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“Where do you recommend I go to buy plants?” This is one question that I’m often asked by desert dwellers.

The choices that people have for purchasing plants range from a locally owned nursery, a nursery chain, or a big box store.  

So which is best? Well, that depends on the situation. So, I am going to give you my recommendations based on different factors.

Local Nursery
Situation #1:
You have just moved into a new house and want to add some plants, but you have no idea what kind of plants do well in your new region, how to care for them, or what type of exposure is best.
Answer: 
I would highly recommend visiting a locally owned nursery, which employs people who are knowledgeable about plants. Also, the types of plants they carry are most likely well-adapted to the growing conditions of your area as well.  
Local nurseries also sell a greater variety of plants.
 
The mature size of a plant often depends on what climate they are grown in.  So your local nursery professional can tell you how large the plant will become in your zone, what type of exposure it needs along with watering and fertilizer requirements the plant will require.
You will pay a little more at a locally-owned nursery or a small chain, but you will save money due to the excellent advice and the fact that they usually only stock well-adapted plants for the region.

 

Big Box Store Nursery
Situation #2:  
You have a list of plants that you need for your garden, are familiar with the plants that do well where you live and how to care for them. Also, your budget for purchasing new plants is small.
 
Answer:
When you exactly what plants you need and are dealing with a tight budget, you may want to check out your big box store’s nursery
Another important thing is to be familiar the plant’s needs because, while their nursery personnel may be helpful, not all of them are knowledgeable about plants.
 
The biggest benefit for shopping at a big box store’s nursery is that plants are often less expensive than at your local nursery.  Many also offer an excellent plant warranty as well.
 
One important thing to remember about shopping at a big box store nursery is that just because you see a plant there, does not necessarily mean that it will do well in your area.  I have seen quite a few plants available in my local big box store that is sold out of season or very difficult to impossible to grow where I live.
 
So where do I shop for plants?
Well, it depends on several factors.

Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

 
For flowering annuals, I shop at the nearby big box store as it’s hard to beat their variety and amount plants available.

When I need perennials, shrubs, succulents, or trees, you’ll find me at my favorite local nursery. They grow most of their nursery stock, so I know that it is adapted to the climate.

While traveling to areas with similar climates to mine, I take time to see if they have any specialty nurseries and take time to visit.

I do need to confess that my favorite place to find plants is not at a nursery, but at my botanical garden’s seasonal plant sale. They have hard to find plants, and I know that whatever plants I come home with will do well in my garden.

 Regardless of where you shop for your plants, I highly recommend researching plants ahead of time.  

 
Learn how big they get, what type of maintenance they require, watering needs and how it will do where you live.  You can find most of this information easily online by doing a simple search using the plant name + where you live, which will give you links on the plant and how it does in your area.

SaveSave

Well, the title says it all.  I love plants and shopping.  Pair those two things together and I am in heaven.

Back when I managed landscapes, I had a company credit card which allowed me to purchase to my heart’s content….okay not really, I did have to stay within my plant budget, but it was so nice to spend someone else’s money.

My most recent journey into the plant shopping occurred last week with my mother, Pastor Farmer of Double S Farms.  She was purchasing some trees for their farm and wanted my assistance in selecting them.  And so, we journeyed to a local nursery (not a big box store).

Now this particular nursery is not what I would call a native plant nursery, although they do carry many native plants.  But they also sell tropical plants that thrive in our semi-tropical climate.  You can see Gabriel coming up to help us to tag the trees we selected.
On our way to the tree section, we passed a mass of Bougainvilleas.  It looked like a Bougainvillea forest.
Then we passed through the shaded area of the nursery where frost-tender tropical and shade-loving plants were kept.
Now, we were beginning to get into the tree section of the nursery.
You may have noticed that my pictures are taken from behind my mother and our helper, Gabriel.  Well, put me anywhere with plants….a nursery, a garden, it doesn’t matter – I will always be lagging behind as I love to look, touch and take pictures of plants.
We passed the flowering Palo Verde trees….
We passed some Olive trees….
Did you know that the pollen of the Olive tree is highly allergenic?  It’s true.  Actually, because of this, you can only plant a certain variety of Olive tree in our area, called ‘Swan Hill’, that do not produce pollen and therefore do not produce any flowers.
The ‘Swan Hill’ cultivar was found in Australia years ago from a 30 year-old Olive tree that had never fruited.  It is an interesting story and you can read more about it here.
Okay, back to our search for our tree.  Well, I wish I could say that I had a great picture to show you of the Chilean Mesquite (Prosopis chilensis) tree we selected.  But, it turns out that I was so busy helping to select the tree, I forgot to take pictures of it.
On our way out, I did take pictures of a bunch of Sago Palms (Cycas revoluta), which aren’t actually palms at all, they are cycads.  They grow extremely well here, but must be protected from full sun or their fronds turn yellow from sunburn.
Well, we were at the end of our plant shopping journey, or so I thought….
 
As my mother was paying for the trees, I noticed one of the resident chickens. 
Can you see her?  She is poking around the base of this plant fountain.
**By the way, I think I would love to have a plant fountain someday 🙂
One of the employees noticed my interest in the chicken and motioned me over to the side of the building, where on a potting table, there was a large container.  I looked inside and saw how busy the chicken had been….
 
 
Every afternoon, at about 4:00, she sits up there and lays another egg.
Now, the father, is no absentee father.  He takes his job very seriously.  He was keeping a keen eye on us until we left the nursery.
 
Well, I had a wonderful time, I just love visiting local nurseries.
We selected some beautiful trees and the new Mesquite tree will grow very quickly and will be quite large.  Pastor Farmer envisions having an old tire swing being put up in the tree in a few years for the grandkids to play on.