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Plant Shopping - Part 2

Plant Shopping - Part 2

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Plant Shopping - How to Pick a Winner

Got Your List?

Make sure you have your shopping list. Besides listing the plants you want or the spots you want to plant, there is the "hardware" part of your shopping trip. This includes pots, soil and mix like peat, compost, etc as well as tools, sprinkler parts, fertilizers or pest control products (as natural as possible to preserve your ecosystem), etc. A shopping list is the only way to avoid the "getting home and… oh no! I forgot the…"

How to Pick a Winner

OK, here you are in the nursery. You know what plant you want and there they are. How do you know that of all the plants in this section, you are getting the absolute best?

Biggest is Not Best

A smaller plant has had less opportunity to be ruined than an older one. What you want to avoid at all costs is a root bound plant. This is not such a problem for herbaceous plants, but for woody plants it can be crippling and eventually fatal. A large plant in a small pot may look like a lot for the money, but it is usually just a waste.

Check the Crown

When I am buying plants, one of the first things I look for is how loose it is in the pot. The plant should be tight and snug where it meets the soil. If it wiggles excessively, that is a sign of a disturbed root system and it may be difficult to recover. Plants like that I usually reject. Be a "good shopper" and make sure that you are not inadvertently causing the plant to loosen up while looking through them.

Check for Pests and Diseases

Sad but true, an inordinately high amount of weeds, pests and diseases are brought home with plants from the nursery. Check carefully for weeds.

Oxalis, which can look like a small reddish clover, is particularly nasty and very hard to eradicate once established. Just pulling off the leaves will not get rid of it, as it will grow back from the roots. I often reject a plant out of hand if I see Oxalis growing in the pot. (In all fairness there are plenty of very nice ornamental Oxalis, but the weedy ones are really bad news.)

Be careful of spots, blotches of irregular color, or other symptoms that may indicate disease. A case in point is blossom blight on Azaleas, Rhododendrons, and Camellias. When buying these in bloom look for brownish areas on the petals or buds. They could look wettish and can spread and turn the flowers into a slimy mess as opposed to the things of beauty you want. It is not simple to eradicate and I sometimes reject a nursery's entire selection of these plant because of blossom blight. Pretty frustrating when you came specifically to buy azaleas, but not as frustrating as having to deal with buds that turn to brown mush instead of flowers every season in your garden.

Insects also may come in on nursery plants. Perhaps the worst offenders are mealy bug or scale insects. Their presence is also a strong reason to reject those plants. Like roaches, rarely is there just one, and even if removed there may be others lurking unseen. Better safe than sorry and pass on those plants.

Carry it Carefully

Be careful when carrying your selection to checkout. Never carry a tree or shrub by the stem. Rather, support the root ball by the container. Loading the plant into your car can be tricky. Rolling around or leaning on its stem can loosen the root ball.

And never ever let the top of a plant hang out of the window of your car. The wind whipping it can go through on the way home may shred or knock off every leaf! In addition, it can dry out the top and that can really prevent your plant from getting off to a good start.

Well, with a bit of care and foresight you can bring home a healthy, quality plant. What to do when you get home? Stay tuned for the exciting follow-up!

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