Our Ratings Tables evaluate stores for the prices they charges, which will help you spend less green.

Our undercover shoppers checked prices at each store or chain for 25 different plants, such as a lavender in a six-inch pot and a false cypress in a #3 container.

The price comparison scores reported on our Ratings Tables show how each store’s prices for the items it stocked compared to the average prices at all surveyed garden centers for the same items. (Because we found generally consistent prices for chains, we used a single chain-wide average price for each item.) The scores are adjusted to a base of $100. Thus a store with a price comparison score of $110 had prices 10 percent higher than the average of all stores’ prices for the same items.

For the selection of plants they sell, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Meadows Farms did very well on price. Home Depot’s prices averaged 34 percent below the all-store average for comparable items, Lowe’s prices averaged 24 percent lower than the all-store average, and Meadows Farms’ 12 percent lower. Unfortunately, all three of these chains received well-below-average ratings on “quality of products.”

The table below reveals tremendous store-to-store price variation—possibly more than for any other type of business we cover. For almost all of the 25 different plants we checked, the highest price was more than twice the lowest price; in some instances, the highest price was more than three times the lowest price.

When using the price comparison scores, keep in mind that we could not compare prices on identical products; although two stores might sell the same type of azalea with similar spreads, for example, the plants’ health or fullness of foliage may be distinctly different.

It is important to note that in this field—unlike most we cover—there is a correlation between price and quality. A store with high ratings on our customer survey for “quality of products” is more likely than not to have a higher-than-average price comparison score. Fortunately, however, some stores that rated high on our quality measures also had below-average prices.

Our Undercover Shoppers Found Big
Price Differences at Garden Centers

Item Low price Average price High price
Lavender in a #1 container/6" pot $7.99 $12.92 $25.00
Liriope in a one-gallon container $6.98 $8.87 $15.00
Salvia in a #1 container/6" pot $3.49 $12.25 $20.00
Dwarf lilac, 4' to 6', ball and burlap or in a #3 container $24.30 $37.87 $60.00
Forsythia, 4' to 6', ball and burlap or in a #3 container $4.95 $31.43 $60.00
Boston fern in a 10" hanging basket $11.98 $26.59 $39.99
Double knockout rose in a #3 container $24.50 $32.51 $40.00
Boxwood in a #3 container $19.95 $38.49 $54.99
Gold mound in a #3 container $15.00 $28.47 $44.95
False cypress in a #3 container $24.95 $36.76 $55.00