What To Look For When Selecting Discounted Perennials?

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What To Look For When Selecting Discounted Perennials?

Should You Buy Perennials On Sale At The End Of The Year?

It’s that time of year again where all the plants go on sale. The question you may have is, should you buy perennials on sale at the end of the year? This gardening in Canada article looks at what to look for with discounted perennials and avoid potentially wasting your money. If you want to learn more on how to plant discount perennials outdoors in the fall check out this article here.

If you are new to this blog my name is Ashley and I am a soil scientist. I am located in a Canadian Zone 3 and a USDA Zone 4. I write articles and make YouTube videos all designed for Canadians and Cold Climate gardeners using science based methods. If you are looking for anything specific be sure to let me know in the comments down below.

Why Are Plants Placed On Discount

Plants are commonly put on discount at the end of the year. The main reason for this is that perennial plants are difficult to store over the winter months without a proper setup. The best way for the company to get some return on the plant is through selling the tattered leftovers. The plants are most likely not going to look the best at this point in the season. 

The reason for the poor appearance comes down to mostly heat and exposure. While inadequate watering can be a cause as well the likely culprit is going to be wind and physical manipulation. Keep in mind the plant’s appearance is not the main focus because the plant is about to go into dormancy over the winter months. When you know what to look for on a discounted perennial, you can score some awesome deals.

Things To Look For When Choosing Discounted Perennials

One of the first things to look at are the leaves. Some yellowing is normal but we are aiming for less than 30% of the total existing foliage. After we have determined 60% or more of the foliage is viable we need to look at the stems or in some cases the trunk. On this portion of the plant we are looking for pests and signs of disease. 

A good indicator is any circular patterns or uniform looking patterns in the form of lines. Again if less than 30% of the stems have any signs of damage this plant is okay to grab. Keep in mind if you have any bacterial, fungal or pest issue and a majority of the plant is healthy it is salvageable. Some damage and sickness is normal this is why the plant is on sale.

Test To Check Discounted Perennials Viability

There are a few easy tests you can perform at the greenhouse before grabbing your discounted perennials.

Shake Test For Discounted Perennials

The first test is the shake test. This is to determine the leave health of the plant in an efficient way. All you are going to do is take a plant and give it a small shake in an attempt to lose some leaves. If more than 30% of the leaves are lost then this is a plant to pass on. 

The shake test won’t work for something like a hosta or lilly. So for plants without stems or a main stalk stick to a visual inspection. In many cases if it is mostly foliage the root mass and the bulb is the main concern. That is outlined in the tug test.

Tug Test For Discounted Perennials

The tug test is to test the root mass of the plant. This is arguably the most important test because this is the foundation for the future of the plant. With the tug test you simply want to give a light tug at the base of the plant. 

A healthy plant root will have little to no movement. There should be no popping sounds or sensations of popping. If there are any exposed bulbs, rhizomes or tubers give them a feel. They should be firm. If they feel mushy then the main mechanism for next year’s growth is compromised.

Bend Test For Discounted Perennials

If the plant had a woody stem such as with a rose bush you can try the bend test. Healthy viable growth should easily bend without snapping. If the limb is too thick and is not bendable then try a scratch test. All you need to do is simply scratch the surface of the stem. You are looking for green flesh. If all you find is yellow or brown layers the plant is not good.

If the plant you selected is able to pass all the over tests then it is a great find. The next steps to success are properly planting the discounted perennials outdoors.

There you have it, the guide on how to select discounted perennial plants. Keep in mind the appearance of the plant is not our main concern but the health of the roots is. The root system of the plant is what will bring the plant into the next spring. The reason for testing the above ground foliage comes down to knowing the overall health. If we know the leaves are healthy we know the roots received enough energy stores to make the winter.