Tips for Buying Plants

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Know what it is that you're wanting to plant before you buy always help you when growing anything in the garden. Knowing your the space and amount of sunlight it receive can help you choosing the right size plant.

Know what it is that you’re wanting to plant before you buy always help you when growing anything in the garden. Knowing your the space and amount of sunlight it receive can help you choosing the right size plant.

One key to having a healthy and lasting garden is starting with the correct plants. With all the slight variations in species, purchasing plants can be quite bewildering. As spring rolls around the corner, take some of these tips into consideration before you purchase any plants for your garden.
If you tend to buy on impulse or without a plan, take a list of what you’re looking for before heading into garden centers. Try to decide in advance on what to buy and make sure to do research on growth size, height, and spacing. If you’re not sure what you like, take a look at different planting schemes in different magazines or catalogs. Remember to choose plants that are suitable for your garden, and plan accordingly whether the site’s sunny or shaded.
The first place people look for plants are the local garden centers. Garden centers tend to have a large stock of plants but only a small selection of each species. It might be tempting to choose plants that are similar varieties of the same species. However, check the tag, because some varieties may come from the same species but grow differently. If there is not enough selection at the local garden centers the next place to check is specialty nurseries.
Plants can be sold in many different forms. Bedding plants are usually sold in individual pots, or flats. Flats are often divided into packs. Annuals bedding plants are typically sold in packs. Choose packs that have large deep cells (containers) to keep the roots from drying out too quickly. The larger the cell, the more developed their root system. Remember that the smaller the pot or cell, the quicker the soils dry out and will require more nutrients. Some plants are sold bare rooted. Bare rooted plants are grown in the field instead of a pot. Bare rooted plants tend to be less expensive but will require more attention and care.

Healthy Roots should be white and should not smell. The lettuce roots on the left has root rot. As you can see, the healthy lettuce root is a pearly white color.

Healthy Roots should be white and should not smell. The lettuce roots on the left has root rot. As you can see, the healthy lettuce root is a pearly white color.

Make sure you inspect the plant before purchase. There are five key areas to look for: new buds and shoots, well branched and new growth, healthy roots, signs of correct watering, and pest and disease free. Some plants are grown indoors and have been forced to bloom earlier. Remember that flowering plants that are forced to bloom earlier for market will bloom a bit later in the gardens. Choose flowering plants that have plenty of buds for a longer blooming season. Check the roots before purchase to see if it has a healthy root system. Plants that have healthy roots hold the soil intact when the plant is pulled from the pot and have lots of young roots. Plants that fall apart when pulled from the pots are not fully established. Plants that are pot bounded will be harder to establish in the garden.

Plants with large foliage should have no blemishes and leaves should be intact with new growth. Don’t choose plants that are leggy or limp. Leaves should have a healthy color and not yellowed or mottled. Signs of overwatering are rotting foliage around the crown, grey mold, and smelly soils. Plants that are under watered will have signs of severe wilting and premature flowering. A good indication of inadequate water is yellowed lower leaves. Check the plants for signs of pest or diseases. Always double check the underside of the leaves. Avoid any plants that are twisted, yellowed, gray mold on the top, or loss of foliage.
For more questions about buying or purchasing plants, please call the Catawba County Cooperative Extension Center at 828-465-8240.

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Photo of Der HolcombDer HolcombExtension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences (828) 632-3125 der_xiong@ncsu.eduAlexander County, North Carolina
Updated on Jun 8, 2016
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