Buying Plants

Buying Great Plants

Landscape plants available in the United States and Canada are generally of high quality. Whether you make your purchases through a local greenhouse or nursery, a mail-order specialist, a chain store, or a roadside stand, you'll usually find vigorous, insect- and disease-free plants. What's more, with rare exceptions, these offerings can be relied upon to be correctly labeled.

Sometimes the size of the plant is not indicative of its quality.
Sometimes the size of the plant is not indicative of its quality.

Because of this consistently good quality, it's possible to buy plants wherever you find the best price on the variety you want. Bedding plants and perennials are generally sold in packs and small containers. Unless you need to evaluate the color of the flowers, the presence of blooms is unimportant. In fact, annuals that are not flowering in the pack tend to establish root systems quicker than those that are in bloom, resulting in side branching and abundant flowering. To ensure an easy transition from the greenhouse to the garden, purchase plants at nurseries or garden centers at the proper planting time. Good plants are stocky, not leggy, and have healthy green leaves. They are not root-bound (having matted roots and too big for their pots), so the roots are ready to stretch out and grow in your garden. One way to check is to see if roots are already growing out the bottoms of the market packs.

Although plants are usually grown well, they are not always treated well at supermarkets and other places that do not specialize in live plants. Try to get them shortly after delivery from the greenhouse source, or purchase only from stores that keep tabs on the needs of the plants.

Annuals, trees, and landscape plants all require different treatment. Go to the next page to learn how to best pick and handle them.

High Speed Gardening: Handy Herbs
Herbs need a little space in the sun, not much more. You can find a rectangular container with matching liner that fits on your sunny kitchen windowsill or one of any shape that fits in a small spot near your doorway. You'll need potting soil with extra perlite for good drainage and six to eight hours of sunshine per day. Buy small starter plants of your favorite herbs, such as chive, parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, and mint, and combine them attractively in the planter. Set each plant as deeply as it was growing in its pot. Water the container, firm the planting medium, add more planting medium if necessary, and grow.

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