Plants on tables, a few people checking them over

Sale-related questions

When and where is the sale?
For 2021, the sale is Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Mother’s Day weekend (May 6–9) and was held in the Midway at the Minnesota State Fair.

What are you doing about COVID?
Lots of things. Find out on our COVID safety page.

With the sale running more days this year, what about restocking?
We will restock almost all plants every morning to even out access throughout the sale. Exceptions: The shrubs and trees (including peonies and fruit trees) that come in larger pots will all be put in place at the beginning of the sale. Also, we do not restock for the Sunday discount sale.

How big is the sale?
This year's sale area is 250,000 square feet. It’s several times larger than the Grandstand where we usually hold the sale. The aisles will be at least 2.5 times as wide as usual, and the number of shoppers at a time will be one-quarter as many or less.

How much money does the sale raise?
Excluding 2020's canceled sale, the plant sale has raised more money each year. In 2019, it netted about $400,000.

What’s the money used for?
Friends School of Minnesota, a kindergarten through 8th grade Quaker school in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood. Friends School is committed to making sure it is financially accessible to any family, regardless of need.

Why don’t you have enough shopping carts for everyone?
We rent as many carts as we can get our hands on each year. Because the sale is just once a year, we do not own our own carts. We encourage everyone to bring their own wagon or other appropriate wheeled item.

Why is there a line to check out?
With our new timed entry system, far fewer shoppers, extended hours, and an extra shopping day, there should be no line at most times. If a small line forms, please keep six feet from the next shoppers.

Why do you separate adding up my order from paying for my order?
We have found that it is faster to separate the two processes. Therefore, each customer stops at a tallying table where the list that you’ve been keeping is added up, and then the customer moves to a second table to pay.

What credit cards or other types of payment do you accept?
We accept checks, Apple Pay, and all major credit cards — Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. Note: For 2021, we ARE NOT ACCEPTING CASH!

Are my plant purchases tax deductible?
No. Because you are buying the plants at a competitive local retail price (and sometimes even lower than that), your purchases are NOT tax deductible. However, if you round up the price of your purchase beyond the cost of your plants, that amount would be 100 percent deductible.

If you’re a nonprofit organization, why do you charge me sales tax?
The state of Minnesota requires us to charge sales tax because the sale is located at the State Fairgrounds.

Can I bring my dog into the sale?

No, State Fair policy prohibits dogs inside their buildings, unless it is a trained and qualified service animal as required under ADA.

Website-related questions

I want to re-use my plant list on the website from last year. How do I do that?
If you saved your list, you can return to it by logging in, or if you're already logged in, by clicking the Go to My Plant List button in the top right corner of the website. Your list will still contain the plants you added last year.

I DON'T want to re-use my list... how do I get rid of the plants on it?
When viewing your list, you'll see a CLEAR LIST button at bottom right of the page. If you want to keep some of the plants but not others, you can remove each plant individually by clicking the red REMOVE button on the right side of the plant list.

There are plants on my list that don't have prices or a catalog number. What's up with that?
Those are plants that we are not offering in this year's sale. They should also appear to be crossed out. You can remove them by clicking the red REMOVE circle on the right side of the plant list, or leave them on if you want to remember what you got in a past year.

When I search for plants using their catalog numbers, I get a result that's the wrong plant.
Try dumping the cache in your brower. Your computer is remembering the numbers from last year (because of those darned cookies).

Three students with succulent plants


Plant-related questions

Do you grow the plants yourselves?
No. We buy the plants wholesale — 80 percent of them from local growers — and sell them retail.

Do your growers use neonicotinoid pesticides?
We have done everything we can to make sure they DON'T use neonics. But read the full article on our efforts to eliminate neonics.

Where do you get the plants?
Our growers are small businesses, mostly located in eastern Minnesota or western Wisconsin. While some of our plants can be found in regular garden centers, many others are custom-grown for us.

Why don't you list USDA zone numbers for each plant?
You can find a full explanation here.

The plant I wanted was sold out by the time I got to shop. Why don’t you order enough?
We've done our best this year to restock the plants each day, Thursday–Saturday, to even out plant availability. It's always a bit unpredictable but this year it's really unpredictable.

