By Liz Baessler
Not all plants are the same. Don’t waste your time and money on one that might be doomed before you even get it home. Here are our top 3 tips for choosing healthy plants.
1. Don’t choose a blooming plant – If you’re buying a flowering plant, your instinct may be to go for the one that has the most blossoms on it. After all, you can see what the plant’s got and you can start enjoying it the minute you get home, right? Not really. While it’s true that you won’t have to wait for the flowers to open, there’s no telling how much time they have left. By tomorrow morning they could already be starting to fade, and you’ll have missed most of their glory.
Look around for a plant that has more buds than open flowers. This way you know blossoms are on the way, and you know you won’t miss them. This is also important if you’re looking to transplant when you get home. Making flowers takes a lot of energy that your plant will need for establishing itself in its new home. If you have to transplant a flowering plant, snip off a lot of the flowers and buds. It may not look as pretty in the short term, but diverting that energy to root and foliage growth will make for a much healthier and more attractive plant in the long run.
2. Check for bugs – Bugs are sneaky and always trying to work their way into your garden. They don’t need your help! But if you bring home a plant with pests on it, you’re just lining up your other poor plants as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Always check plants in the store thoroughly for bugs, slugs and mold. If you see anything, don’t bring them home! It’s better to be safe than sorry.
3. Look at the roots – A lot of a plant’s body is underground, so clues to its health may be hidden from you. If you’re considering a plant, gently slide its root ball out of the pot. If you’re not confident you can do this without hurting the plant, ask someone working at the nursery to help you. Ideally, the roots should be white and firm to the touch. If they’re brown or crumbling, the plant is probably in bad shape. Also, the roots should fill most of the container, holding the soil in place in a big mass. That means the plant is healthy and established in its pot. But if the roots have started circling around the container or growing out of the drainage holes, the plant is root bound. While you can buy a root bound plant and nurse it back to health, it’s much better to avoid it if there’s a healthier option available.