What to Look for at an Annual Plant Sale

How to Score the Best Plants at a Plant Sale

garden centre

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There's nothing like a good annual plant sale. Any excuse to expand both our indoor and outdoor gardens, and we’re there. But it can be really easy to get caught up in price-cuts as well as the hype of the sale. A lot of the time people will think they’re getting a bargain because a plant that usually costs around $35 is going for $5. This can result in you buying a plant that you aren’t equipped to take care of. It’s certainly happened to us before. So instead of focusing on all the money you’re saving, it’s best to go prepared to a plant sale so you know exactly what you want and you don’t get overwhelmed. An annual plant sale is a great time to pick up the plants you’ve had at the top of your wishlist, but make sure you know what to look for. 

Meet the Expert

Justin Hancock is a horticulturist at Costa Farms, a plant grower.

Visit Nurseries You Trust

If you drive by a nursery and see a sign that they’re having a sale, by all means, go in and look around. But if you’re looking for something specific it’s best to shop somewhere where you trust the vendor. “It’s such a bummer to buy a plant at a local plant sale only to find out weeks or months later when it blooms, it’s not the color or variety you were sold,” says Justin Hancock, horticulturist at Costa Farms. If plants aren’t properly labeled you could end up with something totally different than what you thought you were getting. “If you know the grower, you can also usually trust it will be well-grown and well-rooted. At community plant sales, you may find plants dug up and transplanted to pots to sell the day before, meaning the plants will be more stressed,” explains Hancock.


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Get There Early

As with any sale, it’s best to arrive early for the best selection of plants. If you’re looking for something special or rare, those plants are often the first to go in a sale. Odds are if you’re lusting after a plant you saw on Instagram or TikTok, someone else will be looking for it too. Trendy plants are often more expensive due to demand, so everyone will be hoping to grab one in a plant sale.

That said, "if you’re interested in getting a great deal, go near the end," suggest Hancock. "People will sometimes offer discounts to sell plants so they don’t have to haul them back home.” This is a great option if you’re just browsing and you aren’t fussed about what plants you’ll take home with you. If you come across a plant that you love, a quick internet search will ensure you’re able to properly care for it.

Check Before You Buy

Whenever you’re buying plants in person you should always be checking for pests. Check the roots by gently pulling the plant out of its pot; check underneath the leaves; and investigate the soil. It’s also important to consider which plants could be invasive or bullies — i.e., plants that grow quickly, have roots that can damage other plants, and often suck all the nutrients out of the ground — in your garden. A lot of local plant sales aren’t organized by local nurseries so it's up to you to keep an eye out.

“Your fellow gardeners may not be aware of garden plants that are banned for sale or on watch lists for your area. And since many of these species grow or spread fast, they’re easy plants for gardeners to contribute to plant sales,” says Hancock.

And if you see a plant that you love and it has any sort of weed in it, leave it behind. It has probably been sitting in the garden center or at the sale for a while and may not have gotten the attention from staff it needs.

plant centre

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Don’t Get Caught Up in the Blooms

It's easy to be drawn to flowering plants that have blooms on them. However, it’s often better to buy plants that haven’t bloomed yet. Transplanting your new plant can stress it, which may cause the flowers to die more quickly. Plus, if the plant is blooming now, you may not be able to enjoy the flowers for very long after you take it home.