Whether it’s gearing up for the busy Easter period, or the late summer throng nurseries and garden centres are now places for inspiration, relaxation and an opportunity to spruce the garden up. But how should you make sure you’re buying what will live? We’ve asked plant experts to give us their tips on what to look for when buying plants to ensure garden success.
What to look out for when buying plants at garden centres and nurseries
- Don’t be afraid to knock plants from the pots before buying, to check the condition of the root ball, reject any that are ‘pot bound’ or have few roots and avoid those with liverworts or weeds on the surface of the compost, a sign they have been in the nursery for a long time and have not been looked after – Matt Biggs, plantsman.
- Not all perennials are really perennial. If you want a ‘perennial’ that will keep on growing for years, look at the very base of the plant – if there are new shoots emerging from under the compost, or other shoots with their own roots, it should be with you for years – Noël Kingsbury, garden writer and plantsman.
- You will be seduced by whatever is in flower, but remember to buy some things now to bloom in the doldrums of high summer. It’s too easy to have a beautiful spring garden with nothing to follow. Planted now, veronicastrums, rudbeckias, asters etc will have time to get their feet down and GROW so they will produce twice as many flowers over twice as long a period as the ones you buy in midsummer to brighten up your garden – Derry Watkins, plantswoman and owner of Special Plants Nursery.
- Always look to see that the plant looks healthy and foliage is not too lush as many plants are forced in hot conditions in glasshouses and polytunnels. Good growing roots (but not root bound, see above) are more important than top growth as vigorous root growth will help a plant establish more quickly. Think ‘iceberg’ – more base than top! – Marina Christopher, nusery owner of Phoenix Perennial Plants in Hampshire. Open by appointment only – email Marina at email@example.com
- Gardeners shouldn’t be afraid of buying small plants. There is so much eye candy to tempt people out there. Large flowering plants can be pumped up and brought on by retailers but they don’t always adjust well to being planted out in the garden and exposed to the elements, especially if the preparation for planting hasn’t been done well. A smaller plant, well chosen and strong, usually gets away quickly and often gives you better results, even though those results may not be immediate – Fergus Garrett, head gardener at Great Dixter.