to the Root of Plant Choices
H. Yates is a Master Gardener volunteer with the University of Florida IFAS
Extension in Leon County and a member of its Horticultural Advisory Committee
.For more local gardening information, visit the UF-IFAS Extension website for
Leon County at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu
you love flowers, a trip to a garden center or nursery can be hazardous.
Impulsively, you load your shopping cart with one or two of the dozens of
plants that catch your eye. The blue
delphiniums are smashing; never mind your garden soil is like packed red clay.
The roses are fragrant and beautiful; never mind your yard is mostly
shaded. And what a charming array of colors are displayed in the zinnias,
marigolds, impatiens, snapdragons, coleus, coneflowers, phlox and salvias. Two
In Plant Shopping 101, homework comes first.
Take note of the conditions where your plants will be grown.
Is the soil well-drained and fertile, sandy, boggy or hard clay?
Is the site shady or sunny? There
are plants that do well in most of these conditions.
You can narrow your selections to suit the conditions or you can make it
easier to grow the varieties you like by solving the soil problems first.
in rich topsoil, compost and other organic matter if the soil is compacted and
unfertile, and build raised beds if poor drainage is a problem.
how many plants you want to place in shady areas and in sunny areas.
Do you want a mixture of plants that will bloom
this year, go dormant and return next spring (perennials) as well as some
that will bloom all summer and then die (annuals)?
how a few accent shrubs such as buddleia and hydrangea, and yes, roses, will add
to the mix.
you already have a garden full of plants and just need to fill in a few spots or
add seasonal color, then annuals may be the answer.
Rather than selecting a hodgepodge of colors, select those that blend
with the color scheme of your garden and use three to five plants of one kind in
each grouping. Go for impact rather than variety.
personnel can provide assistant to help home gardeners choose the right plants.
Most garden centers now sell plants with labels advising whether they
should be grown in sun, part sun or shade, when they bloom, and how large they
can be expected to grow. The
ultimate size is especially important for choosing the right trees and shrubs
for your yard.
a plant you like has no or insufficient information, ask the staff and the
Nursery for help. Most are trained and are there to help customers. They also
may be able to suggest a plant for a specific spot in your garden.
nurseries also are offering plants that grow well in this area so you can be
assured of their cold hardiness and tolerance of our heat and humidity.
However, if you are shopping from a catalogue or in another state, make
sure the plant is appropriate for this area.
chosen the variety, next comes the most important assignment:
Pick the healthiest plant available and the biggest that accommodates
your budget. Its leaves should be
deep green (unless it is a yellow variety) and free of holes and brown edges.
Look for vigorous, thick growth, not tall, spindly plants.
Leggy plants with few leaves on the stems indicate they have been around
for a while and may be root-bound as well.
for new growth, proper shape and stem structure.
Deformed leaves and buds and blemishes may harbor an insect or fungus
problem. Check the leaves for
insects; you donít want to take them home with you.
plants already in bloom are hard to resist, it is wiser to choose those not yet
blooming. The plant will do much
better if all of its energy can go to establishing its roots in your garden
before it starts blooming. The
flowering stage will last longer too. There
are times, of course, when you need instant color, for a garden party for
example. Then it makes sense
to choose the largest plants with the most flowers available.
matter how beautiful the flower, itís the roots that count.
With perennials, the roots are what makes the plants come back next year.
A mature plantís roots should be reaching out of the drainage holes at
the bottom of the container and appear pale and white at the tips.
This is a sign that they are actively growing.
If a slight tug lifts the plant, roots and all, out of the container, you
can see for yourself if the plant is pot bound.
Its roots may be circling the pot so tightly, the plant is stressed.
If such a plant is being sold at a reduced price, it may still be a
bargain. When setting it out in your
garden, unfurl the roots with your fingers or take a knife and slit the outer
sides. This root pruning will help
the roots move out into the soil.
only the number of plants you will be able to set out in a day or two.
Small bedding plants dry out quickly and must be watered daily if not
planted. Plants in gallon or larger
containers may be kept until you have time to set them out if kept moist and in
a shady spot.
healthy plants and placing them in the right spot in your garden is the first
step in successful gardening.