How to Choose the Best Plant Starts at the Nursery

Do you buy your plant starts from a local nursery? Here are a few tips on how to choose the best plant starts for your garden!
Do you buy your plant starts from a local nursery? Here are a few tips on how to choose the best plant starts for your garden!
Rick Stone at OurStoneyAcres.comGrowing season has arrived for most of us around the country. Now is the time to get your vegetable and flower starts in the soil. So here are a few tips for choosing the best plants at your local nursery!
  • Choose the right store! I avoid box store plants like the plague. Instead find a local smaller nursery where the employees actually know how to care for seedlings and care about giving you the best product!
  • Find a local grower. Buy directly from the grower if you can. If not, then find a nursery that buys from a local grower. You want plants that spent hours on a truck not days! (This is another reason I avoid box store nurseries)
  • Buy on the right day. Ask your nursery when they get new deliveries and shop that day or the next when the selection of plants will be the best and freshest. Come back often and be picky about what you buy, don’t just get something because its all they have!
  • Where are the plants being displayed? Flowers and veggie displays at the front of a store in full sun right next to the hot side walk are not going to be the best plants you can buy. What does the store look like, is it well kept, are the plants watered well?
  • Look at the leaves of the plant not the flowers. Nice dark green, healthy looking leaves are more Important than flowers. In fact I prefer to buy flower plants without flowers. A plant without flowers but instead with nice tight buds will end up being a much better choice.

Petunia Start

  • Smaller compact plants will always be the better choice. This is especially true with vegetable starts. A nice small healthy plant will give you better results.

Tomato Start

  • Avoid any veggie starts that have flowers (including tomatoes). Flowers on a small vegetable plant often means the plant has been stressed and is trying to hurry and set seed. Choose veggie starts that are small and compact without any flowers at all. (And never buy a tomato start that already has tomatoes!)
  • Watch out for tall leggy plants. Many plants can recover from “legginess”, but they will spend weeks trying to compensate when they should be growing.
  • Look at the roots! Don’t be afraid to carefully remove the plant from its pot. Look for signs of root damage, disease, or root bound plants. If you pull a start from its container and find a tight clump of circling roots you should move on! Another sign of a root bound plant is a start that is much larger than you would expect for the size of its pot. A big plant in a small pot means its root bound. Root bound plants seldom do well and many never recover.

Good Roots & Bad Roots Collage

  • Look out for signs of bug damage or disease. Be sure to check under the leaves for signs of aphids or other critters that you don’t want to be bringing home with you. And never choose seedlings that have weeds growing in the pot!
Take your time, search for the best, don’t grab from the front. A little extra time and effort spent at the nursery will pay big dividends later in your garden.
For more great gardening tips be sure to stop by my blog.
Rick Stone at

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