The Choosy Gardener – How to Avoid Picking Bad Plants

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Summer is upon us. If you didn’t get your seeds planted or your seedlings simply didn’t come up, it’s time to take that walk of shame to the garden center in search of plant starts (we won’t judge). Or, perhaps you just need a flower or two to brighten up your patio. No worries! Here’s some helpful advice so that you can avoid selecting bad plants.

Picking Plants – Basic Considerations

If you have a extremely sunny front porch, skip plants that can’t take the heat.

Not all plants are created equal. So the question is this: what do you want out of this new plant that you’re buying? Maybe you’re looking for a low maintenance perennial that you don’t have to replace every year. Or perhaps the answer to your prayers is a colorful annual that you can throw out when it starts looking shabby.

In either case, you’ll need to consider where you intend to put your newest garden acquisition. The lighting conditions of that space are also important when it comes to selecting a new garden plant. Some species like a lot of sun. Others turn will start looking fried. Choose your intended victim wisely.

Picking Plants – Other Considerations

Heat loving plants, like sedums, are good for hanging baskets in sunny spots.

Perhaps you’re trying to cope with a preexisting condition and need a plant that fits the bill. Maybe there’s a spot in your yard that lacks pizzazz. Or, it might be that you have a specific container that’s recently become empty. You’ll certainly want to consider the type of container and the plants that would grow best in it before proceeding further. For instance, plants that typically grow in hanging baskets might look depressingly floppy in ordinary containers.

It could even be that conditions in your garden are making it tricky to find new plants that will thrive there. Or possibly the deer and squirrel armies are be attacking every time your back is turned. So you’re looking for plants they don’t consider viable snack foods. After all, different gardening quandaries obviously need different plant solutions.


Skip this step at your own risk! Anise hyssop taking over the garden, two pots at a time: a cautionary tale.

It’s really quite simple to find out nearly everything you need to know about gardening online these days. Except for spam and sketchy popup ads, the internet is a beautiful thing. And if Google fails to produce answers, the garden section of your local public library and your county extension office are great places to go for additional help.

You might even want to glance over the plant section in your local store simply see what’s available and compare prices. A good time to do this is whenever you’re already there picking up essential items like bug spray, tomato cages, and potting soil. If you’re really on top of things you can research the growing habits of the plants you’re considering before making a final purchase. Just be sure to read up on invasive plants in your area to make sure you’re not unleashing one on your poor, unsuspecting yard.

Screening Your Plants

What a healthy plant should look like…

Make sure the plants you pick out are in good condition before you bring them home. Pick lush, healthy specimens with bright green leaves. If you know what you are doing, the garden center discount racks can be a great source of cheap perennials. Some of these plants simply look worse for wear after they finished blooming. Others may have had their looks tarnished by extreme heat or cold but will eventually recover. In any case, be sure to check the leaves carefully for bugs. Otherwise you risk bringing home a passel of aphids or worse.

A little additional research after you purchase can help too. Once you’ve planted it, you’ll want to keep a close eye on it for a week or so to make sure that no adjustments are necessary. Do keep in mind that most garden centers won’t exchange the plant you brought home and that is now dying for a healthy one. However, some places do guarantee perennials for at least a year so save your receipts at these places. I never remember to do this myself, of course. More power to you if you do. As always, happy gardening!

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About Lauren

Lauren Purcell is a freelance writer from Savannah, Georgia. She is the proud owner of two spoiled little dogs. Her hobbies include gardening (in case you hadn't noticed), cooking, traveling when she has money, and waiting on her key lime tree to produce fruit.

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