Choosing Your plants

Pick the right size

Plants come in different sizes! Don’t buy one unless you know what its ultimate size will be. Azaleas for instance, may vary from miniature to huge.

Avoid impulse shopping

It is almost impossible to resist the many amazing plants in the garden center, but we all lose a lot of plants for lack of some advance research. Pay attention to sun and moisture requirements, and also to whether a given species is prone to fungi and insect damage.

Trust, but verify

The helpful and knowledgeable people at the garden center cannot possibly keep every detail of hundreds of plants in their heads. Nothing is as aggravating as spending seventy dollars on a shrub, only to discover that it requires a flood plain and all you have is desert. Before you actually pay for a plant that you think will fit your needs, look it up in a plant book (many garden centers have reference books) or else check it on your smart phone. GardenPilot is a wonderful app for iPhone which includes plants information for 15,000 plants. The droid users among us can’t wait to have someone invent the equivalent for us.

Always go by the scientific name

In your conversations with garden center staff, you may both assume that you each know what the other means by a common name. But if you do not double check the Latin name, you may find yourself buying the wrong plant altogether.

Don’t be fooled by the blooms

Rumor has it that some garden centers fertilize heavily, resulting in gorgeous flowers on display. When you get them home and remove them from their rich diet, they may not do so well.

Don’t plant too early

You can buy annuals in early April, but try to resist. We could have frost as late as early May. Perennials can be put in much earlier, though.

Excerpts from a Handbook for Gardening in NOVA

Written by Margaret Fisher & Friends. This book is for sale at several of our locations and can be ordered on-line through It is full of quick, easy to read tips on gardening in the Northern Virginia area.