how to pick the perfect plant

June 13th, 2012
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“Your planters always look so nice”.

I get this a lot – and I should, right? I mean, this is my business – so  my planters (and flower beds) better look good. And there’s no question that the quality of plants – and the nursery you purchase from – can make a big difference.

Chances are, if you pick pretty plants and combine them with other pretty plants, you will have a pleasing end result. But there are some secrets to selecting plants that are in the best health, and will bloom for a long time.

But first, a pop quiz: which plant is the better buy –

zinnia

This?

zinnia

Or this?

If you selected the bottom one – you’re right!

As tempting as it is to snatch up plants that are covered in flowers, try to resist. Those plants are already finishing their first round of blooms before you even get them home. Instead, go for the “wallflowers” – and by that I mean the plants that have few or no blooms and lots of buds:

black-eyed susan

This rule applies to hanging baskets too:

hanging basket

I would not recommend buying a basket that looks like this. Yes, it is blanketed with pretty flowers – but see how many blooms are already spent? And there are hardly any buds – meaning that this basket is just about done.

Now let’s say you find the last of a plant you simply must have – but it’s covered with blooms. By all means go for it! Just pinch off all of the flowers (down to the next set of leaves) after the plant is installed, which will promote fresh flowering. This is painful to do – I know – but your plants will thank you for it, I promise!

A few more examples:

lantana

Plant on the left? Okay. Plant on the right? Better.

angelonia

Meh.

angelonia

Yes.

red salvia

red salvia

You getting the picture here?

Another plant “red flag” is long legs. Tall, leggy plants on spindly stems are to be avoided at all cost. Remember how much I hate staking? Well, plants like these:

zinnia

And these:

red salvia

Are sure to need staking to stay up. In addition, they will never look as lush and attractive as their shorter, fuller counterparts.

heliotrope

The shorter plant on the left is your best bet!

Keep in mind that these rules apply to annuals, not perennials. Take this perennial sage, for example:

salvia

If this were an annual I’d pass on it, but as a perennial it is absolutely fine. I would simply cut down the flower stalks to promote another flush of blooms, or to just keep the plant looking neat and clean for the rest of the season. You can read my article about deadheading to learn more about this technique.

I hope you find this helpful as the summer season gets underway – and as always, I’m happy to answer all of your gardening questions here.

Happy planting!

A special “thank you” to H. Carlson Florist, for permission to photograph and post pictures on my site.

4 Responses to “how to pick the perfect plant”

  • Mike&Jan Fluchere says:

    Excellent advice; horticulturaly right-on!

  • I love this piece!!! I nearly made my friend faint one day when we were planting flowers in her yard and I started to dead head her plants. But, they came back stronger and she forgave me!! Lol Thanks for such a great and easy to follow guide!!

  • They all do look so pretty though. At the moment we’re in the middle of winter so we’re not seeing that much colour. I would love a few of these blooms in my garden bed! xx

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