Tips for Selecting Quality Plants, Seeds, and Bare Roots

Plants don't always grow and thrive as they should, or as we hoped. The selections we have made may be doomed from the start because time was not taken to examine what was being purchased. Below is a list of tips to help select the best quality plants when shopping at a greenhouse or garden center.


  • Check plants for insects or disease. If either is found, do not purchase the infested plants as the pests may spread to other plants in the landscape.
  • Check the plant's roots. Carefully slide the pot off the plant's rootball. Healthy roots will be white or cream colored.
  • Determine how much money you want to spend. Setting a budget may help you avoid buying more plants than you actually need.
  • Make sure the plants match the area in which they will be located. Some plants need moist soils while others prefer a dry site. Full sun is required by some plants, others perform best in partial shade. It's best to do your homework ahead of time to match the right plant with the right place.
  • Examine the plant habit. If the plants are supposed to be tall and a bit spindly fine. However, if they are supposed to be tight and compact and are not, it's time to move on to other sources. Be aware of the plant's normal appearance. While some plants possess distinctive features, such as yellow-green foliage or a weeping growth habit, plants that don't appear "normal" often have serious problems.


  • Before buying seeds, examine the back of the packet. Look for the statement, "Packed for 2009". If it has a year listed other than 2009, do not buy the seed. Typically, this is not a problem because outdated seed should not be offered for sale. Germination percentage of seed goes down each year at a varying rate. To have the most success with direct seeding, only buy packages of seed with the 2009 date.

Bare Root

  • Check bare root stock and avoid broken roots or soft spots (disease). Plants will not perform as well if damage or disease is present.

Following these tips will help you have a more rewarding and successful gardening experience. Now get out there and plant something!


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