Monday, August 6, 2012

Home Depot Sold Us Plants That Will Automatically Die.

The ever observant and kind Jeff caught it when  I muttered in my St. Albans, Vermont garden a few weeks ago.

I said some splashes of blue would be nice in the section of perennial flowers I was trying to whip into shape.
This flower grows in my St. Albans, Vt.
garden recently. It's a perennial, but
unfortunately won't be back this
year because a national chain
store sold this in Vermont, though it
 can't overwinter here.

Next day, he happened to be in Home Depot picking up some construction material  and drifted by the garden section. He remembered my comment. And there was a clearance sale!  Low, low prices! He spied some perennials with pretty columns of blue flowers. He purchased them and brought them home.

I was of course thrilled with this latest act of kindness and enthusiastically and got to work planting the blue flowers.

It was only when I was done I spotted the problem. If perennials are sold in Vermont, you don't stop to think whether they can actually grow here if you're presented with them as a gift. Of course they can grow here. They were bought at a store located in Vermont.

I looked at the information. My heart sank. The flowers, something callled Blue Fortune, Anise Hyssop,  were hardy to Zone 6. Vermont is solidly in Zone 4. The perennial Jeff gave me would survive only to temperatures to 10 below. It regularly gets colder than that here in the winter.

Now my sense of outrage grew. To me, Home Depot took advantage of Jeff's kindness and generosity. Why were they selling perennials that can't make it in Vermont?

Let's face it, most people who buy flowers for their yards aren't super experienced gardeners. They don't know the particulars, they reasonably just want to make their property look nice.

Garden zones mean nothing to a lot of people. And it's true the perennials I got spelled out that they were hardy to 10 below. But people don't read the fine print.   Like Jeff, people assume if it's sold in Vermont, it can grow in Vermont.

This fall, I'll mulch the hell of the perennials Jeff got me at Home Depot, but I'm not optimistic at all.

Since most casual gardeners are inexperienced, they won't know why these Zone 6 plants don't come back next spring. They'll assume they did something wrong. So they'll go back to Home Depot and buy  more plants that aren't good for Vermont. Home Depot makes more money and yards remain unadorned by flowers.

I'm sure this all has to do with Home Depot's distribution system that doesn't make distinctions between zones. Still, to me this is a scam.

My advice, and my lesson learned by not reading the fine print: Buy your plants from local growers.  They're  more likely to winter over the perennials they sell, so you know they will grow here. And small, local businesses don't want to screw over their customers. They want you to be happy, so you'll come back for more.

Also, large national chains import plants from growers elsewhere in the nation. That could import diseases to Vermont. A couple years ago, we had a terrible outbreak of late blight in tomato plants across the state.

The late blight got an early, strong start because of tomato plants brought in from warmer, southern climates, to be sold at large national chain outlets. This allowed the late blight to become established early and firmly in Vermont, resulting in a lot of lost crops.

So, learn my lesson. Buy your garden plants locally, wherever you are. And make sure they're selling you plants that can actually grow where you live.


  1. i've heard that Home Depot will let you return plants with the receipt.

  2. You could always bring it in for the winter. Home Depot does indeed guarantee the plants health for 1 year. Make a habit of keeping the pot, tag, and receipt.