Big Box Store Fruit Trees - What's your experience?

Spring fever is setting in. Was at the local Lowes today and they had just received their first small shipment of fruit trees in. They had a couple varieties that peaked my interested and with the warming weather, it took all my will not to go home with a couple new trees. I read on the label these trees were from Berry Nurseries, Smithville, TN. Like usual, no mention of the root stock. These particular trees were cherries and labeled semi-dwarf.

I know these trees are typically not recommended due to unknown rootstocks, mislabeled trees…, but it is very tempting, and I know there has to be others out there that have purchased a few of these from big box stores.

So…What are your experiences with those that you have purchased? Live/Die? Was the cultivar correctly labeled? Am I just wasting my time and should stick with mail order nurseries(raintree, grandpas…) and pay for shipping?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

My opinion is that the supplier mostly does there job right. The abuse come after they arrive at the store location. Lack of watering and mixing varieties happens with longer display times. I try to buy soon after they arrive. Good luck, Bill

The suppliers probably don’t care so much if the trees are true to label as they would if they were selling directly to the customer. It isn’t just big box stores either. There are lots of mis-labeled trees around here from all purpose nurseries as well.

It is generally best to buy and have shipped bare root trees from a fruit tree nursery.

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Agreed. Try to get them within 48 hours of them going on display and get them into the ground ASAP. Unfortunately rootstock info is not readily available nor necessarily a good choice for the local area.

Hard ot beat $10 trees with a 1 year no questions asked return warranty.

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How much is the years wasted on a tree on bad rootstock worth? I guess its just a different mindset when you grow for profit but I wouldnt waste my ground, water, and time on a FREE tree if I didnt know what root it was on. Inappropriate rootstock=poor production and disease issues.

I had luck finding out the grower for a couple of my big box trees, then I contacted the grower and was able to find out the rootstock. So, not impossible, but may take some time. Guess it depends on how dependent you are on a particular rootstock for your soil and growing conditions. I don’t have a lot of soil or growing issues, so I have a lot of flexibility in my rootstock choices - mainly chosen for size, vigor and imparting good fruit quality. But, it is possible sometimes, to track backwards and get the info on the rootstock.

Yeah here too, rootstock matters little, they all work here. Although I still like to know, so i can keep good records and see for myself. For example I like citation for pluots, probably plums too, it grows well here, but I have had bad luck with peaches on citation, so avoid them now.

Adams sells all their pluots on citation. I wonder if they even come from Adam’s own nursery. I have a Flavor Grenade from them and I wish it was on myro, because I have the space and would like a more vigorous larger tree so harvests would be greater.

To me, the advantage of citation is with slow to bear varieties such as most Euro plums and maybe Elephant Heart. I think it may reduce the wait for fruit by a couple of years based on my limited experience with it.

Before I had any idea whatsoever what I was doing, I bought only big box trees. Most of what I’ve read says that is a horrible mistake and those trees are likely to be root bound, unhealthy, stunted, disease ridden, and so on. All I can tell you from personal experience is that 3 years later all my trees (about 35 big box purchased) are healthy and doing great. I had a grand total of one die and returning it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Also, I have done EXACTLY what hoosierquilt (above) did…in most cases there is some indication on the store tag, the tree type label, the pot, or elsewhere to tell you what nursery grew them. You can then look at their web site and/or call them to find out what rootstock they use. So in general, I think I’m more positive on big box trees than most. Problem with that is I’m also more inexperienced and unknowledgeable than most, so you must take my comments with that in mind. I can only speak to my experience. I also must add that I have lots of space and plant my trees pretty far apart (16-18 feet) so size isn’t very important to me (though I know there is a lot more to rootstock choice than just size).
Now all this being said, I also need to add credibility to one negative claim you will often hear (as voiced above) regarding big box trees…the claim that they are often mislabeled. I have found this criticism to be absolutely true! And if you have a small space, are only planting a few trees and really have your heart set on a certain variety, waiting 4 years and finding out you got the wrong tree could be devastating. For me, I’ve got lots of space and enjoy whatever I get and so I’m not too upset…I’ve even been pleasantly surprised by a “surprise” tree type. 99% of people wouldn’t be so amused. For me, all the positives (large trees that often fruit the year after planting, the simplicity of returning trees at no cost, ability to see and select my tree before it arrives at my door and am stuck with it, etc) outweigh the downside (mislabel, potential diseases, limited variety choices, etc) but the vast majority of people (who admittedly know more than me) disagree, so proceed with caution on big box trees. I will add that in spite of my endorsement of big box trees, I now get the vast majority of my trees from known, reputable on-line nurseries. There are many reasons for this, but mostly because of the wider selection. Anyway, hope this helps…its just one opinion and experience of one person-and a relative newbie at that. The main point is I’ve been quite happy with my big box trees with the caveats mentioned herein, but the experienced grower (like amadioranch and alan) recommend otherwise, and they sure know a lot more than me!


I’ve never had a problem and I’ve purchased about 30 fruit trees/bushes from Home Depot and Lowes over the past 3 years. On the other hand, I’ve ordered about 30 plants offline and I’ve had a few problems with them.

