Buying plants

Negotiating a Deal in Garden Centers

It can be surprisingly easy to haggle the price down in garden centers. Ill.:

When you buy a large quantity of plants or tools or something very expensive in a garden center, don’t be afraid to negotiate. For that, you may need to deal directly with the store owner or department manager rather than a clerk. Often, you can walk away with a price reduction, more plants, a bag of compost or even tools.

Your chances of getting a discount also increase if you make the purchase at a quiet time in the gardening season, or in the fall when the nursery’s chances of selling the plants before the winter dwindle.

Boxes of tulip bulbs.
As the fall wears on, the chances garden centers will sell their last bulbs diminish… an excellent occasion to negotiate a better price! Photo:

For example, in late November, when I start thinking about forcing a few pots of bulbs for the winter, spring bulbs were still being offered at the same price as when they arrived in my local garden center back in September even though the gardening season is pretty much over where I live. Most of those bulbs are simply going to be thrown away, so negotiating a good deal is easy. I usually can haggle my way down to about one third of the price marked. I’m sure a better bargainer could get an even better price.

2020 COVID update: there were no leftover bulbs in my garden center this year. Apparently, enthusiasm for home gardening under the COVID-19 confinement has reached such a peak that everything sells out pretty much as soon as it arrives in the store. Bulb hagglers may have to wait until next year to practice their negotiating skills!

Another time, admittedly in the heart of gardening season, I was buying a whole cart of shrubs and felt they were too expensive. The manager wasn’t open to reducing the price at first, but offered to give me a pot of mycorhizal inoculant. When I still hesitated, he finally took 10% off the price of the shrubs and still gave me the inoculant. 

Bargaining may seem a bit odd in the 21st century when the price is clearly marked on the label, but I assure you our ancestors took for granted that the price offered was only the beginning of any negotiation. And managers are used to clients who like to haggle … and I secretly think they enjoy working out a deal!

Try it! It works!

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.

3 comments on “Negotiating a Deal in Garden Centers

  1. Yes, it works!

  2. Must try!

  3. I to not purchase much. I just take cuttings or pups from anything I want to grow. Otherwise, I get my colleague down south to purchase what I have no access to because it is so inexpensive at his wholesale prices.

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