Former Shows & Episodes

The Manic Gardener

Kate Gardner

The Manic Gardener – How to Buy a Plant

On one level it can’t really get much simpler: you give them the money, they give you the plant, and you’re done. But then there’s the question of whether you and the plant stay happy with this arrangement: is the plant content in its new home, and do you remain pleased with the plant?

Toby Day, Extension Horticulture Specialist at Montana State University, returns to The Manic Gardener, this time to guide gardeners through the intricacies of the plant purchasing process. We look first at how to choose your basic herbaceous plants (vegetable starts, bedding plant, young perennials); then at selecting healthy bare-root asparagus, strawberries, and small fruits; and finally at choosing trees and shrubs. We also talk about getting these into the ground with the least effort and the greatest chance of success.

There are numerous surprises along the way: choose a stocky plant, not a tall one; look for a plant with no flowers—even if it’s a flowering plant; holes for trees and shrubs should be wider than they are deep; male asparagus live longer than female; a pampered fruit tree may bear less fruit than one under some stress; circling tree roots can strangle the tree; foliage on bare-root plants lowers their chance of survival.

Toby also shares numerous tips: he goes to nurseries armed with a sheet of white paper, which he holds under candidates while giving them a gentle shake so that pests will drop onto the paper, becoming suddenly visible. This is a plant to avoid. He also chooses plants from the middle of a table or bed, as they tend to be better watered than those at the edges. (How many people think about that?)

Many of us have brought home a plant only to watch it die, and it’s an experience most of us would prefer not to repeat. Toby can help with that.

Check the blog, The Manic Gardener, for more information and links.