5 tips for choosing healthy plants at a discount

How do you avoid buying a lemon of a lemon tree at a big-box retailer? Fortunately, plants don't have very good poker faces — they show how they're feeling, and if you know what to look for, you can buy healthy plants wherever you shop. So here are five things to watch when shopping around for a healthy plant.

5 tips for choosing healthy plants at a discount

Garden centres and nurseries would like you to believe you're a fool if you buy plants from discount hardware outfits, supermarkets and department stores, but in many cases these discounters buy plants from the same distributors as the premium garden centres do. The difference is in what happens after the plants go on display at the store — generally, plants will receive more expert care and constant attention at a garden centre, and so they'll stay healthier.

1. General surroundings

Take a quick look at all of the plants on display. If they generally look good, they're probably getting decent care. If half of them are drooping or brown, head somewhere else, even if the plants you want look healthy.

2. Roots

If roots are bunched up and growing profusely out of the drainage holes, the plant is pot-bound and likely stressed. Conversely, if the plant lifts easily from the pot, it may have just been repotted and its roots won't be ready for the garden. With trees or shrubs, the root-ball should feel solid inside the burlap covering.

3. Overall appearance

The leaves should be green and shiny, not wilting or yellow and brown. The plant should be full and bushy, rather than tall and lean. Stems should be uncracked and scar-free.

4. Buds

Look for budding rather than flowering plants. Budding plants will transplant easier.

5. Pests and disease

Inspect the entire plant carefully, especially under the leaves, for any pests or signs of disease. If the plant passes thisentire inspection with flying colours, it likely will thrive in your garden, no matter thepedigree of the purveyor.

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