Spring is a great time to visit the nursery looking for new plants for your garden. Most nurseries are awash with them and most are top quality. But sometimes there are plants that aren’t a good buy. They may be too old, damaged or diseased to thrive when you get them home.

To make sure you get a good buy, follow my tips on what to look for when you shop.

When you assess a potential plant to purchase look critically at its shape, over all condition and presentation before you buy. If it’s on the bargain table, leave it there.

1. Avoid old pots and labels.

Plants that are growing in faded or damaged pots or have faded, curling labels have been sitting around for a while. They are not a good buy – even at a discount. They are likely to be starved of nutrients, may have dried out and have probably become root bound. A plant is root bound if its roots have started to spiral around inside the pot. Root bound plants rarely thrive.

Bottom line

Look for a plant in a new pot with a fresh, bright label.


2. Check the roots.

The root system says a lot about the future vigor of a plant so it is worth giving the root system a quick check before you buy and definitely before you plant. Ask the nursery assistant to take the plant out of its pot if you feel the root system may not be up to scratch. Healthy roots are white to light brown, fill most but not all of the pot and hold the potting mix together. Avoid plants that are root bound (see above) or that have little root system compared with the size of the plant or pot.

Bottom line

Healthy roots equal a healthy plant.

3. Why are those leaves yellow?

If you’re not buying a variegated plant, avoid plants with yellowing or discoloured leaves. They may indicate nutrient deficiency or a pest or disease problem.

Bottom line

Go for green.

4. Avoid hitchhikers.

Pests, diseases and even weeds can hitch a ride into your garden with new plants. Check a plant carefully for hitchhikers. These may be growing or hiding in the potting mix, nestled under the rim of the pot or munching on the leaves.

Bottom line

If you are worried about a plant’s health after you’ve bought it, keep it quarantined from other plants while you monitor its health.

5. Buds or flowers?

It is tempting to go for a plant that’s laden with flowers. A plant that’s in bud is a better buy as it will bloom for longer when you get it home. This is particularly true of plants bought for indoor decoration.

Bottom line

Look for a few flowers and lots of strong buds.

6. Two for one.

Some plants are so strong and vigorous they can be divided into several plants or even provide some extra cuttings so you quickly multiply your purchase.

Bottom line

They’re value for gardeners on a budget.

7. Be climate-wise.

In the rush to fill their nursery with spring colour, buyers source plants Australia-wide. Some of these plants may not be suited to your climate.

Bottom line

Always ask about the plant’s climatic needs before you buy and carefully check the recommendations on the plant’s label.

More garden ideas:

* Woodbridge garden and nursery gallery
* Biodegradable plant pots
* Six ways to a greener and sustainable garden


More great ideas on our page or find us on .