How to - Gardening Basics

10 mistakes to avoid at the nursery

Don't make any plant purchases without having these savvy gardening tips close at hand


It’s time to turn off the TV, throw open your doors and get outside; your garden awaits! But after you’ve raked up last fall’s leaves and taken a good hard look at your garden’s blank palette, your next step is to visit your local garden nursery. There, you’ll be treated to the sights and smells of spring. But before you take out your wallet, take a quick read of our 10 important points to keep in mind before you shop. And enjoy!

Mistake 1: Buying flowers in bloom
Think twice before buying open flowers. There is no rule that says you have to buy the plant with the open blooms. In fact, we suggest you buy your fall-blooming plants in the spring and the spring bloomers in the fall, giving your plants a chance to have more time to get established. The exception is for annuals, which only bloom for one year! Even still, it’s better to pick an annual with lots of buds and no open flowers—that way you’ll have more bang for your buck when the annuals are planted. (After all, where do you want your plants to flower? In the nursery or in your garden?)
 
Mistake 2: Not checking a plant for spots
Is it fertilizer or is it mildew? Be careful when you’re buying and look closely at the leaves for signs of disease or mildew. But don’t be confused by fertilizer residue that often remains on leaves at nurseries—if you’re not sure, ask. Also make sure to check for unusual spots, discoloration or insects. Make sure that the plant has lots of perky leaves and signs of new growth or there could be trouble.
 
Mistake 3: Mistaking size for value
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Bigger plants often cost bigger dollars. But beware: you’re not necessarily getting a larger plant. To double-check, put your fingers about an inch or so into the pot. If you feel mostly soil (as opposed to roots), than chances are that your plant has been repotted into a bigger container. And even if the plant is actually a bigger plant, there are few benefits to spending more money on a one-gallon plant than a four-inch pot. If you have the patience to wait a few seasons for your plants to grow, you can save considerable money by purchasing smaller pots.
 
Mistake 4: Being too frugal
It happens time and again. Gardeners buy insufficient amounts of a single variety of a certain plant. The result is a garden with not enough impact. Assess your garden before you shop and decide if it makes more sense to buy three or four pots of the same annual or perennial. Professional gardeners often plant a mass of one specific variety—the impact is worth the investment.
 
Mistake 5: Skimping on trees
If you’re buying trees or shrubs, being frugal may REALLY not be the right decision. Unlike perennials, trees and shrubs generally take longer to develop a sturdy and attractive structure. Budget appropriately—if you want an ornamental tree in your yard, for example, be realistic about how much it will cost. Think of the purchase as an investment—all good garden design needs a focal point.

 

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