People above are saying be sure to get them ASAP after their shipment is received by the store, but for the past 2 years, I’ve bought a number of their clearance fruit plants (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, peach tree) for dirt cheap, and I’ve always been able to nurse them back to good health. So, maybe the better strategy would be to either get them as soon as the hit the shelves, or maybe wait until they are on clearance.


If you just want the pleasure of growing some fruit trees and getting fruit, then big box stores are fine, You can not beat the 12 month no questions warranty. Its not a bad way to start

On the other hand you can not be sure about the variety or the rootstock you are getting and the form of the trees is often poor. You also have to take what is available which may be lousy in your area. I saw one big box store selling northern highbush blueberry in my area and a blackberry variety that I know is terrible.

After testing your interest in growing trees you can see how serious you are. If you are serious, the next step is to decide what variety you want and on which rootstock and place an order two years ahead of schedule with a quality nursery like ACN or Cummings. Be prepared, the better will trees will be more expensive! Keep in mind that an orchard represents a huge investment in time and money. My experience is that cheap trees from a second rate nursery are never a bargain.

so far i have bought 6 trees from both Lowes and Home Depot. 1 from a farm and garden store called Atwoods, 1 DWN tree from a local nursery, 1 from walmart, and 2 from tractor supply
the Lowes/home depot/walmart trees are all from the same wholesaler. Berry Family nursery. No clue yet as to if they are what they said they were but the trees have been very healthy from day one. the others have been doing great too short of the Superior plum from DWN. It was small bare root and didnt grow a whole lot last year. Maybe it will catch up this year.

I too try and buy them within a few days of the store getting them.

Bought one nectarine one J. plum 4 years ago from HD , still alive and grow healthy, not much issues.

I think as long as people who want to buy from big box stores know that there are higher chance that the trees can be mislabled, rootbound, dehydrated,etc. than what you get when buying from reputable nurseries, they will be going in prepared.

I do not have a lot of space so I do not want to take that chance. From reading many posts on this topic, I realize that not all Home Depot or Lowe’s are created equal, even in The same state like MA.

JohntheCook got a few good apple varieties from HD on Cape Cod, I got apple trees labeled Yellow Apple, Red Apple at HD in central MA. They don’t even bother to put a name/variety on the tag.

Bought McIntosh and Cortland from WalMart back in 2006… both still alive an well (with huge trunks/have had to prune hard several times). My guess is both are on some sort of seedling rootstock. I’ve bought trees from Menards …no complaints.

I often avoid big box stores to save a quarter an hour wandering endless aisles. If I grew a tree I took the time to plant and care for for several years and found it didn’t produce fruit in my climate or fruit I liked or wouldn’t fit in its space because it wasn’t true to label, that would cost me a lot of money if my time is worth much.

Eating bad food or watching bad movies is not my idea of a good way to spend my recreational dollar, but at least it is an experience that doesn’t take much of an investment of time. I think there are better ways to chase bargains than through cheap fruit trees.


Lowes here offers a lot of good trees that work in my environment. I have my eye on one in particular I have had a hard time finding online. The blueberries too are dirt cheap and good cultivars. You just can’t beat it.

So it seems that it is a mixed opinion on if it is a good place to purchase from, but those that have purchased from them have been pretty happy, which may be a result of them going in with the correct expectations.

I am just a hobbyist, not a beginner, but no where near the wisdom of others here. I do this mostly for fun and to hopefully create a few memories with the kids. I currently have around 20 fruit trees, 100’ of raspberries, some blackberries, some grapes, 100’ of gutter grown strawberries and grow a 25’x45’ vegetable garden. I live on 18 acres, so I have plenty of room to expand and feed my addiction. :smile:

Out of my 20 trees I currently have, 19 were mail ordered bareroots and 1 is from a big box store, a RedHaven Peach. Purchased it last year, so it is too early for me to know if it is a RedHaven, but it has grown very well. I was thinking I got lucky, but it seems most here have had good luck.

I emailed Berry Nurseries about the semi dwarf root stocks to find out what they were grown on. The reply I got back was “All our trees are grown on semi-dwarf rootstocks”… um… thanks? So it looks like I will be gambling on the rootstock, but most seem to do ok here in Iowa.

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I have bought several trees from Lowes when they put them on clearance. I have not had any problems with any of them. I figure if they turn out to be mislabeled and I don’t like the fruit I can always graft another variety on them. Though I have 56 acres to play with so I am not worried as much as a homeowner with limited space.

If you have a Menards around you (its a midwest thing…its like Lowes/HD … I noticed most (all) their tags on their trees come out of this area (Wisconsin)…so i’m assuming they are locally grown. I’ve also noticed Farm/Fleet uses a grower out of Minnesota but the trees are HUGE (most are already flowering) and a little on the expensive side…Fleet Farm i believe uses the same grower. I’ve noticed WalMart (in the past) uses growers from down south. Home Depot is pretty bad locally…i think i noticed one year the tag just read “dwarf peach” or something very very vague. It would be so nice if growers would just put variety and rootstock on each label. I will say this…at least with a box store you get to see your tree, pick the one you want…which is nice…and returning it is also usually easy.

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