A Healthy Start: learn how to recognize thriving plants

The starting point to a successful garden is to buy strong, healthy plants that establish quickly and give a good display. Shop around for the best plants, and check them over first to find the healthiest specimens.

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How to Spot Healthy Plants-

To find the healthiest specimens, compare several examples of the same plant at garden centers and nurseries. Avoid any with obvious problems, such as broken stems, sparse growth, or signs of pests and disease. Also steer clear of plants that don’t appear fresh, with old growth, tired-looking compost, and faded or missing labels.

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For healthy perennials, look for plants with plenty of stems emerging from the compost. You can plant perennials and shrubs in full flower, but they will be slower to establish. It is preferable to pick plants in bud or those that have finished flowering.

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Check Plant Labels-

It is easy to be tempted into buying attractive looking plants on impulse at garden centers but check the label to make sure they are suitable for your soil and site. Check the plant’s eventual height and spread too, to be sure it will fit your space.

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Storing Plants-

It is best to plant new plants within a few days of buying them to help them establish quickly. That might not always be possible, however, especially if the weather is wet or you are in the middle of a garden project.

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Container-grown plants will be fine for a few days if kept well watered. If you need to store them for longer, move them to a sheltered spot so they don’t blow over, and keep them out of full sun, or they will dry out too quickly. For longer-term storage, it may be a good idea to re-pot them.

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Checklist for Choosing Container-Grown Plants-

When buying any new container-grown plants, it’s a good idea to give them a quick check before taking them home. It will only take a few minutes for each plant and is a useful way to avoid potential problems or costly disappointments.

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  1. Reject pots with mature weeds, because this suggests plants have not been well maintained; you will also avoid introducing weed species to your garden. Moss-covered pots should be rejected for the same reason.

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  1. Look under the pot to see if there are roots growing through the drainage holes. Just a few suggests a healthy root system; lots of roots indicate the plant is pot-bound and should be avoided. Remove the pot to check.

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Buy ready to use nutrient rich soil:

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In general use a soil-based compost placed over a generous layer of drainage material such as earthenware crocks, pebbles or gravel. Water and feed regularly, especially while plants are bearing flowers and fruit, when a high-potash fertilizer is recommended.


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Using pebbles in a garden brings different colours and textures to the garden. Pebbles can also fill up otherwise empty space in the garden, leaving a visual that might be considered more interesting and aesthetic than simple dirt, soil or mulch.

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