Garden pro shares when to buy plants in supermarkets but warns ‘you get what you pay for’

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Shopping for homeware, gardening tools and plants in the supermarket is a great way to save money. Over the spring and summer months, many supermarkets have offered customers great deals on both indoor and outdoor plants. However, a gardening expert has warned that “you get what you pay for” when you buy a supermarket plant.

Chris Bonnett, owner and founder of Gardening Express, has shared his hacks exclusively with Express.co.uk for buying plants from supermarkets.

The garden expert, who established Gardening Express in the late 90s, said supermarket plants are more likely to have been produced on a budget to be sold at a certain price.

He explained: “As a general rule, you get what you pay for.

“You can’t be expecting to get a premium quality plant at a rock bottom price.

“They will have been produced to a budget to sell at a certain price.

“They may not be as mature, for example, if you’re buying a shrub, it may be a year younger or two years younger than something you buy in a garden centre which might cost you a bit more.”

Chris said you’re “effectively buying time and maturity” of the plant when you pay more at a garden centre or at a specialist plant shop.

So if you’re on a budget, when should you buy a plant in a supermarket?

Chris continued: “Supermarkets do have good offers but what I would suggest people do is be there when those plants are freshly delivered.

“[Supermarkets] are not garden centres, they may not have trained staff to care for the plants and they may not have ideal conditions for looking after them.”

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The gardening expert said the quality of a plant can go down very quickly, so you need to buy the stock when it’s freshly delivered.

“Find out a delivery day for when they get the stock in and get it there and then,” he added.

Plants can become stressed if they’re not watered regularly and are kept in the wrong conditions.

Chris said: “Even if they dry out once in the shop, then get watered and recover, they’re still going to have been stressed and that can cause problems.”

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The Gardening Express owner said supermarkets do offer some “good bargains” for consumers but that garden centres can be “just as competitive”.

Buying a plant in a supermarket may be more of an “impulse” purchase than a carefully thought-out one.

You may come out with a plant while doing your weekly shop, for example, and find it’s not suitable for your garden.

Chris said if you go to a garden centre or a specialist, you are likely to get more advice or buy something that’s more suitable for your needs.

In 2017, Gardeners’ World presenter Monty Don told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours said there are “vast wholesale nurseries” that are supplying supermarkets.

He said: “You have these vast wholesale nurseries now supplying supermarkets, and that’s a diminution of choice, that’s bad.

“You get lots of exactly the same thing, mass-produced to be as cheap as possible.”

Monty said he’s a “huge fan” of independent nurseries where you are more likely yo get expertise.

However, Waitrose told the BBC its plants were supplied by two reputable nurseries who supply only garden centres.

ASDA said it works with a network of expert growers to ensure their plants are of good quality and Sainsbury’s said it has a longstanding relationship with its suppliers – many of whom were family businesses.

Martin Simmons, Director of Operations for the Horticultural Trades Association added: “People often make impulse purchases of plants in supermarkets and if this then encourages them to buy more plants then this is good for the industry and helps to grow the market.

“Buying a plant in a supermarket may be the first step for some consumers, particularly younger ones.

“If this grabs their interest they will naturally seek out garden centres and retail nurseries.”

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