Bagged perennials from Home Depot

frances_in_nj(z6 NJ)March 2, 2013

OK, I know I shouldn't buy them BUT this time of year I get so desperate for plants that against my better judgement I buy some of those bagged perennials from Home Depot. I got some day lilies and astilbe. They actually look pretty good, large roots, and some greenish leaves. My question is: do I dare plant them out yet? Its still pretty cold here in zone 6 NJ (night temps in the 20s sometimes). Maybe if I protected them with leaves? Thanks in advance for any advice!

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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I would pot them up in fresh potting soil and keep them in the house (under lights or in a window) or in the garage by a window (natural light source) for a few more weeks. This is a tricky time of year because the plants probably aren't dormant, they want to grow, but it's still pretty cold outside. In a few more weeks you can probably take them out in the sunshine during the day (but acclimate to sun first!) and pull them in the garage or shed at night to protect from really cold temps/frost overnight.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 10:42AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

If you plant them out now, they will slow down and acclimate to the current conditions. They aren't tender annuals, so temperatures in the 20s shouldn't bother them.

And these are both plants that I've dug up, forgotten, and replanted the next spring. Tough cookies.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 11:43AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

My only concern with planting them outside now would be how far along the new shoots or foliage has progressed.

When plants wake up on their own in the garden, the new shoots or new foliage has been acclimated to the swings in temps they naturally experience this time of year. Temps in the 20's wouldn't hurt them, but these plants have been kept in a heated store. Those new shoots or foliage might not be able to take a sudden drop in temps. It might not kill the plant outright, but it would probably set it back some - or a lot.

I would be tempted to pot them up as mxk suggested, keep them outside during the day and maybe take them inside at night or at least cover them at night. This could give them a nice head-start when it's safe to plant them outside.

I've done this a few times when plants arrived via mail much too early.



    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 12:24PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Yep, Kevin nailed it --- it's the top growth that's likely to get killed. Which is why I pot up and "baby" until it's warm enough during the day to put outside. Even if the plant itself survives, it may be severely set back to the point it will not grow any top growth this year (and spring to life next year), or you may end up with weirdly shaped plants this season from some top growth getting damaged. What kind of a bargain is that?

You also have to think about the roots rotting in wet soil this time of year. All that snow melting and soon to come spring rains may drown those little root balls, they're not established yet to be able to handle very high moisture in the soil.

Nope, I stand behind my original advice - pot them up.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 6:36PM
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I think they'll live too. Those are tough plants. I've gotten some great plants in those baggies!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 6:40PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

this is really the ONLY time to buy them ... they are fresh ... and havent sat around .. INDOORS in plastic bags rotting ...

when taken from the box.. they will need to be HARDENED OFF to light.. and also temps..

you cant take something that has been hermetically sealed in a box.. in the store.. and whip it out into 40 degrees days ...

they can probably be kept int he box.. as is .. for a coupde more weeks.. jsut add a LITTLE water.. to insure they dont dry ... and probably keep in the fridge.. until you are closer to being able to get them outdoors ... [thats probably how they were stored after last falls harvest.. cold dormant]

i used to fill a wheelbarrow with potting medium.. and just jam all kinds of things in it.. and keep it in the garage ... in MI.. they stay cold [as in cold storage] .. but the garage MOSTLY stops frost freeze issues [of course.. in MI.. i am talking more like april.. not right now.. still too cold] ...

all that said.. remember.. just because you buy it.. does NOT mean its the proper time to plant it ... just hold the box for a week or two ... presuming they are not well flushed out.. and if so.. well.. you should have walked on by ... as the song goes .. ONLY buy dormant stock in boxes.. IMHO ...


