A good garden center has the inside info on the plants and plans that will make your outdoor space thrive. The opinions we collected from area consumers on garden centers they use, reported on our Ratings Tables, will help you find the best places to shop. You'll find that some stores were rated “superior” overall by at least 80 percent of their surveyed customers, but several other retailers were rated “superior” on this question by 30 percent or fewer.

Home Depot and Lowe’s scored, on average, lower than almost all of the independent stores.

But for the selection of plants they sell, these two big chains did very well on price. Lowe’s prices averaged 38 percent below the all-store average for comparable items, and Home Depot’s averaged 32 percent below the all-store average.

Though it’s not the case with most types of services and stores we examine, paying more for plants at garden centers slightly improves your odds of getting better advice, service, and plants. Many of the stores rated highest for quality charge higher-than-average prices, but some outlets evaluated on Ratings Tables that rate high for quality also have below-average prices.

For specific plants, we found enormous nursery-to-nursery price differences. For example, for a glossy abelia in a #5 container, prices ranged from $14.95 to $49.50; and for a sansevieria in an eight-inch pot, prices ranged from $19.99 to $71.