6:00am

Sat April 12, 2014
Arts & Life

Six Easy Steps To Ensure Your Starter Plants Will Thrive

Plants should have strong leaves and side branches to ensure a successful transplant.
Credit WFIU Public Radio / Flickr - Creative Commons

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

Tom Throgmorton explains what to look for when buying young plants for the garden.

1. Look for large leaves

Large and colorful leaves ensure the plant is fully developed and will survive the transplant to your garden. Since sizes vary by type of species, compare the plant you’re looking at to the others on display.

2. Avoid tall stems 

Side branches and younger leaves should be growing and strong too. Check for breaks or damage and avoid tall, leggy plants. They either haven’t received enough light or have been in the container too long.

3. Check for solid roots

In small containers, roots may be coming out of the drain holes. Scratch into the surface of larger containers to find new, white roots. Ask a salesperson to slip the plant out of the container if you really want to check out the root system. If there aren’t enough roots to hold the soil together, don’t buy it. 

4. Too many flowers is a bad sign

While lots of flowers may initially seem like a sign of good health, avoid the plant that has more flowers than leaves. A few flowers are fine, but too many indicates the plant won’t have energy to root into your garden or container.

5. Ensure freshness

Local growers start their plants from seed, but most box stores and garden centers buy their starter plants from regional growers. Ask when the next new shipment is arriving to get the freshest stock. 

6. Are the plants are organized and healthy?

Keep a close eye on 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 well organized, watered and well maintained.  

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