Buy garden plants? Here’s what to look for

It’s a great idea, but it will work even better if you do a bit of pre-planning. Before heading to your favorite garden store, try to note the number of hours of sunlight available where you will be putting your new plants.

Besides the availability of water, the light requirements are probably the most important factor to consider. You might think of some plants you’ve seen and loved (OK, coveted); try to learn their names if possible and learn more about them. Also, what is your goal for the new factories? Do you want a certain bloom color, a plant of a certain height, or maybe you have a moment in mind when you would like that plant to bloom? These general suggestions can also be considered for edible plants, not just flowers.

These gorgeous orange blossoms are one of the many plant varieties available at the Bergen Greenhouse in Detroit Lakes this spring. (JoAnn Dobis / Special at the Tribune)

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Buying early in the growing season allows you to buy younger plants, which are less likely to be pot tied, and give your plants a head start to get used to being in your home. It is best to buy from reputable nurseries because they are inspected and knowledgeable, and they sell plants that are likely to be healthy and free from harmful insects.

Annual plants, those that flower only one season and then die, are in a way our superficial and short-term plant relationships. How you care for them is a little less important since you know they will leave you at the end of the growing season. Annuals will usually bloom throughout the growing season as they don’t have to save energy to get through the winter, so they’re great for splashing color. The labels that came with the plants should give you enough information about the light and water needs of your new annuals.

Perennials, however, require a longer term commitment. Before entering into this relationship, you need to be sure that you and your factory will be able to meet each other’s needs. Perennials usually flower less than annuals, but they’ll be with you in the long run. Their needs for nutrition, light and water are greater than those of annuals. Plus, be aware of their “hardiness zone” which will tell you if the plant you desire is likely to survive our northern Minnesota winters. We are in USDA Hardiness Zone 3, so if you see a plant that says “perennial” but is only hardy for zone 5 (a much warmer part of the country) it might not come back there. ‘next year. Make sure, when purchasing a perennial, that you take into account the MATURE size of the plant and the spacing needs.

The plants you buy should look healthy – don’t buy one that looks wimpy or sickly, or one that shows visible signs of pests or disease. Notice its general appearance, look at the leaves, from both sides, and even inspect the condition of the roots. Beware of roots that grow in a circle or stick out from the bottom of the pot. The biggest plant is not necessarily the best. Opt for plants that are ready to flower or in full bloom.

Bergen Greenhouse in Detroit Lakes offers a wide assortment of plants, not only flowers, but also fruits, herbs and vegetables.  (JoAnn Dobis / Special at the Tribune)

Bergen Greenhouse in Detroit Lakes offers a wide assortment of plants, not only flowers, but also fruits, herbs and vegetables. (JoAnn Dobis / Special at the Tribune)

When you bring home your new plants, remember the adage “The right plant, in the right place”. A happy, well-groomed plant where it lives is less likely to get sick.