Another must-see SoCal nursery: Plant Depot in San Juan Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano is famous for two things: its Spanish mission founded in 1776, and the cliff swallows that arrive from Argentina every year on St Joseph's Day (March 19) and leave on the day of St John of Capistrano (October 23).

For plant lovers, I'm going to add something else: Plant Depot.

Plant Depot is a large family-owned garden center conveniently located right off Interstate 5. They seem to carry everything from aloes to zinnias, along with pottery, decor and gift items, tools and all kinds of accessories. Most importantly, I'm happy to report that they have a larger selection of succulents than any other general retail nursery I've been to in Southern California. Continue reading to see photographic proof.

Yucca 'Bright Star' and Lotus berlothii planted in bowls on top of the pillars that are part of the streetside fence 

Ironically, I hadn't heard of Plant Depot until last Friday when I visited Hoover Boo of Piece of Eden and she asked me if I'd ever been there. Through sheer luck, I had a couple of hours of me time (my family was doing other things), so I made a beeline for San Juan Capistrano. Traffic was still light, so I got there in 30 minutes.

When I saw a nice display of succulents outside, I knew it was going to be a good visit.

Agave goodness

This was the first time I saw large specimens of Yucca rostrata 'Blue Velvet'. Hot damn, it's a beauty! I think I have to get myself one. It's a particular blue selection originally found in a batch of seedlings at San Marcos Growers in Santa Barbara.

Aloes, aloes!

In the houseplant section, I come across caudiciforms in 4" pots. I'd never seen that before in a regular retail nursery.

Outside now:

Something you'll never see in a Sacramento-area nursery. Aechmeas in 5-gallon pots for a rather steep $79.99. Maybe that's the going price for larger outdoor bromeliads.

A nice selection of South African proteas (leucadendrons and leucospermums)

Few shrubs can compete with bougainvilleas when it comes to flower color (technically, the colorful parts are bracts, i.e. specialized leaves, but who's keeping track)

The bougainvilleas in the previous photo were 5-gallon sizes, these are 1-gallon. I was verrrrry tempted to get the orange-flowering selection with variegated leaves ('Delta Dawn') but we didn't have much room left in the car.

Kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos) are a favorite of mine but I have never been able to grow them successfully. It's not for a lack of trying!

This was a surprise: a selection of plants from Annie's Annuals in Richmond in the Bay Area

The succulent section was much larger than I had expected. They have the usual selection of 2-4" soft-leaved succulents like echeverias, crassulas, sempervivums, etc. as well as specimen plants large enough to make an instant impact.

Crown of thorns (Euphorbia millii) sheltered by Aloidendron 'Hercules' 

Aloes on the ground

Aloes on tables, cheek to jowl in a random fashion that invites close examination. Many are reasonably common...

...but I was happy to see some unusual species as well, like this Aloe scobinifolia

Of course there are plenty of cacti, too

Aeonium and agave, I

Aeonium and agave, II

All kinds of agaves...

...including uncommon ones like Agave salmiana var. ferox 'Mediopicta'...

...Agave nizandensis, and...

...Agave marmorata

This is the plant I was most excited about: Hechtia 'Tehuacán' from San Marcos Growers. It's rare enough to find hechtias in nurseries, and even more rare to come across larger specimens. (Note: The labels on the pots said Hechtia 'Tehuacán' but these plants don't match the photo on the San Marcos Growers website, so I'm not sure what they really are.)

Papayas! I wish I could grow them. They're beautiful trees.

Dwarf pineapples, always a temptation

One of many plumerias. They grow just fine outside along the coast. Needless to say they're a lost cause where I live.

And finally a few snaps from the small pond near the succulent section:

I couldn't walk up close but it looks like a Mexican grass tree (Dasylirion longissimum)

Rubber duck nestled in a clump of Billbergia 'Hallelujah'

Billbergia 'Hallelujah'

So there you have it. 

Bear in mind that I only took photos of the plants that caught my eye. Plant Depot has large selections of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and even vegetables that I didn't photograph. Located literally right off Interstate 5, it's a convenient stop for folks heading to, or returning from San Diego.

Actually, there's one more photo—visual proof that in a nursery beauty can come from more than just plants:

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  1. How nice to find a great 'independent' garden center . The first photo of the agave and lotus is a beautiful combination. Never had much luck getting lotus to bloom. The second photo, with it's fish on the wall resembles a coral reef. Obviously someone has a talent for making great vignettes.

    1. Lotus: You and me both! I've tried for years. I don't know what the secret key is!

  2. Looks like an excellent stop, I would have been tempted by that Agave nizandensis. I wonder why the hechtia were so roughed up?

    Have you seen a Yucca rostrata 'Blue Velvet' and 'Sapphire Skies' next to each other? I wonder how much they differ?

    1. I was an idiot for not buying one of those Agave nizandensis. Happens to me a lot; I call it "non-buyer remorse."

      Yuccas: Visually, I'd say 'Blue Velvet' is a bluer blue vs. 'Sapphire Skies' more turquoise hue. And the leaves seem thinner, more like Yucca linearifolia. But I've never seen them side by side.

      Hechtia: I have a feeling they've been in the nursery for a long time and have been moved around a lot. But it's damage they'll outgrow if they're left in peace.

    2. Agave nizandensis seems to be the Agave of the moment. I recently got one from Tropiflora in Florida. Beautiful plant

  3. I've never heard of Plant Depot but will try to entice one or another of my friends to pay a visit there one day. They've got a great selection. Were the Yuccas and bromeliads all sold in larger than one-gallon sizes?

    1. You could do Plant Depot and then have lunch in San Juan Capistrano. It's such a nice town.

      The Yucca rostrata 'Blue Velvet' were all in 5 gallons. Bromeliads were available in 5 and 1 gallons.

  4. That table of Annie's plants is killing me from 3000 miles away: Every year I tell myself to start some Nicotiana sylvestris from seed, because they just aren't on offer at nurseries. And every August I wonder if there isn't *somewhere* I could just grab a few plants...

    1. I've been wanting to plant some nicotiana, too, and keep forgetting!

  5. Drat, I had a bunch of nizandensis offsets and was going to offer you a couple. Forgot, sorry! Maybe if you are down this way again. They are best grown in a pot--at least here they were.

    Glad you enjoyed Plant Depot, it really is worth a visit.

    1. Would love a nizandensis offset. I'll be down again in September :-)

  6. Well, I guess I have to sandwich this one in when I am in Socal in Sept. Google maps tells me it's 33 minutes from my hotel.


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