Late Summer and Fall Yield Deep Discounts on Landscape Plants
If you’ve been thinking about taking on a landscaping project around the house, there is no better time to do it than in late summer and early fall (at least in most locations that experience a cool or cold winter). As the growing season comes to a close, most home improvement stores and nurseries have a lot of excess plants to get rid of, so you begin to see a lot of sales. And it isn’t just the plants that find themselves on the clerance racks. Usually you’ll also find garden tools, landscaping stones, lawn mowers, and most other outdoor equipment at significant discounts as well.
As with most seasonal items, there is a frenzy to buy things when they first come out, and landscaping supplies and plants are no different. At the first hint of spring, people have the itch to get outside and start those beautification projects around the house. The only problem is that the stores know this, and you’ll be paying a premium to have a summer’s worth of good looking plants in your yard. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, since I think a great landscape is worth every penny if you spend any time outdoors. But if you’re like me and don’t have time to get around to all your projects in the spring, then you’re in luck. You should be able to complete your project for about half the price. Granted, you won’t get to really see the final results until next spring, but given the cost of landscape plants, it can be well worth it.
Image Credit: Marion Doss
Some of the best discounts will be on the remaining inventory of perennial plants. If you’re wondering, perennials are plants that will generally survive the winter and continue to grow again year after year. These plants provide the best bang for your buck since you can plant one, and it may continue to provide value to your landscape for many, many years. The other main category of landscape plants are annuals. This means they will typically only thrive during the warm months in your location, die during winter, and have to be replaced each spring. While there is nothing wrong with annuals in the landscape, they are not what we’re looking for at this time of year. They might be on sale, but you’ll still only get a month or two out of them before the first frost kills them.
What we’re really looking for are deals on perennials. Typically these include ornamental trees, shrubs, and even many types of flowers. If you look hard enough, you’ll regularly find good plants that are 50% off or more from what they were just a few months ago. Sure, you won’t get to enjoy their blooms or other aesthetic qualities this year, but come spring, you’ll have a great landscape just waiting to bloom.
The other great thing is that fall is one of the best times to plant and transplant many perennials, shrubs, and trees. These plants tend to have a hardy root system that can withstand cooler temperatures and aren’t focused on providing nutrients to new growth or blooming flowers at this time of year. I’ve seen a number of people waste good money on expensive plants in the spring only to find they are dead by mid-summer due to improper care. But in most cases, if you start with a healthy plant come fall and put it into the ground, it will become well-established by spring and have a good chance at survival. A good rule of thumb is to try and get the plants in the ground about 6 weeks before the first frost, so don’t wait too long!
Know Your Zone
One important thing to consider is your USDA hardiness zone. A typical USDA hardiness zone map looks something like this:
Usually, your home improvement stores and nurseries will carry plants that are suitable for your particular climate, but they often do carry specialty plants that may not survive your winter. These may be some of the plants with the biggest discounts, so you have to be careful. You wouldn’t want to buy a plant, even at half off, only to find it is dead come spring. So, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with your zone number, and check the tags on plants to make sure they will survive before purchasing. If still in doubt, it never hurts to ask.
Don’t Forget the Bulbs
Image Credit: fishmonk
Unlike most plants that you buy and put in the ground in spring, bulb flowers are just the opposite. They need to be planted in the fall so that they will bloom in the spring. Now is the time to start thinking about putting some bulbs in your landscape. While it is still a little early to begin planting them, it isn’t too early to think about which bulbs you want to plant and find them on sale. Some common options are Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, and Crocuses.
For exact planting times, you generally want to plant bulbs when the soil temperature drops to around 55 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler. Since you probably don’t have a thermometer sticking into your lawn, this generally occurs when the temperatures at night drop to 50 degrees or lower for two consecutive weeks. So, when this happens can vary greatly depending on your specific location. Planting bulbs too early can lead to rotting if it is too warm and wet, or even possibly spring the bulb into growing, which shouldn’t happen until spring. But, you can buy bulbs at any time and leave them in a cool dry place until you’re ready to plant.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.