Boxed perennials at Home Depot/Lowe's

edb2n(7)February 5, 2008

I need to fill up a shade garden on a budget, and I noticed yesterday they've got boxes of hosta and astilbe at Lowe's. Does anybody have any experience with these? I don't mind waiting a few years for them to fill in, but I don't want to spend the time and money and have none of them actually grow. I could do the whole thing this way for about $50 as opposed to $200+ from a nursery or mail-order.

Also, if I get them now, what do I do with them? Do I have to bundle up and go out there and plant them? I'm assuming they can't sit in the box till Spring...

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I have used them lots of times. I always pot them up and get them started in a warm location. When the soil warms I plant them in the garden. As long as you don't expect too much the first year they are fine. Al

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 3:53PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I second the motion. I pot mine up as soon as possible and put them on my back porch, where they are outside, but still protected. Keep them watered and they'll do fine.
One suggestion, when you purchase a hosta pack that says "3 plants", put all three together in one pot, positioning the buds in a triangle. You'll have a bigger plant sooner than if you separate each one.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 6:13PM
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Thanks for the advice!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 9:02AM
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Pieter zone 7/8 B.C.

I'd watch the Hostas very carefully, there's a good chance they will be HVX infected. When in season I regularly see infected Hostas at my local HD and have plenty of bad experiences with HVX infected boxed Hostas from Costco over the past two years. Whatever variety of Hosta they are offering, they will be fairly rapid growing ones, otherwise they wouldn't be offered in a 3-pack.

Here is a link that might be useful: Information on HVX

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 11:44AM
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Nothing seems to strike more fear in the hearts of real Hosta fans than someone buying their plants at the big box stores. I've done it successfully several times, but will admit to picking up a 3-pack of Gold Standard last spring, which I believe was/is on the list of highly HVX susceptable Hostas. One of the three - which I planted in separate pots - showed obvious signs of the virus early on after sprouting and was quickly disposed of, but the other two seemed quite vigorous over the course of the growing season.

Take a reading tour through the Hosta Forum and familiarize yourself with the information and pictures in pieterje's link on HVX above. Check out the names of the Hostas that are on the list of likely to be infected varieties and don't buy any prepackaged mix that contains those. Then go from there - I'd plant all of them carefully in separate pots, though, as opposed to clumping them together to make a bigger appearing plant. Easier to deal with individual pots if HVX should appear.

What's often glossed over in these discussions is that an expensive Hosta from a reputable garden center or mail order company is not immune from HVX either. And I'd surely rather throw out a bargain than something I paid dearly for. But information is your best bet for success here.

As for Astilbe and other boxed perennials, I can't see why you shouldn't give them a try.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 12:56PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I've read a lot of comments about the hosta virus horrors from the box stores, so perhaps staying away from hosta would be a good idea. So often local nurseries have very large pots of standard, tried-and-true hostas that can be divided - you get can 3 or 4 decent divisions for the price of one plant, and less chance of disease.

I have started boxed stuff from the box stores in the past, but it's been quite a while since I've gone that route. Still, it can be an inexpensive way to start stuff, so go for it! I used to pot the starts up and place them under fluoro. lights in the basement (I grow seeds, so I already had a set up going), or you could just put them near a window for the time being. Definitely pot them up, though.

Two of the nicest plants in my garden came from boxes - one is a division of Festiva Maxima peony and the other is a no-name tree peony that over (many) years have turned into a stunning plants!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 6:04PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

I haven't bought hostas or astilbes (no shady spots), but I bought some daylillies in a box from Walmart last year. The first box, 'Little Women', I bought in the spring, planted them out, then later moved them to another spot. They survived all of this, but I didn't get any blooms last year. Then, at the end of the summer, I bought a box of 'Stella de Oro', and when I went to plant them, they were in pretty bad shape. Almost all of the foliage was dead, and only about half the roots still looked viable. I planted them anyway, but I will be very surprised if they pop up in the spring.

So, based on my limited experience, I would say if you are going to buy the boxed plants, do it early in the year, so that you are more likely to get healthy plants.

