Home & Leisure

The Greener View: Where to Buy Plants and Moving Bulbs

Jeff Rugg on

Be sure to read this column next week because there will be a big announcement that you won't want to miss. It will be good news for all of you who love plants and landscaping.

Q: Last year I bought a pretty red flowering hibiscus tree for my yard from the grocery store. This spring it did not leaf out and it appears to be dead. I like the flowers, but do not want to keep replacing the tree, and the store that I bought it at last year does not have any hibiscus this year. What kind of plant should I use?

A: I would probably stop shopping at the grocery store for my plants. My local gas station, grocery store and discount store are all carrying bags of mulch, annual flowers, houseplants and other plants. All of these stores sell plants for only a few weeks in the spring. None of them have any employees that know anything about plants. It is a testimony to how healthy the plants are when they arrive at these stores that the plants last very long at all.

Some of the plants are houseplants for people buying them in northern states, but no one at the store knows that, and if you do not know what you are buying then you may be in for a shock. I have seen entire front yards planted with plants bought at these types of stores, and none of the plants could possibly survive the winter. It is a shame the homeowner spent so much money and time and effort in planting an entire landscape that was doomed to failure.

If you want to buy plants for your permanent landscape, then go to a local store that sells plants all year. They will know what will survive in your climate and they will have people who can help you pick the right plants. Just because they have a plant does not mean it will grow well in your yard. Some plants grow best in certain soil types or in certain amounts of sun or shade, and if your yard does not have these soil or sun conditions then the plant will not perform the way you want.

If you are a novice at planting your landscape, ask for as much advice as you can get. Ask at each store and then continue shopping at the store that helps you the most and gives the best advice. If you are an experienced gardener and know what you are looking at when you go to one of these stores, you may be able to find a bargain, but you should probably also shop at the local permanent nursery if you wish to keep it permanent. Every sale lost to a temporary store means the real nursery has less opportunity to stay in business.

Q: My spring bulbs (tulips, daffodils and others) still have green leaves, but pretty soon the leaves will be gone. Other perennials are coming up that will hide where the bulbs are at. I have taken pictures as best I can, but by fall I am not sure I will be able to find all the bulb locations. We are going to be selling the house, but we plan on writing into the contract that we can come back for some of the bulbs as they were handed down for two generations. We will be leaving most of them for the new owners.


How can we mark the beds without making everything ugly with fencing, strings and flags?

A: Since you will only be taking some of the bulbs, you don't have to mark too many beds. Use ice-pop sticks to mark where bulbs are. They can be stuck into the ground so they are just barely visible, and they will last for several months. Write on them with a permanent marker if you need to know which bulbs are which. Use several on all sides so they define the area.

Once the leaves start to turn yellow, the bulbs can be dug up. Letting them completely die back is best, but in this case, you can start earlier. You don't have to wait until fall to dig them up or to plant them in your new garden, but you can wait until fall to plant them if you want to.


Email questions to Jeff Rugg at To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at




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