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10 Common Nursery Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

If you're passionate about gardening then a trip to the plant nursery is always a thrill. But don’t let your excitement over plant shopping lead to wrong decisions and lots of regrets! Most buyers believe that they cannot go wrong with a purchase but even the most experienced gardener is not exempted from making simple mistakes. That’s because gardening is a lifetime learning process.

That's okay, we’re here to help!
To make your weekend trip to the plant nursery an enjoyable experience, we’re outlining 10 of the common nursery mistakes most gardeners make and how to avoid them:

10 Common Plant Nursery Mistakes

Plants on a greenhouse garden

Neglecting to Check the Quality of the Plant Nursery

If you are an avid gardener then you probably know a few plant nurseries in your local area. Before planning your little weekend venture, check the quality of each nursery.

Do not go to a nursery just because it’s the nearest to your home or you know someone from the inside who can give you cheaper plants. From the customer service to the health of the plants in the nursery, quality is everything.

You’ll know the quality of a plant nursery the second you stepped inside. If the staff members are helpful and they make no qualms about dropping knowledge instead of pushing products to your face then you are off to a good start.

Look around and check the supplies, the products, the selection of plants, and the conditions of the greenhouse. If something about the greenhouse feels off, move on to the next nursery.

Buying Fully Bloomed Plants

Most people tend to buy plants in springtime when in-season garden plants are in full bloom. Every gardener wants a blooming garden but do not get distracted by the beautiful flowers when scoping the plants. Instead of focusing on the colorful blooms, check the foliage closely. Pay close attention to the shape and structure of the plant.

Will the plant look good during the remainder of the year and not just in springtime? Choose plants with healthy foliage and avoid buying fully bloomed plants just because they look good. Learn more about the growing habits of each garden plant and don’t go around buying plants that only look good in one season.

Blooming plants

Buying Limited Specimens

Variety is everything if you've always dreamed of a lush, thriving garden. If say, you want to add a certain variety of plant to your garden, don’t just buy a pot or two. Since you are introducing a new plant variety to your garden, there is no way to tell if these plants will survive their new environment.

Buy at least 3 to 6 specimens for your garden so you do not end up with a lonely mix of plants. Getting more plant specimens ensures a good survival rate. You want to plan your garden in blocks to get the look of a lush garden.

Rescuing Sickly or Off-Season Plants

Most greenhouses have a separate section for leftovers or off-season plants and usually, these plants are either sickly or over-watered so they are sold at bargain prices. It’s tempting to hoard off-season plants thinking you’d get more bang out of your buck but rescuing sickly plants is more trouble than their worth. There is a reason why the nursery folks want to get rid of these plants right away by offering discounts.

Caring for wilting, off-season plants is an uphill battle because you are working against the current climate. In addition, these plants could be harboring disease and pests that may potentially spread to the rest of your garden.

Instead of spending time, money, and effort caring for sickly plants that will die anyway, just grow plants from seeds. You will get better results. Healthy, in-season plants have a better chance of thriving in your garden so get only the best-looking plants from the nursery.

Roots of a plant

Neglecting to Check the Roots of the Plants

Generally, plants with the healthiest roots have the best chances of thriving in your garden. If the plant roots appear to be soft, brown, and they fall apart easily when touched, do not get these plants.

Some plants are left in their nursery pots for a long time. These plants develop tightly bound tangled roots. Since their roots are tightly bound, the plants are unable to absorb all the nutrients from the soil and at some point, the plants die from suffocation. Avoid these plants at all cost.

You can check for root-bound plants simply by inspecting the pots for roots that grow out of the drainage hole. Potted plants that are unusually light are typically root-bound. Apart from root-bound plants, you should avoid plants with underdeveloped roots. These plants are not mature enough for transplanting.

Not Knowing the Plants Well Enough

We say it time and again, different plants have different needs and it is your responsibility to learn your plants’ needs. This goes especially when you are plant shopping. Don’t get into it willy-nilly because you might end up wasting money on the wrong plants or making poor pairings in the garden.

Before heading to the plant nursery, get to know different plants that will thrive in the local climate. Make a list of the plant varieties that you want and once you are in the nursery, check the nursery label of each plant.

The nursery label will provide the plant’s basic requirements such as the ideal soil condition, bloom times, space and light requirements, etc. Keep these tags because the pieces of information you get from them will come in handy.

Snails on plant leaves

Neglecting to Check for Diseases, Pests, and Weeds

Sickly, pest-ridden plants are indicative of poor maintenance by the nursery staff. Always check for subtle and obvious signs of diseases and pests when inspecting the plants. You don’t have to be an expert to tell if a plant is suffering from a disease or is ridden with pests. Just inspect the plant carefully for black spots, white residues on the leaves, or holey leaves. Some of the most common plant pests found in nurseries are aphids, scale, and mites.

Seeing plants full of weeds is another sign that the staff members are not taking care of the plants well enough. Weeds and grass rob plants of nutrients. Even if you take the weeds out after your purchase, the plants could turn sickly once they have been transplanted into your garden.

Buying Lanky Plants

Leggy and lanky plants are typically grown with insufficient lighting or they have been over-fertilized so they are not in the best of health. Avoid these plants at all cost. There is a good chance that lanky plants grown with insufficient lighting will die once they have been replanted in the garden.

Over-fertilized leggy plants, on the other hand, may introduce pests and diseases to your garden. Always choose plants with robust foliage and a sturdy branch structure. These plants are in perfect health and they can handle the stresses of being transplanted into your garden.

Woman gardening

Not Asking for Expert Advice When in Doubt

Even the most skilled gardener learned all the gardening tricks they know through trial and error. It won’t hurt to ask your local nursery employee for gardening tips to avoid simple mistakes.

If you are unsure what plants work well with your garden’s soil condition or if you have doubts over certain pairings, ask away. The same thing goes if you are simply curious about an unfamiliar plant, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most nursery employees are more than happy to answer your questions and they will gladly give you all the gardening tips you need.

Shopping without Thinking about the Scale

Does your garden have enough room for large plants? Do you have enough room in the garden for these purchases? Don’t hoard plants if you have zero room for them in the garden. Leaving the plants to grow out in their nursery pots is a bad idea. Crowding the plants to save more room isn’t good either.

Before heading to your local nursery, measure your garden and know exactly how much space you have. Know what types of plants are needed to fill the free spaces. Your garden will end up a cluttered mess if you shop around without thinking about the scale of the space and the size of the plants to get.

Shopping for plants is no doubt a thrilling experience but do not let all that excitement lead to avoidable mistakes. Don’t buy plants just to make your garden look good, think about the long-term benefits of each plant to get the most out of your purchase.

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