Spring gardening smart shopping tips

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2014

By Eddie Smith

Guest Columnist 

Plant Shopping Tips

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Garden centers and nurseries are full of plants right now. And hopefully, the weather is settling down a bit after the recent storms.

It is time to get out and purchase some new plants for your yard and garden. With that in mind, here are some plant shopping tips to assist with your selections.

Smart Shopping for Annuals

These are purchased for fast growing, long lasting flowers or foliage. It is important to select healthy plants that have bushy growth that fills the pot. Foliage should be an even green color without obvious disease spots or insect damage.

Even though it is tempting to purchase a plant in flower, in many cases, this should be avoided. A plant in flower, in some cases, has been fed a high nitrogen fertilizer to spur rapid growth and development—this can result in a plant that is a heavy feeder.

When these plants are transplanted into the garden and their high-maintenance diet is not maintained they can quickly lose vigor.

Look for plants that are just beginning to flower or are in bud. Sometimes plants are flowering because they have been in the pot too long and are too mature and leggy. These should be avoided, or if purchases, should be cut back to encourage densely branched new growth. Examples of these are verbena, marigold, salvia, and celosia. Continue pinching these plants to get that bushy plant with many flowering stems. Annuals like petunia and impatiens rarely have to be pinched to get bushy growth.

Smart Shopping for Perennials

These are purchased for their longevity in the garden and their season of attractiveness, whether that is foliage color or blooms.

Since these plants will be residing in your garden for years to come, selection of well-rooted plants with a good rosette of healthy foliage is important. Most perennials will not be flowering in the pot so you should be familiar with the mature height, width, bloom color and other characteristics of the plant before you make your selection.

Sometimes, this is all on the label, but it is a good idea to talk to the nurseryman or garden center help if you have questions about the performance or hardiness of these plants.

It is important to inspect the roots of perennial plants you are planning on buying. You may ask for permission to pop the plant out of the pot to examine the roots, or ask and employee to do it for you.

The roots should be a light tan or off white color and be plentiful, but not circling the root ball in a tight mat—this indicates the plant has been held to long in the pot and is pot bound. If you purchase a pot bound plant, before you plant, cut away the circling roots and tease the root ball apart to encourage growth of the new roots outward.