Sunday, September 21, 2014

I got it on special at the Big Box Store! (uh-oh)

OK, confession. I’ve bought about a third of my plants at the Stuff Mart. (Not Walmart, I don't shop there.) One Big Box in particular is the only one left in my area that sells Lithops and other mesembs. If I can find some right after they unload the truck, they will be in good shape and settle in well with my other plants; I repot them immediately in my own mesemb mix, and that seems to help.
Lithops brought home quickly from the Big Box can bide fine.
I have about a half-dozen orchids, and my two phals are both rescues from the Big Box Death Cart. My mini-phal was $3, and the regular NOID (no identification) phal was $5, marked down from $18. I unpotted them, removed the old, rotten roots, dusted the ends with cinnamon, and repotted in proper orchid mix.  These big box orchids often come from vast farms in Thailand, though my local Lowe’s gets theirs from a nursery in my tropical state. Here’s a Thai orchid farm; that’s some monstrous big orchid patch!
Scary big orchid patch.

Now for my grumbles about the Big Box. They truly don’t care much about the plants apart from moving them along to customers as quickly as possible. For example, at my local BB, more plants sell if they are outside, so out go the orchids into full summer sun, scorcheroo! They don’t last long, and their deaths are woeful to behold. The cacti and succulents get the same watering as every other plant, so it’s death by drowning for them. The Argyrodermas and Titanopses (sp??) last no more than a week in such a situation. Years to grow to a decent size, then phfft, a few days of careless care and they’re gone. That’s just so sad! The employees don’t know much about the plants and many don’t care. They have to work fast and move product.

My second gripe is the whole NOID thing. No identification except for something like, “succulent”, or “orchid”. Duh.  Hopefully most people know they can ask the mighty Google for help in ID’ing their new plant and can learn from reputable Internet sources, local garden societies, or books on how to care for it.  Though as most of us know, most Big Box houseplants end up in the trash after ceasing to bloom or look fresh.
The above is a NOID orchid that I've identified as a Miltassia with the help of some Alert Orchid Gardeners. I bought it from the Big Box store a few days after it arrived there, and it's just a little sun-scorched, but recovering well. I strongly prefer to buy orchids from specialist growers through our local orchid society, but that's a later post. In this case, I just couldn't resist those flowers!

My third and last grumble (promise) is my concern that specialist growers lose business to the mass market nurseries. But I’ve heard also that a big box plant can be a starter plant that leads to a happy gardener, who begins to buy healthier, more specialized plants from local nurseries and knowledgeable growers.  Maybe it works both ways? Any specialist growers want to comment on this one? I really don’t know the answer.
So, time to confess. Have you ever bought a Big Box Plant? What’s your verdict??


  1. Where i live we only have the soon to be dead plants from BB and SB stores their aren't many nurseries that carry cacti and succulents especially mesembs...if i do see them they are dead and or have died a long long time's sad cause I'm pretty much they only one who cares about these types of plant's, in MA we don't really HAVE the weather that these plant's want and need soo it's hard work to keep them alive and beautiful and sadly most people don't wanna put in the work to have such things, why take care ofa cactus to hopefully some day see it bloom, w when they stick a FAKE flower on it with some hot glue? .....grrrr....i just don't get it sometimes. But those lithops YOU found are a steal they are beautiful I'm completely jealous of your find! I would literally kill innocent shoppers to find lithops like that where i live!!! I run a non profit growing program for underprivileged youth and kids in poverty stricken area's around my town and they love mesembs...and its impossible to find them especially in the donation Bin...that's been pretty empty these past two years unfortunately.... :( if we don't find some mesembs this year to grow or study we may have to end the program and I'm not ready to toss these kids back on the street to get in trouble and join gangs... i hope i can figure something out or find a person willing to donate seeds/plants/seedlings of mesembs...until then I'm outta luck :(

  2. Hi, Kat!
    Thank you for your comments! I get angry whenever I see those stupid flowers hot-glued to living plants, too. I commend you for your wonderful work with kids. I'm so glad they are interested in cacti and mesembs! It is hard to grow these plants in your zone, almost impossible outside, but indoors, it can be done. Here is a great organization that may be able to help you:
    I will look into some seed exchanges and post a comment here again if I find something for your area. Keep the faith!