    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 11:25AM
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frances_in_nj(z6 NJ)

Thanks, everyone, for all your help! I looked at the "Grape Magic" daylilies today, and they really are growing! So I guess I better pot them up and gradually acclimatize them to the outdoors once it gets a bit warmer. If the astilbes and Crimson Pirate daylilies are really dormant, I'll cool-store them as Ken suggests.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 5:56PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you know.. the easy way to think about it.. is to store them like carrots ... which is a root with a vegetative top if you buy those kind]

in the veggie tray.. to maintain some humidity ... but not sodden or too dry ...

or store a potato ... but not how i torture them with the furnace in winter.. in MI ...

the perfect spot.. which no one has anymore.. is the fruit cellar ... cool and dark.. to hold them in suspended animation .... until its time to bring them out.. and harden them off ...


    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 10:54AM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

I'm just so jealous that you have warm enough weather to even think about buying those plants. Something like that is not even on my radar yet considering the experts say the ground here is frozen to a depth of 20 to 30 inches and our temp this morn was -1. Whatever you do, enjoy your plants.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 12:38PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Usually from Costco, but the same idea. Just yesterday I potted up 10 Hostas. They totaled $25. They had been a little long in the bags with peat and some had shoots 6 inches long. All had plenty of root and will do fine, at a good price. I will give some away and plant others in the garden later in the season after the containers are well rooted. Al

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 10:03AM
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molie(z6 CT)

Noticing your zone, Calistoga, I'm a bit envious. I've done my share of wistful looking at all those boxed goodies at HD. But I'm with Hostaholic, for sure. Without a garage or an unfinished basement, I'd be hard pressed to keep alive one of those bagged box-store plants until it's time to plant in my zone. Plus, there's no way I'm getting through all that white stuff on the ground to put something in early.

Often the plants I've found in the Costco/HD/Lowe's stores need to be picked up as soon as you see them on the shelf because they don't really get much care throughout the season. So I just tell myself --- Move on by, Molie.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 2:12PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

And just a little hint learned from having bought and potted up the same bagged plants......the smaller the pot you use, the tighter the root ball it creates which means the smaller the hole you have to dig when it IS time to plant. ;)


    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 9:12PM
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I work at a nursery in the spring, and I recently potted up some dicentras that came in late, bare root, and they had allready started to sprout. Ghost white, no chlorophyl at all, and very fragile. No way to put them outside, if the cold nights didn't kill them, the sun would. They are resting in a shady spot in the greenhouse until they develop some green and toughen up a little.

That is the trouble with bagged bare root plants. They start to sprout in the warm store and with no light, they can't possibly survive outdoors. Pot them up and keep them inside for a week or so until they green up and can survive outdoors.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 10:27AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Molie my hostas in the garden are not up yet. Those just potted up, I put in my improvised cold frame. All it is is a plastic covered carport, with the original covering replaced with 6 mil clear plastic. It is open at both ends, but provides enough protection for our climate. Our last light frosts occur the last half of April, a problem for the newly sprouted grapes, but not for most of the garden. Al

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 10:34AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

You can keep them in the garage? H'mmm. I tend to pass these by, thinking they will be old and dry. I don't like to buy something I can't see. But they should be okay this early in the season...

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 11:58AM
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molie(z6 CT)

Okay, okay---- I succumbed to a big display at CostCo and just bought some Astilbe, Phlox and Peony roots --- whatever was I thinking? (Must have been the pull of today's warm weather, the beautiful colors on the packages, and my desire to get outside and garden.) Oy vey!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 5:21PM
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Campanula UK Z8

4 days of good resolutions, Molie (what happened to 'walk on by'?). Never mind, that is probably around 3 days longer than most of mine.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 7:03PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Molie you did not make a mistake in buying those plants. Just don't expect too much the first year. Next year and the following year they will show their true colors. Al

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 10:45AM
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molie(z6 CT)

I know, I know! Not much in the way of "beauty" will come from these bagged perennials this season. And while I don't mind waiting a year for the lush growth, my real regret is that I have no idea what I'll find until I open the boxes. (And this coming from someone who scopes out each potted plant carefully from all angles before buying it at a nursery --- turning it around, standing above it to see growth from the center, etc.) I'm usually very thrifty and not a gambler. I think this winter has gotten to me.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 9:11AM
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