What to look out for
when buying plants
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Buying Plants Advice
When buying, take your time and
choose with care. Make sure that the plants are
clearly labelled, not only with the specific name
but also the variety, and check thoroughly for
any signs of pests and diseases. Examine leaves
and stems for rust, die-back, and any other kind
of damage. The branches on trees and shrubs should
be well spaced and the main ones unbroken. If
they have been grafted or budded, check that all
buds show signs of growth.
Choosing a healthy plant
LONG HAS IT BEEN IN THE POT?
If you are buying a containerised plant, the container
should be filled with roots. This shows that the
plant has grown in the container and has not been
lifted and containerised recently.
A sure sign of this is if the compost and plant
are loose in the container.
Beware, too, of plants that have been in the same
container for a long time, recognised by well-established
perennial weeds in the soil, strong roots growing
through the drainage holes, and thin, weak growth.
Ageing herbaceous plants can often be recognised
by bare patches of soil in the centre of the pot
where the original shoots have died out.
Alpines are usually sold in pots, and older ones
may have moss and algae covering the compost,
whereas young, healthy ones should be surrounded
by small, clean chippings.
When buying bulbs, choose the largest, and check
they are firm and free of any mould. Any sign
of growth on top indicates that they have been
stored too long. In the case of lilies avoid any
with shrivelled outside scales. Daffodil
split bulbs were shown on a recent Alan Titchmarsh
Gardener's World to produce flowers from both
If you are buying trays of annuals instead of
growing them from seed, choose plants that are
sturdy, bushy and with no yellow leaves and no
Avoid plants that are overcrowded in their containers,
that are spindly, look undernourished or have
Buy plants in divided trays, one plant to each
division. Don’t assume that plants have
been hardened off when you buy them – play
safe and acclimatise them to outdoor conditions
for a week or so in a cold frame or other suitable
place. Alternatively, postpone buying plants until
all chance of frost has gone.
Biennials may be sold in divided trays or bare-rooted
– lifted from the open ground. In both cases
they should be bushy, well-branched and with plenty
of healthy, well nourished leaves.