Happy planting,

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 6:40PM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

Buy box-plants as soon as possible, pot them up and put them in a place with light and above-freezing temperatures. Don't forget to water. I always end up succumbing to the big-box store box-plant offerings, because I start craving spring about January 15, and by February 1, I'm stark raving bonkers about it. I have a couple of Hostas (I'll take my chances with HVX), some Dahlias and some Hymenocallis started.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 8:02PM
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sue36(Z5 Maine)

I think you can do just as well price-wise on both astilbe and hosta at Bluestone Perennials, especially if you shop for the sale items. I purchased around 15 hosta and close to the same number of astilbe last year and potted them up in larger pots. They all grew dramatically the very first year. I planted them in early fall.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2008 at 9:08PM
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If I needed a bunch of perennial plants and I found them for sale way too early in the season (assuming I didn't have the space or time to baby them along indoors), I'd forego buying them, and tell the department manager not to order the plants so prematurely.

Plants like this are already stressed from shipping. If they have to sit for too long in poor conditions they'll be set back even more.

Sometimes offseason "bargains" don't turn out so well.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 9:08AM
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I have had very good success with these. I have bought peonies,hostas,liatrus,glads, and had very good luck. It does take a season or two to see results, but it's an inexpensive way to acquire more costly plants. My peonies are now flowering, and I paid a fraction of what I would pay for just one.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 8:30AM
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Another inexpensive source of plants like hosta, siberian iris and astilbe that can be divided is other gardeners. Check around your area and see if a local garden club has a plant sale or even a plant swap. I have both in my area, and my town's swap encourages new gardeners to come even if they have nothing to bring. There are always more plants brought than can be taken home by those who brought plants, and having extra folks come who will take home plants without having brought them is always good.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2008 at 10:11AM
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I agree, swaps (local or through your regional forum on garden web) and county extension service sales are both good sources of plants. If there is a local Audubon Society, or something similar, they often have these sales too.

I've gotten some nice peonies and tree peonies from local discount stores. The only down side is that I don't know the variety of the tree peonies, they were labeled only by color.

I don't buy any hostas anymore, mostly to avoid HVX. The idea of growing them on in a pot is an interesting approach. I wonder, though, if the virus always shows up quickly enough that you'd see it in one short spring season. If that's true, it's a great idea; you'd know not to plant the infected individual out, and avoid infecting your soil. For some reason I've thought the virus could be latent for a year or more. Guess it's time to do some more reading.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 10:18AM
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Pieter zone 7/8 B.C.

If that's true, it's a great idea; you'd know not to plant the infected individual out, and avoid infecting your soil. For some reason I've thought the virus could be latent for a year or more. Guess it's time to do some more reading.

HVX does NOT live in the soil, it lives in the plant tissue. If you remove an infected plant from the garden, the virus will only 'stay' for as long as there are any root fragments still around. Once those root fragments die the virus no longer has a host and dies along with it.

I cannot resist buying boxed bare root Hostas @ Costco every spring, even though I have bought several varieties from them which were plainly infected. I pot my Hostas in #1 pots when I buy those bare roots and you notice typically by the time 3 or 4 leaves have started to unfurl whether or not you have a problem. And I've never has a problem returning infected root stock to Costco for a refund. HD north of the 49th has limited variety in bare root stock and those are easy to pass over for me, but I have certainly seen HVX infected potted Hostas there, as well as plenty of mislabelled ones but that's a different story. And we ain't got no Lowe's here on the Left Coast. Yet.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 10:05AM
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There's lots of Lowe's on the Left Coast - they've been a presence here in the US for years after buying out a number of local hardware chains. It's just the Canadian presence that's been slower to materialize. They just opened their first Canadian stores last September, so it's only a matter of time before they become ensconced on the west coast as well.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 11:34AM
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spartangardener(z4 MN)

I've bought hostas from Bluestone's Memorial Day half-price sale the last two years. You can get a much broader selection than what's sold in those boxes, adn the plants are good-sized and establish themselves years faster. I think that they worked out to $4/plant, and I'm thrilled with them. They also have astilbes, but I don't remember how Bluestone prices them - it probably wouldn't be more than that during the halfprice sale.

As others said, you can also talk to friends, neighbors, or local garden groups about a swap. Around here, people tend to jack up the prices on hostas even in local garden group sales, but if a friend has to split them, you can get tons. I've given away trunkfuls at a time of the common varieties that our yard came with when we moved here. One good sized plant can be split into at least 4, if not a dozen or more smaller plants, depending on how big it is.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 1:15PM
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