I know it's late in the fall here in the northeastern U. S., but believe it or not it's not too late to take a chance and plant perennials and shrubs. I'm not recommending you purchase something pricey online from a warm-climate nursery and throw it in the ground - I'm talking about those scruffy, brown and dead-looking leftovers at the garden center or big box store. You know, the yucky ones on the rolling rack with a big sign saying "CLEARANCE!" Most of those unsold plants are simply doing what comes naturally - going dormant for the winter. And in the great rush to push Christmas merchandise earlier and earlier in the year, stores with unsold plants are going to throw them out, or unload them (pardon the pun) dirt cheap.
I ran across such a deal at my local Lowes today. A salesperson saw me looking at the cart of clearance plants, most of which were marked between $.25 and $.50. She said, "If you want any, I'll give them to you for 25 cents each." In the end I purchased 10 plants: three 1-gallon golden barberry, three 2-gallon salvia 'May Night,' two 2-gallon unnamed ligularia, one 1-quart astilbe, and one 1-quart perennial aster or Michaelmas daisy (I think - most of the plants had no tags, so I was playing "name that plant" a bit). I paid a grand total of $2.50. YES! Good grief, I spend more than $2.50 for my favorite iced coffee at Dunkin' Donuts!
I've already planted them. Our soil is far from frozen, so the plants will have several weeks at least (and probably much more) to start their new root growth. They'll continue to grow slowly underground through the winter. They all had sturdy root systems, so I'm hopeful they'll all make it through and thrive in the spring. I'll give them each a ring of mulch later this week when I'm touching up some other areas of the yard. This weather is too nice to waste - 50ish (F) and sunny.
So take a look at the clearance plants the next time you're out - you may find something worth taking a chance on, for pennies.