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Garden Centers And Plant Nurseries – The Three Points to Look Out For - by Jonathan Yaakobi

With the rising cost of plants today, many home gardeners are understandably tempted to seek out less showy garden centers, and buy their garden plants at cheaper establishments. This is all very well, but as with most things, cheap can prove to be very dear indeed. While a cheap plant nursery is not necessarily a bad one, it should pass three tests before you consider buying plants from it.

Plant Labels

The sign of a professional nursery is that the plants are labeled properly and clearly. This is important not simply for the convenience of the customer, but as an indication of how seriously the establishment takes plant identification. While the label may contain the plant’s common name, it ought to include its botanical name as well. A nursery that is sloppy about its labeling is liable to sell you the wrong plant! Remember that plants in their juvenile state can be difficult to identify by appearance, and so to a great extent, the purchaser is dependent on the professionalism and good faith of the garden center.


Heavy weed infestations are clearly a sign of a poorly run plant nursery. More serious though is the nursery’s potential as a source of noxious weeds, especially of the dangerously invasive type entering your garden. As a gardening contractor and regular purchaser of plants, I always enquire whether the plants are grown in a potting medium, or in garden soil. Remember that it is much cheaper for the nursery to grow its plants in garden soil, but then the danger of dangerous weeds is greatly increased. With regard to weeds, cheap could spell disaster!

The Quality of the Plants

Plants that look poor are less likely to develop as successful garden specimens than those that seem to be in good shape. However, here a nasty trap could be waiting for the unwary, because a handsome appearance is not necessarily the sign of a worthy plant. On the contrary, a top-heavy specimen, that is one that is disproportionately large for its container, is liable to have a tangled and knotted root system, which may prevent it from breaking out into the garden soil after planting. A plant that has outgrown its container, should long have been potted on into a larger one, and is another sign of a poorly run establishment.

On the other hand, a small plant in a large container is also undesirable as the plant’s roots could be starved of air. Considering that the retail price of plants is largely a function of the container size, it follows that in such cases, the customer is getting an inferior specimen at an inflated price.

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Jonathan Ya'akobi

Your Personal Gardening Coach

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