Monday, June 3, 2013

Nursery Visit: Armstrong Garden Centers

I finally visited a local nursery, Armstrong Garden Centers (La Habra, CA), to check out their succulent section.  

So far, I've only purchased my plants from Lowe's, Albertsons, and Vons. My sister gifted me a few from Home Depot. I did check out Walmart's nursery, but was not impressed at all. I also bought more than a dozen when I went to the LA Fower Mart with a friend. (Stay tuned for my long overdue post about this wholesale heaven)

Succulent Section at Armstrong Garden Centers
Armstrong offered three sizes of succulent plants. There were about a dozen types in the 4" size and half a dozen kinds in the 2". There were larger pots of hanging succulents for $25 such as String of Pearls.

The Skinny

  • The succulent and cacti section was underwhelming; smaller than Lowe's 
  • Costs were higher than hardware and grocery stores (2" $2.99, 4" $4.99)
    • Although, it may only be $1-2 additional per plant, it's a 50% markup from the non-specialty retailers I mentioned above
  • Small to huge bags of different soils or potting mix materials available
  • Friendly staff
  • Limited parking 
  • No succulent cuttings available for purchase

Read on to see what I bought and what else I discovered...

Since play time with succulents at Armstrong was cut short due to the limited selection, I decided to wander around the nursery to get inspired and see what else they carry. 

My main objective was to find unique succulents and soil materials. Blogs and forums rave about Al's Gritty Mix, which calls for 1) turface 2) crushed granite 3) pine bark. The nursery didn't carry the first two, and I've realized that most gardeners have difficulty finding these items. 

The Booty

Even though costs were comparatively high, I felt like I had to buy something(s) to make my trip worthwhile. I'll bend to higher prices if the plants are varieties that I haven't seen elsewhere. I bought three new plants. 

#1 Senecio Sempervivum(?) - no label available

It looks like a frosty white version of my senecio crassissimus, sharing the same pink edges on the vertical growing flat leaves. If you know what this is, please comment below!

$4.99 for 4". There were about 5 stalks in the pot that I separated and potted separately. The bound roots were problematic and made transferring a bit difficult. 

#2 Kalanchoe Tomentosa, Panda Plant

Lately, I've had an affinity towards fuzzy succulents. I wasn't going to buy this one at first, but decided to get it and separate the three stems into different arrangements. The common name is cute and memorable.

#3 Sedum Adolphii(?) - no label available

If you know what this is, please comment below!

My sis bought a yellow-green sedum for me (photo below) and it's been one of my favorites because the color is so vibrant. I chose this particular one even though it has stretched because I can take cuttings to propage. (Be on the lookout for that future post.)

Gritty Mix Ingredients

Fine pine bark was available at Armstrong, but only in a huge landscaping-sized bag.  I opted to buy a small bag of fine orchid bark instead for $4. I didn't check to see if it was pine, but will next time I pot plants.

I noticed the soil drainage for my tiny containers for propagated plants was not great, so I decided to experiment with adding more bark into the Miracle Gro cactus soil. (I'll update you to let you know if there is any noticeable improvement with this method). Disclaimer: I haven't researched anything that recommends this method, but I'm just trying it out to see if it works for me.

For substitutes in Al's Gritty Mix, a nursery employee introduced me to pumice stone instead of granite. I will probably end up buying pumice and Pearlite in the near future. But, neither are straight substitues in the mix. Check out this comparison.


My lightbulb moment. If you need a lot of surface area, but not depth, bonsai pots are a great option.

Terrarium vases. Decent variety of sizes and shapes, but totally over-priced.

Rocks for drainage or decorative toppers. I like to use fine white river rock on top of small pots and terrarium arrangements. (scroll for photo below)

A modern (and very dusty) flat pot for $10

An interesting take on a wall-mount or frame. The succulents are anchored in a "log." It costs $80 for a dozen or so different varieties against a board you can hang. Pricey, don't ya think?

Cute and prominently-sized stakes for herb garden for $20. I first saw these at Nordstrom, but they are no longer available. So cute! I want but don't need. Isn't that the story of a woman's shopping life? :)

I have no idea what a strawberry pot is for (or is it because it is in the shape of one?), but I have seen arrangements where succulents come out of these holes. Drainage is even more important when a pot is so deep.


$0.89 for 3" pot. (This is about the same cost as Michael's). This pot is fairly small, so I decided to try orchid bark only. The root ball still has soil. The plant and crushed pink glass on top were bought elsewhere. 

$0.99 cents for a 3.5" pot. I finally transfered this sedum from its nursery pot into this clay one. The label called it a Coppertone Stonecrop, sedum nussbaumerianum, but I think it's a sedum alphonii. It looks similar to the 3rd leggy plant I bought above. I think the white rocks make it look clean and chic. 


At first, I searched for "succulent nursery" in my area. But, I am going to start checking out all the nurseries around here to see if I can find some unique treasures and rare supplies. I'll keep you posted. 

Until then, <3

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