What does “crop failure” mean?
Basically, it means we did not receive the plants we ordered from the grower. This happens because:

  • The seed did not germinate as expected (some plants are harder to germinate than others)
  • The grower did not receive the seeds or cuttings needed from their supplier (their supplier had a crop failure)
  • The plants were not large enough to sell at our very early sale
  • Some shrubs and perennials, which often are over-wintered outdoors, may not have survived the winter

Why don’t you know about the crop failures earlier so you can warn us?
Some growers let us know ahead of time, while others are not able to do that, or only for some of their plants. We do begin updating the website for crop failures on Monday morning before the sale, adding as many as we can until the sale opens on Friday. For the most up-to-date information on crop failures the week before the sale, you might want to follow us on Twitter.

The crop failure rate has never been higher than 10% of the plant varieties we advertise in the catalog. Since 2014, the rate has been under 5%, although we know it seems higher when the plant you wanted isn’t available. We feel the same way when it's a plant we wanted to buy.

How do you decide which plants to sell?
Aside from plants we have sold in the past, we try to find out about new and interesting plants from reading the gardening press and talking to gardeners. We are always looking for suggestions of plants to carry. Email your suggestions to info@friendsschoolplantsale.com.

A plant I got from you died. Will you give me a refund or credit?
Unfortunately, no. Friends School Plant Sale cannot guarantee that any plant purchased from us will survive in the garden, although we are very interested in hearing if you have problems with a certain plant. The cost of giving that type of guarantee on perennials or shrubs, as is done at some local nurseries, is built into that business’s overall price for plants (the price on all of their plants is higher to cover the cost).

What do you do with leftover plants?
After we do inventory and set aside any plants we want to send back to growers to grow larger for next year, all remaining plants are turned over to the Minnesota Green program of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society. If you are from a community garden or public garden, you may be able to join. Contact Courtney Tchida, ctchida@northerngardener.org.



Volunteer hanging plant signs

Volunteer-related questions

I’m volunteering. How do I get access to the pre-sale shopping times for the 2021 rules?
If you sign up for your entry time using the same email address that you used to sign up for your volunteer shift, the pre-sale times will automatically appear for you.

I’m volunteering, but none of the available pre-sale times work for me. Can I have someone else shop for me?
Yes. At the top of the screen where you would otherwise select your entry time, click “Designate a substitute” at the top of the page. You will then be able to provide the name and email address of your substitute. They will then be able to select a time, including during the pre-sale. You can designate anyone as a substitute as long as they are not volunteering themselves.

Why should I volunteer?
Aside from helping to support a terrific school, the main benefit of volunteering is that you can shop at our volunteer pre-sale, which is held Wednesday afternoon and evening before the sale opens. It's a fairly relaxed shopping experience and everything is in stock (except crop failures, of course). Volunteers also receive a 50% off coupon to use at the Sunday discount sale (the public gets one-third off).

How does the volunteer-only sale work?
Volunteers will sign up for shopping entry times in order to shop from 1:00 to 7:00 (closing at 8:30 p.m.) on Wednesday, May 5. We're doing the reserved entry times for COVID spacing, as required by Department of Health rules. Volunteers will be sent a link for the signup closer to the signup start.

If I sign up for a certain volunteer job, can you guarantee I will be doing that job?
If you sign up for a job during the sale itself (Wednesday afternoon, or any time Thursday – Sunday), or afterward for cleanup, it’s pretty likely you’ll be doing the job you signed up for.

If you sign up to do setup, we can’t guarantee you’ll be doing the specific job you signed up for, because setup is pretty fluid. We try to keep the jobs on the published schedule, but it isn’t always possible. We adjust the schedule for the following year based on what happened the previous year, so we hope that each year’s schedule is more accurate.

I’m volunteering. Where should I come for my shift?
If you are volunteering any time from Sunday before the sale up until Monday morning after the sale, it's likely you will come to the State Fairgrounds and go to the parking lot used as the Midway during the Fair. The Volunteer Desk is near Dan Patch, east of Canfield. Once the fence is set up, it will be just inside the northwest corner of the fence near the exit. If your shift is before or after that, it’s probably at Friends School, 1365 Englewood Avenue — but check your signup info to confirm these directions!

I’m volunteering. Where do I park on the State Fairgrounds?
We have a volunteer parking area. Look for the signs on Dan Patch Ave. along the edge of the Midway.