Bonsai Gardening Houseplants

Don’t Buy Conifers That Go “Scrunch!”

Those small conifers don’t just look dry, they’re out and out dead. Source:

I’ve just come back from my local supermarket where I sneakily got out my mobile phone to capture an image of a major horticulture faux pas. Selling dead plants as live ones!

These were plantlets of golden Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’) grown two to a 3-compartment pot with a Kalanchoe blossfeldiana hybrid in between. And they were dead. Definitely dead.

Their deadness appeared obvious to me, even from a distance, but I suppose I have a trained eye. The stems tended to open up and curl down and the color was more grayish than it should be. More telling yet, when I touched the needles, they were crisp and dry. Scrunch!

The soil was bone dry, something you might notice in the photo if you look closely. Not a good thing for potted conifers. Letting the soil dry out entirely is a sure way of killing them. The kalanchoes were, however, quite all right, but then, they’re succulents and able to tolerate dry soil.

You’d think the store would at least have put the dead plants on sale, but no. They were selling for their original price: $16.99 for two dead plants, one live one, plus pots and a cachepot. A bit much for my taste!

Not the First Time

A thoroughly dead bonsai: you’d think the store would at least reduce the price! Source: kering keriputgaring, YouTube

This is not the first time I’ve seen non-specialist stores selling dead conifers. A previous time, the dead plants were bonsais, at lot pricier than the above leftover Christmas plants. Another time there were clearly dead junipers mixed in with live ones in an outdoor display.

Do note that all these occasions were in box stores or supermarkets, not garden centers where they usually do a good job of taking care of their plants … and of pulling dead or damaged plants from their displays before people notice.

A Lesson?

This should be a lesson: caveat emptor, especially if you buy your plants from someone who knows nothing about them. To which I should add: “it if looks dead, it probably is.” If your eye isn’t as well trained as mine, try this: simply touch conifers before you buy them. If they go scrunch, don’t waste your money on them.20180123A

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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