Guest Author - Sue Walsh
Garden plants are available in grocery stores, dollar stores, hardware stores, big box stores, nurseries and garden centers, and even on the internet! Itís really best to buy plants locally though. Hereís a guide to buying plants for your garden and getting the most for your money.
It goes without saying that the very best place to buy plants is a nursery or garden center, where there are people knowledgeable about the plants and their care. There are also likely to be better selections and healthier plants, and perhaps most importantly, a nursery or garden center is much more likely to have plants that are perfectly suited for your region. That means they will be more likely to thrive in your garden. That said, thereís nothing wrong with buying plants at the other places mentioned either. (who hasnít fallen in love with a plant they found at the grocery store?) No matter where you shop, your plant shopping will be a success as long as you follow a few basic rules:
Ask questions! No matter where you shop, donít be afraid to ask questions. Staff at nurseries and garden centers usually love plants as much as you do and will be glad to help. Staff at other places may not be as knowledgeable, but donít be afraid to ask anyway!
Know Your Growing Conditions. Nothing is more disappointing than falling in love with a gorgeous plant only to have it die because it didnít like the conditions. Itís crucial to know basic things like the kind of soil you have(clay, sandy, or ideally, a nice rich loam), the kind of sunlight the space you want to plant has, and the size of the space. You donít want to buy a plant that will grow too big for the space itís in!
Is it Safe for Kids and Pets? If you have kids or pets, you may want to avoid plants that produce colorful berries or inedible fruits as they may prove too tempting. Thorny plants are another type to avoid.
Get to Know your Storeís Schedule. Whether youíre shopping at a nursery or a big box store, getting there the day their shipment of plants arrives gives a better chance of getting both a good selection and a healthy plant.
Look over the Plant Carefully. Plants sold in home centers, grocery stores, and the like are often cared for by people with little or no training in plant care. Thatís why plants are often found either swimming in their pots or bone dry. Sometimes youíll even find plants in each state right next to each other. This is why itís crucial to examine them closely. Look at the leaves and under them, and also at the area where the leaves join the stem. These are prime areas for insects to hang out. Look underneath the pot or flat as well. If you find a mass of roots, as long as they are healthy and you plan on planting right way, it shouldnít be a problem-otherwise, avoid.
Check for Mushy Stems, Brown Spots, or Signs of Disease or Infestation. If the plant is covered in a sticky substance, put it down. While itís normal to find a broken leaf or stem (plants are often shipped in boxes on large pallets and arenít always handled with care) avoid any that look like they are dying. Most plant lovers find themselves with the urge to ďrescueĒ a plant, but itís really not worth the risk to your plants at home. Finally, take the plant out of its pot and look at the roots. Are they firm and healthy or black and mushy? Rotted roots are a sign of overwatering.
Examine the Soil. It shouldnít have any mold or slime on it. Donít be afraid to sniff it. A fishy smell could mean the plant was treated with a fish emulsion fertilizer, but it could also mean itís infected with a bacteria or fungus. Donít chance it.
Avoid Unfamiliar Plants. If you come across a plant you love but itís growing instructions are vague or non-existent, think twice. Buying a plant you have no idea how to care for can be a waste of money.
Plant as Soon as Possible! Once you get your plants home, you should plant them as soon as possible. If you must wait, make sure they are in a safe place where they wonít get knocked over or stepped on, and water regularly. Flats tend to dry out quickly.
By following these simple rules youíll be sure to have happy, healthy houseplants no matter where you buy them!