Sat March 30, 2013
Garden Report

How To Shop For Healthy Plants

Starting with healthy, vigorous plants is the key to a successful garden. Whether you buy plants at the grocery, a big box store or your local garden center be selective.

Tom Throgmorton has more on what to look the next time you shop for plants.

Most box stores and garden centers don’t grow their own plants. Most are brought in from regional growers. Ask when the next new shipment is arriving to get the freshest stock. Or buy from a local grower.

What to Look For:

Fully developed leaves

  • The leaves should be large and full of color.
  • Every plant has different sized leaves. Know what you’re shopping for.
  • Compare the plant you’re looking at to the others in the display.
  • Buy the best developed, best leaf color you can find.

New growth should be strong

  • New leaves should be expanding.
  • Side branches should be growing and strong too.
  • Check for breaks or damage.
  • Avoid tall, leggy plants.

New roots should be showing

  • In small containers, roots may be coming out of the drain holes.
  • Scratch into the surface of larger containers to find new, white roots.
  • Slip the plant out of the container to check the root system.
  • If there aren’t enough roots to hold the soil together, don’t buy it.

What to Avoid:

Don’t buy the plant that has more flowers than leaves

  •  A few flowers are fine.
  • Too much flower and the plant won’t have energy to root.

Gardener’s tip: Tom buys the pack with no flowers at all. “I don’t care if they don’t bloom in the store. I want them to bloom in our garden.”

Notice how the plants are cared for at the store. If it’s haphazard with wilting and dying plants mixed in, be careful with your choices. Even in the busyness of spring, the plants should be organized, well watered and well maintained.


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