How to Shop for Plants

Whether you are new to gardening or a seasoned horticulturist a trip to the garden center in spring can be an overwhelming experience. Crowded with temptations and people, it’s hard to think straight much less make a prudent decision about what plants to buy. I used to come home with a carload of impulse purchases until I started following a few guidelines. Now I can get in and out of a garden center with exactly what I need, which saves me time, money and frustration.

Determining ahead of time on where you want to plant, with the design and color theme in mind can save you a lot of time and headaches. I encourage gardeners to have photos of the space they’re planting. Also bring color swatches or paint chips. And it’s always a good idea to know the measurements of your space.

P. Allen Smith shopping for plants at a garden center.

How to Read a Plant Tag

If the garden center were a classroom and you were assigned to pick out a plant that will work best for your garden a plant tag is your ultimate cheat sheet. As simple as it may seem, the plant tag contains all the vital information you need to know about that plant. It contains the basics, like the common and botanical name, so you know exactly what you are buying, but it also gives information on the plant’s needs. Does this plant do well in sun or shade? How far do I need to space this plant apart? How hardy is the plant in my zone? Utilizing the information from plant tags can really help you narrow down your selections.

Look for Buds Not Blooms

Once you’ve narrowed it down resist going for the plant boasting the most color. It’s tempting, but trust me; you want a plant with more buds than blooms. Plants that are just starting to bloom will establish roots easier. Plus, you’ll have more flower power later on.

Supertunia Royal Velvet Petunias, GoldDust Mecardonia, Coleus and Purples Fountain Grass

Time your Garden Center Trip During Off Hours

For a more relaxing trip to the garden center go during the off hours. I find that coming on a weekday is often the best time shop. There are less people, garden center staff is more available to answer your questions, and your selection of plants is usually greater. Plus, there is nothing like waking up on a Saturday morning knowing you have everything you need to start your garden project without having to leave the house.

Feeling like a pro yet? Well, practice makes perfect! Get out there and take your garden center by storm.