Shopping for Annuals and Perennials by Thomas Christopher

A few weeks ago, I posted a list of tips concerning shopping for trees and shrubs. I promised at that time to follow up with a list of shopping tips for annual and perennial transplants, so here goes.

Shop at a well-run garden center. I am leery of big box stores; these days they often offer good quality plants and sometimes at bargain prices, but I have found their care of the plants is often poor. In particular, the staff is usually untrained and often underwaters or overwaters the plants. Either way, such treatment stresses the plants and has a permanent effect of their vigor and health.

transplant 1

Healthy transplant: Note compact size and well-developed, but not over-developed, crisp white roots.

Make sure you don’t bring home any problems – check carefully to make sure any plants you purchase are pest-free. Check the stems and leaves, and underneath the leaves, too, for insects or insect eggs. Stippling of the leaves, little spots of discoloration, is often an indicator of insect infestation. Bringing home infested plants can start a plague in your garden.

Avoid overly large plants, ones that have clearly outgrown their pots, or which have a beard of long roots emerging from the bottoms of their containers. Such plants have been in their pots too long – they are “pot-bound” –and are likely to be stunted.

Another way to tell if a plant is pot-bound is to slip it out of its container. Examine the roots – these should be crisp and white and just starting to enclose the ball of soil in which they are growing. Brown roots thickly covering the exterior of the soil are a definite sign of a “pot-bound” plant.

transplant 2

Pot-bound transplant: note long, thin stem and dense cover of brown roots

Many shoppers are attracted to plants in full bloom, but I prefer stocky transplants that are just coming into bud, not yet in flower, because I find these recover from from transplanting and resume growth more quickly and are generally more vigorous. Actually, flowering can be yet another sign that a plant is pot-bound.

Good labeling – a label that offers information not only about the plant type and culitvar but about its hardiness and the degree of sunlight it prefers – is not only a convenience, I find that it is commonly a mark of a quality plant.

transplant 3

Pot-bound plant: in full flower, note beard of roots emerging from bottom of pot

If you have other tips to share, please do so.


Shopping for Annuals and Perennials originally appeared on Garden Rant on May 16, 2016.


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