. Sometimes those unplanned mistake events turn out to be pleasant surprises.

Last year I made one cheap purchase, just for no reason. I bought Chicago Peace for 3 bucks, because I saw it and had already spent what I had budgeted on "serious" roses. It even had waxed canes. It produced beautiful blooms even though the plant didn't seem very robust. I thought I'd replace it with a better Ch. Peace this year, but lo and behold, by November it was starting to bulk up and become a proper bush. So I've given it a repreave for another year. Who knows, I may never have to replace it.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 11:01PM
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Thanks Mike In New Orleans. Nope - no plans to shovel prune (I'm even starting to speak the speak!) Paradise unless she flops over. I have yet to get to the point where I can get rid of anything alive. That'll probably take a few years. 10 acres - I'm not likely to run out of room anytime soon - just need to stay out of the horse areas!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 12:50AM
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I haunt my local Agway (one of three in a local family owned chain) for when the early May truck comes in with the roses in time for MOther's Day. I usually just look (mostly HT's that won't be happy here in zone 5 without tons of effort on my part). Sometimes I get seduced - two years ago by Queen Mary 2, who came back gangbusters last year with only a few hemlock boughs for winter protection.
I have been sucked in by the poor waxed body bag babies in HOme Depot - I go in for some minor hardware thingy, find I can't leave without the Rose de Rescht, totally surprised to see it, but it hasn't really flourished in what should be a perfect spot for it.
On the other hand, buying 4" bands from Rogue Valley etc, not prohibitively expensive, you get to nurture it in a big pot for a season, see if you really like the flower, and then put it in a permanent home.
Most of my roses are from online nurseries, certainly the most succesful.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 10:27AM
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harryshoe zone6 eastern Pennsylvania

Every time I get involved with this topic, I swear I will never do it again. Then I see another post about one of our favorite rose suppliers going out of business and I just can't help myself...

If you are really a "serious" rose grower, you should consider yourself a shareholder of every small rose breeder, grower or supplier. They need your support to survive.

There is no good reason to buy roses from Walmart, Home Depot or Lowes. Wouldn't you want to spend your money somewhere that the people involved love roses like you do? Or do you prefer people who couldn't tell a rose from a cactus?

Remember, if you put a value on all the time, fertilizer, tools, etc. you will spend on the life of a good rose, you would realize that the money you save at one of those big box stores is just a pittance.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 1:41PM
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