How to Get the Most from End-of-Season Sale Plants

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It's that time again! The end-of-season plants are on sale at your favorite nursery and at the big box stores. But how can you make sure that those bargain plants really are a good deal? In other words, will the plants live or be a waste of your money? 

Often I'm asked if the drastically discounted plants on sale at garden centers worth the money? As long as the plants’ conditions are fair—not thriving, but not quite on death's door—I always shop the sale table.

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I may have to work a little harder with them to get them established, but the work is worth it. And it's fun.

Nurseries often discount plants that have finished blooming or just look small compared to newer arrivals. Even annuals can go on drastic discount. I once planted a large part of a new garden with free, cast-off annuals. Some were spindly, leggy, bug infested or just sad looking. I cut them back, hosed off the pests, fed and babied them for two weeks. That turned out to be a stunning garden.

Perennials are even easier to rehabilitate, because you have time on your side. I remove any damaged stems and leaves. If I suspect disease or pests, I treat the plant accordingly. I set it aside to ensure the problem is resolved before adding the plant to the garden. 

Here's the key: Plant that bargain perennial early enough in the fall for its roots to take hold—about six weeks before your expected first frost). Protect its crown from winter damage (leave its stems standing and apply mulch after the ground freezes. It'll likely return in the spring!