How to Bring Home Good Plants

This morning I stumbled across a great article from Apartment Therapy about picking the best plants at the nursery/garden center.


Plant display at Farmyard Nurseries A speciali...

Here are a couple great tips from that article to keep in mind when choosing seedlings:

  • Look for plants that have been displayed with care. Hot sunny sidewalks for small packs of seedlings or uneven watering can take their toll on these young plants.

Seedlings are delicate, and their very young roots can be scorched easily. If they are damaged at a young stage, it is unlikely they will recover.

  • Look for the absence of yellow leaves, black leaf spots, or blackness at the base of the stems. These all can indicate disease. If you see any sign of tiny insect life, be cautious.

I would say – walk away. You don’t want to bring disease and insects home to feast on your garden. If you do find insects, blight, or spots on your plants, you can try something like this:

  • When buying larger plants make sure the plants are not greatly out of proportion to the pot. This could indicate that the plants are root-bound.

Go read the article for some more great tips. A tiny note here, on rootbind. Many seedlings appear to have severe roots when you remove them from their container. However, there is a difference between an intact rootball and being rootbound. 

When you remove the plant from its seedling container, a healthy growing plant will have a nice intact ball of roots with lots of lovely white prominent root tips. They will probably have grown in the shape of their container.

This is a natural result of being in a container. Roots naturally spread to the furthest point, and then grow thick.

But if it look likes the roots are really starting to get tight and bind together, you can carefully separate and loosen of the roots by hand (delicately pulling them apart, just a little) will encourage the plant to spread out even more when you put it into its new pot.

You don’t usually see a true case of rootbind in seedlings, but in more mature plants. Especially if you buy something too big to fit in a nursery tray – a plant that is more mature, and bigger in size.

A truly rootbound plant, is when there is no space for new roots to expand any further  – roots effectively occupy the entire volume of space between the soil particles. At this point plant growth slows despite favorable light and water conditions, and the plant has difficulty taking up fertilizer. The plant looses ability to form new root tissue.

At this point, you can attempt a more drastic option of scoring (CUTTING) the external roots with a kitchen knife or exacto knife. Sometimes this can release the bound root ball and give the plant a new lease on life.

But, in my experience, it is pretty much a 50/50 prospect whether the plants will recover and continue on, or give up! If the rootbind is severe, the plant’s growth may have been stunted beyond a point of recovery.

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