How To Save Money at the Nursery

Follow these tips to save a little green when buying plants for a landscaping job.
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Bringing home healthy plants will make your garden look better and make your gardening experience more enjoyable. (SHNS photo courtesy Joe Lamp'l)

Do your shopping in the fall. A lot of nurseries offer deep discounts in fall months, and fall is a great time of the year to plant trees.

Look for bare root trees. Generally these trees are the best value. They can be planted only when the tree is dormant in the late winter or early spring. The one catch to bare root trees is that the selection is sometimes limited.

Consider joining the National Arbor Day Foundation. A membership costs much less than any tree you'll find at a nursery and you'll get 10 free trees to plant in your yard.

Newly planted trees all need regular watering to establish good roots. A rule of thumb is five to 15 gallons, depending on the size of the tree, about every 10 days. Young trees can be fertilized with a slow-acting granular fertilizer six months after they're planted, then again every spring until they reach 20 feet tall. After that, organic mulch will provide all the nutrients they need.

On the Japanese Stewartia, you can look forward to peeling bark when the branches are 2 to 3 inches in diameter. This tree does well in the sun, but if you live in a warmer climate, it will perform better with a bit of shade. Be warned this tree is a little difficult to establish, so don't move it once it's planted.

The American Yellowwood tends to flower every other year so don't be worried if you don't see many blooms on it the first couple of years. Walter likes this tree because the limbs grow low and densely, making a good screen, even in winter. Prune it in summer because winter and spring cuts tend to bleed more.

The Carolina Silverbell prefers acidic soil. Without it, the leaves may turn yellow. Be sure to add soil conditioner or peat moss when you plant so it will be happy in the future. If you'd like to underplant the Silverbell, Rhododendrons are a logical choice because they are acid lovers, too.

The Fat Albert Colorado Spruce can be pruned to maintain shape and height. It likes a general-purpose landscape fertilizer before new growth begins each spring.

The Fat Albert Spruce was the most expensive at $275 but it was already big, mature tree. Two others carried price tags of more than $200. The Lacebark Elm cost $225 and the Yellowwood cost $215. They were both less massive trees.

You can expect to pay less for smaller trees like the Stewartia. It was just $94. The least expensive was the Carolina Silverbell at just $81 since we found it on sale.

Plant prices may vary by zone.

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