Answer: You've identified a problem common to all garden centers - keeping plants well hydrated. If you're familiar with plants then you know that plants in containers require more water than the same plants in the ground. Complicating the matter is the fact that containerized plants can develop air pockets within the root mass to the extent that no matter how much water you pour on the top of the soil, it won't percolate down and wet the entire root mass. One way to overcome this is to immerse the pots in a larger container of water and allow to soak until the growing media is thoroughly saturated. This process is practical at home, but not in a garden center where there are hundreds, sometimes thousands of plants. I think garden center employees do their best to keep things watered but the longer the plants remain, the less efficient the watering becomes. I agree with you about purchasing newly delivered plants. They are generally healthy, well hydrated and pest-free. Check with the manager of your local Home Depot garden center and ask when, specifically, they expect new shipments of plants. This way you can be there first and get your pick of the crop.
Best wishes with your landscape!
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