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Choosing and buying plants from a nursery or garden centre can be a pleasurable experience and, with a few guidelines, you can ensure you get the best quality plants that will grow and flower well in your garden.
This guidance will help with buying herbaceous plants, annual bedding plants, alpines, herbs and seasonal houseplants. You can also find information on buying mail order plants. Selecting the best plants will make them easier to grow on.
The great thing about garden centres is that you can buy plants any time of the year when they have them available. If you intend to plant into the ground, it makes sense to also buy when planting conditions are favourable – for example, when the soil is neither frozen nor waterlogged.
However, garden centres often have the best selection when plants are in flower; ceanothus in spring for example, with relatively few during other seasons.
Selecting and buying plants is not always straightforward. To make the best possible choices, consider the following before you purchase:
Make sure seasonal bedding plants are planted as soon as possible (once watered thoroughly) so that the roots can establish in the soil or potting compost. Neglected plants take longer to recover and may give a poorer performance. Remember that although you can buy half-hardy annuals in late spring, they should not be planted outdoors until the risk of frost has passed.
When buying tropical houseplants, wrap them well before taking them out of the garden centre to protect them from sudden changes in temperature, and avoid buying plants that have obviously been chilled or have been standing in cold situations. Some houseplants (such as primulas, cyclamen and Jasminum polyanthum) are quite hardy and can be chosen from outdoor stalls, but will not like being moved to an overheated, darker room. Acclimatise houseplants to their new surroundings; try to avoid under or over watering, too hot, cold or dry an atmosphere or placing near direct heat sources, as these may lead to excessive leaf loss.
As long as the plants you buy are healthy and planted correctly, there should be relatively few problems. However, there are a few things to watch out for:
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