Buying Plants

Choosing the best greenery for your space

If you're a gardening beginner with a new space to green up, then you probably can't wait to get out to a garden center and choose all sorts of beautiful flowers and foliage to beautify your yard. Nurseries, with their vast selection of plants from every corner of the world, can be confusing places and you may find that you end up coming home with a lot of expensive plants that might be hard to grow or that don't necessarily fit with your design plan. Never fear – buying plants can be a breeze when you know what to look for.

Navigating the World of Plants

Plants can be found everywhere, from a specialized garden center to a big department store to an online retailer. Wherever you find your plants, you should keep a few things in mind when it comes time to bring them home.

  • Make a garden plan. By doing this, you'll know how big your overall space is, what kind of plants will do well in your microclimate, and how to determine your under, middle and top stories. If you don't know how to make a garden plan or aren't comfortable doing so, you can hire a landscaping professional.
  • Talk to the professionals at the store or online. They are trained and can give you helpful suggestions that will make your experience a little easier. Your local horticulturalists can give you better advice if you come prepared – bring a rough drawing of your yard and tell them about the light, wind and water conditions that you experience. This will help them suggest plants that will do well in your garden.
  • Check the plants that you buy for any spots, dead leaves or odd growths. Choose only healthy plants – the last thing you want to do is to spend money on expensive flowers only to find that they can't even live for two weeks or worse, that they've infected your whole garden. Plants that have large gaps between the leaves haven't been properly cared for and could be fragile.
  • Always read the labels or tags on any plants that you want to buy – some require more care than others. If you're not willing to spend a lot of time outdoors, obsessively weeding, watering, fertilizing or otherwise caring for a pretty but difficult plant, then don't buy it. Don't buy annuals that are fully in flower, either – always check for other buds or you'll be waiting a long time for the plant to flower again, if it does at all.
  • Buy more than one annual – one plant that would look great in a container or sitting on your coffee table will be a tiny speck of color in the vast area that's your garden. Always pick out two or three to create a clump of color that will spread as the plant grows bigger.
  • Transport your plants, especially big shrubs and trees, carefully. If you have a truck with an open flatbed, load your bigger plants up and cover them with a sheet. Smaller cellpacks and pots of plants should be secured in your car and not allowed to tip or fall over. Not only will you have a huge mess, you can also damage the new plants you've just bought.
A Word About Pricing

It doesn't seem fair sometimes – the garden centers advertise a plant for one price and down the road, the big chain department stores have the same plant for less. The fact is, garden centers price their plants on rarity and care involved. Many follow a grading system set out by their state, province or country. If you find that a plant that you can find for a low price at a discount store is more expensive at a garden center, this is because the plant at the garden center is probably better cared-for and adapted to your climate. If you can afford it, go with the garden center's selection to have a good-quality garden that will give back year after year.