Before heading out make a list, preferably with the names of plants. If this isn’t possible, make a list of how many plants are needed for sun or for shade. (Photo by Susan Quinn)

Before heading out make a list, preferably with the names of plants. If this isn’t possible, make a list of how many plants are needed for sun or for shade. (Photo by Susan Quinn)

Plant buying guide: Make a list, don’t impulse buy

Bedding out plants are readily available at this time of year. The urge to purchase and plant is strong making it hard not to impulse buy.

Before heading out make a list, preferably with the names of plants. If this isn’t possible, make a list of how many plants are needed for sun or for shade. Choose a colour scheme that will enhance the house and yard.

Each place that sells bedding-out –plants have different plants depending if they sow their seeds, purchase cuttings or bring the plants in from a commercial grower. Often it is a combination of all three. The big box stores tend to make mass purchases of certain plants allowing them to sell at a lower price but with less variety.

If comparing prices, take into consideration the size of the container as well as the size of the plant. The larger the container, the larger the plant can grow without becoming rootbound. Larger containers tend to cost more as they have taken up more room in the greenhouse. When buying plants in a multi-celled container, count the plants and make sure that each cell contains a live plant. Once the plants begin to get large, a missing plant can be hard to detect.

The size of the top growth should match the size of the container. Small plants in small containers are quick to transplant and adapt quickly to their new environment. Likewise larger plants in larger containers also transplant easily without any setback as the roots are not overgrown and do not need to be disturbed. These plants produce an instant garden. Roots that are coiled around the pot need to be cut to encourage them to venture into new soil. It takes time for the roots to expand and the plant to continue to grow.

Healthy plants will have foliage from the tip of the plant to the pot. Ones that are minus their bottom leaves were either grown to close together or lacked water at one time causing the leaves to die.

Planters, allow gardeners to extend their garden to different areas. Make your own, buy a ready-made basket or bring in containers to get custom planted. If you do the latter, be sure to pick them up in a timely manner. Larger baskets tend to hold more plants, and soil, making them easier to look after. Expect to water daily in hot weather.

There are times when garden centres and greenhouses are very busy and others when they are relatively empty. Evenings and rainy days tend to be less busy.

Choose your time, do not rush and enjoy the experience.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who has gardened in central Alberta for over 30 years. She can be reached at

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