Purchasing Plants, Seeds, and Bulbs
Plants: There are times when taking home a bedraggled plant from the nursery makes sense. When it’s a perennial at the end of it’s bloom cycle, and at least 50 percent off this is an acceptable purchase. What is not a smart move is to buy wilted, root-bound annuals in the six-pack. The perennial will most likely rebound the next growing season while the annuals will struggle and never fully recover.
The following criteria should be applied to any plant material purchase in the nursery or the local garden center. Obviously you will not be able to check the condition of plants you mail order. Here you need to rely on the reputation of the company, and it might be wise to make a small order at first to test the speed and accuracy of the order and condition of the plants you receive.
- Do the plants look healthy? Look for sturdy stems, appropriate leaf color (green or variegated, depending on the plant), and a general lush appearance. Leaves should not be yellow, have brown edges, or be torn. The plant should not look “leggy”, this is when a plant has a long stem, with just a leaf or two on the top of the scraggly stem.
- Are there roots coming out of the drain-holes of the pot, maybe even cracking the plastic? When plants become root-bound in their pots water will often roll off the top of the soil, never fully saturating the roots leaving the plant continuously stressed.
- Do not buy annual or perennial flowers already in full bloom. Buy plants with healthy foliage, they will settle into your garden quickly.
- Check for pests. Look under the leaves and on the stems for critters and eggs.
Seeds: When buying seeds from a nursery or a home improvement store take a look at where the seeds are displayed. Are they exposed to the weather? Seeds displayed where they can be overheated by the sun or soaked by the rain will have a decreased germination rate.
Once again, for mail order purchases you don’t know how the seeds have been stored. Order small from a company you are not familiar with, and check out websites like this one to find out how other gardeners have found the service and quality of seed companies.
Bulbs: Bulbs should be plump with no sign of decay or rot. Plant them as soon as possible or store them in a cool, dry place until you can plant them.