A trip to your local gardening center can be exciting and overwhelming all at once. There are so many beautiful plants, trees, and shrubs from which to choose. Make sure all of the plants you pick out are strong enough to survive in your garden and your Landscape Design. Here are the things you should look out for when you’re shopping for plants to make sure you’re bringing home robust, healthy plants to add to your garden.
There are two main areas you want to look at when determining the relative health of a plant. The first is the foliage of the plant. You want the foliage to be thick and bushy rather than thinned out and sparse. The leaves should all be a vibrant green unless the plant species have leaves of different colors. Plants that look thin have probably not been cared for very well, and you will have a hard time reviving them when you take them home to your garden.
The other thing you want to check out on a plant is the roots. The roots are incredibly important to a plant because they are how your plant will get the food and water it needs to survive. A weak root system will starve your plant of the nutrients it needs. The roots will naturally be buried beneath the soil when you’re checking out your plants at the gardening center, so you’ll have to do a little digging around. The easiest way to do this is to tip the plant pot to one side and then the other, scooping away dirt and checking out the roots on each side. A healthy plant will have roots that are spread out and not overpowering the soil. An unhealthy plant will have roots that are wrapped around each other and wrapped around the outside of the soil ball. They will give the appearance that there is not enough soil in the pot. Don’t ever purchase a plant with this kind of root system. The roots are already strangling the plant, and you won’t be able to fix that by planting it in your garden. Some garden centers will tell you that the roots have that appearance because of a small pot and that the roots will “spread out” when they have more space in the garden. Their suggestion is not right. Once wrapped, the roots will stay that way, so give these plants a little root pruning with a sharp knife.
There are other signs to look for that indicates that a plant is unhealthy, and most of them have to do with the leaves. For instance, brown leaves that crunchy and brittle are a sign that a plant has not been receiving enough water. Yellow, waxy leaves may suggest that a plant has been receiving too much water. Leaves that look thin and bleached out indicate that a plant has a spider mite problem. If the edges of the leaves are very uneven, insects have been munching away on the plant. Marks and scars on the bottom of the leaves also show that the plant has an insect issue. Brown leaves that are wilted instead of brittle or leaves that have color spots usually mean that the plant has some infection, usually a fungal infection. If lots of the stems are broken off of a plant, it says that the garden center has not been handling the plants very well. If you see lots of plants like this in the garden center, it may be time to start shopping someplace else.
Avoid these warning signs, and you’ll bring home a healthy plant, every time.