How to Pick Out The Best Seedlings in a Plant Nursery


If you want to plant your garden on the cheap, the logical choice is to grow your future plants from seed. The sad reality though, is that we rarely have the time, space or resources to grow a garden from scratch in our hectic everyday lives. We often lack the knowledge to do so, as well.

How do we go about the process of selecting the several times more expensive seedlings, so that we don’t have to throw away some of them later? What is the secret to choosing the best possible plants in a plant nursery in order to avoid disappointment later?

Here are some tips from the professionals.

Take a Look at the Nursery

Before you even start shopping, take a look around. What is the overall appearance of all plant sections, not just the type you are interested in. Do you see the characteristics of healthy seedlings, or sick and withered plants?

If too many plants do not look good, leave the place empty-handed. You don’t need bad plants that will end up dead the next day, before they even make it to the garden.

Do You Notice Any Pests

Now this is a big one. Even though it might not be immediately apparent, plants which have a longer lifespan tend to spend quite some time in the nursery or garden center. As time passes, chances increase for pest infestation and the spreading of all sorts of harmful insects, such as mealy bugs or spider mites.

If you notice any kind of pests, they might have already infected the plant or plants you are interested in buying. Needless to say, you hardly want to risk spreading this into your home garden by bringing in a suspicious plant.

Check the Plant From Top To Bottom

When it comes to seedlings, don’t go for the bigger or taller plants. The smaller the seedling, the less transplant shock it is likely to experience when you move it to its intended place at home. Taller plants might also have occupied a shady place, and their size might be the result of competing for more light and warmth in order to survive. Read more about this here.

Take a good look at the roots. A sturdy root system almost certainly means you can relax and trust you will be growing a healthy plant. It should also come out in one piece, without causing the soil to fall off. If the roots are strong enough, they should be able to hold the pot mixture together.

Leaves should have good appearance, solid colour, strong growth and enough new shoots to show they are flourishing. The presence of pale, yellow or withered leaves is a warning that the plant is in a really bad shape, due to poor conditions or neglect.

Stems should be sturdy and show no signs of torn or broken parts. Even if the plant seems to have healed, any form of damage is likely to weaken it and shorten its life.

Look Out For Weeds

Do you notice the presence of weeds in the plant pot? Take a good look around, not just in the pot you’ve picked out. You can find a list of some of the most common weeds at

Weeds are not only robbing the plant of nutrients, they are also a danger to your home garden, similarly to plant diseases and pests. Just like you wouldn’t want your garden infested with plant nursery pests, the same goes for weeds you can unknowingly take home with you from the garden center. Carefully check for the presence of any weeds before you buy.

Go for The Buds

Blooming plants are so beautiful and tempting, right? If a plant is in full bloom, though, this means the flowers might soon start to fall off and you have to wait for new ones until next year.

That is why a much better option is to go for buds. A budding plant will enable you to enjoy its beauty for the whole period it is in bloom. You just need to be patient for the buds to turn into flowers.

What Are the Overall Conditions

What conditions is the plant growing in? Is the pot soil too wet or too dry? It needs to be just right, so that the plant is not stressed.

Is the pot clean or covered in moss or some other form of growth? If the latter is true, then the pot has either been reused, or lying around for a very long time. In that case, move on.

Look where the seedlings are displayed. Are they in front of the nursery, exposed to the heat of the sun all day long? Or somewhere at the back of the shop, where light and air might be insufficient? Now this might be a no brainer, but there are small details we sometimes miss, and which will have a great impact on the health and well-being of the plant.

Get Fresh Stuff

One of the best tactics to apply is to go to garden centers and plant nurseries, which are visited by a large number of people on a regular basis. In this way supplies will run out fast and lead to frequent restocking. These are also places where you will certainly find proper the nursery and landscaping supplies you need. Fresh supplies are a guarantee that the plants have not been sitting around for long before you get them.

Purchase Locally

Always try to buy stuff from local growers. Why? Because plants which have undergone a vast change of temperature and growing conditions will have a hard time to adapt. They might even struggle to survive in the new place.

Even if there is no abrupt change of climate, long hours of transportation will also result in temporary lack of care and maintenance. That is why the shorter it took the plants to get to you, the better.

Always Read the Label

Unless you know the ins and outs of caring after a specific plant species, always read the label to find out what conditions, space and care a plant is going to need.

Make sure you will be able to provide all three, otherwise it is not advisable to get one.

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