Gardening Tips

Selecting Healthy Plants

One of the most delightful tasks a home gardener can undertake is shopping for new plants. There's a particular euphoria attached to completing a pocket in a flowerbed or a grouping of indoor greenery.

However, nothing is more frustrating to gardeners than transplanting a new purchase and seeing it self-destruct before their eyes. To combat this scenario, there are numerous checks you can do prior to purchasing to ensure that you've made the best possible plant selection. Consider the following questions before venturing to your favorite plant retailer.

What are the light conditions of the location the new plant will call home? Do they match those of the plant you wish to purchase?

Does the new plant's flowering period (if any) coincide with the flowering periods of your established plants?

What is the soil composition of your planting bed (outside) and does it match your new plant's needs?

Is your indoor/outdoor plant safe from the inquiring hands, paws and mouths of infants or pets? Some plants, such as lily of the valley, angel's trumpet, oleander and tansy are poisonous if ingested.

Do you want a perennial, annual or biennial? 

When choosing a new plant for this bed, ensure that it likes full sun. Choose one that will flower later or earlier in the season to extend the life of the bed. Are you selecting your plant for its floral color or for its greenery?

Are you purchasing the plant to attract beneficial bugs, birds or bees to add to the vitality of your outdoor garden?

When do you intend to transplant your purchase?

Once you have answered these questions regarding locational needs and suitability, it's time to go shopping. Now, consider the following.

  1. Purchase your outdoor plants early so that you get the best selection and don't have to settle for what's left.
  2. Ensure that you get the plant tag with the botanical name on it in case you have to obtain further information or wish to note color and growing conditions.Selecting plants in full flower may not be advisable for houseplants or perennials since you may have to wait another year before they bloom again. A compact plant in bud is stronger and will not likely develop transplant shock.
  3. When bringing a new houseplant into the home, it might be prudent to isolate it from your other plants for approximately a five-week period. Spray the leaves with a fine mist and drench the plant with a solution of soapy water to drive out the bugs.
  4. Transplant your outdoor plants on a cloudy day to prevent sun scorching and stress.
  5. While the idea of purchasing new bedding plants in full bloom is enticing, choosing ones with fewer open flowers will enable the plants to recover more quickly from transplant shock.

Roots – It is difficult to appropriately evaluate the root system without removing the plant from its container. Our salespeople can assist you with this. The most evident features of stress are roots protruding from the surface of the soil or a large number of roots protruding from the bottom. This may not be a concern for an outdoor plant, but an indoor plant would require immediate re-potting.

Insects and Disease – Inspect the plant and the undersides of its leaves carefully for signs of pests and disease. Major insect pests include red spider mites, mealybugs, gnats, aphids and scale. Indicators include secretions on plants and leaves, and discolored or chewed leaves. A good test is to tap the plant container to see if any insects take flight.

Flowers, Buds and Stem Tips – These are prone to aphids, which are easily identified, as their light-green color makes them visible against flowers and buds.

Soil – A good sign of neglect would be dry, weedy soil or any moss or fungus growing on the surface. Strong soil odor is an indicator of disease or rot.

Stems – These should be strong and rich in color. Look for breaks, discoloration or seepage in the stem area as signs of problems.

Taking a few minutes to carefully weigh your decision before welcoming a newcomer to your indoor or outdoor garden can result in a higher rate of success and save you the costs associated with replacement.

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