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Do you like shopping for plants?  I do.  In fact, I often find myself tempted to buy more plants than I have space for.

10 Things To Know Before Buying Plants

Southwest Nursery

Sometimes, I have come home with a plant I bought on impulse, unable to resist its lovely flowers.

It may surprise you to find out that there are potential pitfalls to avoid when shopping at the nursery such as unhealthy plants, not allowing for enough room in the garden for plants and buying plants that may are ill-suited to your area.

10 Things To Know Before Buying Plants

Before you head out to the nursery to add plants to your garden, I invite you to learn some helpful tips to make it a rewarding visit – from recognizing the signs of unhealthy plants, why smaller may be better and why it’s better to pass over a plant in full bloom for one that isn’t and more.  I promise that following even one of these tips will save you from buyers remorse and an empty wallet.

You can find my ten favorite tips for plant buying in my latest article for Houzz.com.  I hope you find it helpful!

 
 
 

Planning a Beautiful Garden and Saving Money

Shopping for Plants California Style

Do you like to visit plant nurseries?

I do – especially when I am traveling.  It is always nice to see what plants are popular in other areas.

Last weekend, my husband and I made at trip to California to visit our daughter who is serving in the Navy.

I always enjoy visiting California – not just for its nice weather, beautiful beaches, laid back people and the scenery – although those are all things that are reason enough to visit.  The real reason that I enjoy spending time in California is that I grew up here.

I am a 4th generation, native Californian.  Those who came before me were farmers, lumbermen, a city sheriff, a truck driver who worked his way to oil company executive and a social worker (who was my dad).

Now that my daughter is stationed in California, I now have more reasons to make the trip over.

Carpinteria

During the course of our trip, we stopped by one of our favorite small towns, Carpinteria, which is located a few miles south of Santa Barbara.  This is a wonderful beach town that is backed up by tall mountains.

As we got out of our car with the intent of heading to our favorite cupcake place, I noticed not one, but two plant nurseries just a few yards away.  So, my husband and daughter patiently waited for me while I headed into to see what discoveries I could find.

lowering perennials

I had not brought my nice camera on our trip, so I had to rely on my iPhone camera, which did a pretty good job, except that I tend to take a lot of pictures and my battery soon died.  Luckily, my husband had his phone and I used it to take the rest of my pictures.

Believe it or not, I don’t buy a lot of plants when I visit nurseries – my landscape has more than enough plants in it.  But I am always on the lookout for plants that I don’t know about or are new to the market.

Often, nurseries can serve as inspiration for your own garden with creative plant pairings as shown in the photo, above.

This particular nursery was filled with mostly flowering perennials, annuals and vegetable transplants.

purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

I love a colorful garden and was excited to check out the flowering perennials.  I did find a new perennial introduction called ‘Echibeckia’, which is a cross between purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia).

flowering perennials

I saw this shrub that had been pruned into a tree.  Its brilliant purple flowers were almost blinding.  I’m not sure what it is – but it’s gorgeous!

*Update – a very kind reader (Rusthawk) was kind enough to identify this plant as Tibouchina – thank you!

lavender and lantana.

I love Mediterranean climates and the plants that grow well in them.  Many of these plants also grow well in the desert garden like lavender and lantana.

flowering perennials

Like I mentioned before, I do love flowering perennials and I have both black eyed Susan and purple coneflower growing in my garden.  However, I don’t have them in my regular landscape areas where it is not fertile enough and doesn’t get enough water.  I plant a them among my vegetable gardens where they help to attract pollinators.

 beautiful containers

In addition to pretty perennials, I am a sucker for beautiful containers like these.  Too bad that I don’t have a big enough budget to even consider buying these.  I’m still figuring out what to do with my free Tuscan planters.

colorful flowers

Butterflies and hummingbirds were flying about, enjoying the nectar from the colorful flowers.

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed 

If you add butterfly weed to your garden, you’ll be bound to attract any butterflies nearby.

There were so many butterflies fluttering about that people were able to get up close to them.

A monarch butterfly was feeding on the purple blossom of a butterfly bush, seemingly ignorant of the people who stopped to admire it.  A very nice woman, standing next to me, took a video and was kind enough to share it with me – Thank you, KD!

flowering perennials

After I tore myself away from staring at butterflies, I decided to see what else this nursery offered in addition to to flowering perennials.  My attention was immediately drawn by the variety of potted succulents.  If you like succulents – there is no better place to grow them than in California where they enjoy the Mediterranean climate with its warm, relatively frost-free temperatures.

As I was looking at the succulents, I saw a bright flash of purple and bright green off to the side.

Shopping for Plants California Style

New leaf lettuce transplants had just arrived along with potted artichokes.

While my garden is not quite ready for fall planting, I am already envisioning rows upon rows of leaf lettuce, which is my favorite vegetable to grow.

vegetable gardens

Who says that vegetable gardens can’t be beautiful?  

I plant both red and green leaf lettuce varieties in my garden each year.  I like the gorgeous color contrast that also looks great in your salad bowl.

kale transplants

I also like these assorted kale transplants.  I didn’t add any to my garden last year, but may consider doing so this year.

Have any of you grown kale?  How did it do for you?

As I slowly walked back through the nursery, I stuck my phone in my pocket and was ready to join my husband and daughter who were patiently waiting for me.

BUT, as I walked out the entrance I found myself facing another nursery.

most unique nursery

I’ll give you this glimpse of the entrance of the most unique nursery that I have ever had the opportunity to visit.

Behind its fairly unremarkable entrance, lay secret gardens filled with unusual plants that I will show you next time.

Have you ever seen the following sight when shopping at the nursery?

discarded plants

It just makes me want to cry.

Seriously, I just want to take them home, nurse them back to health and find good homes for them.

I do understand that nurseries probably have problems selling plants that are past their prime and have to remove them from the shelves.

But some nurseries just throw them out even though they can still be planted and in most cases, survive.

Some nurseries put these less then desirable plants in the back and sell them at a reduced price.  
Unfortunately, not all plants you find in nurseries (particularly big box stores) aren’t suitable for your climate.  In the shopping cart above, daffodils have a hard time growing in the desert – but it’s not impossible.  The primrose in the bottom, make great container plants in winter.

So, the next time you visit your favorite nursery, look in the back section, which is where the the discarded/discounted plants are likely to be found.  Maybe you can ‘rescue’ some plants and give them a good home 🙂

How about you?

Have you ever seen discarded plants at your nursery or do they sell them at a discount?

plant nursery

A horticulturist in a plant nursery is much like a kid in a candy store, which can be VERY dangerous…..

plant nursery

This is where I found myself a couple of weeks ago after spending the day walking through the beautiful gardens of “The Living Desert“.

The gardens themselves, were absolutely spectacular and I posted about the beautiful flowers and the strange and unusual plants earlier.  Well, we were on our way out after 4 hours of walking around the gardens when I saw their plant nursery.

plant nursery

Well, one look at the glazed expression on my face, caused my family to find the closest bench to sit on because they knew it would be a while before they would see me again.

Agave attenuata

Agave attenuata

I particularly love visiting nurseries that are connected to botanical gardens because you can usually find plants that are hard to find elsewhere.  

plant nursery

Unlike some of the big box stores, you will not find plants that are not suited to that particular area offered up for sale.  This is a huge pet peeve of mine which I will cover in a later post.

Coral Aloe

Coral Aloe (Aloe striata)

The quality of the plants cannot be matched anywhere else either.

Saguaro

 An assortment of Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), in different sizes offered for sale. 

The nursery staff was assisting a couple of new desert residents in making their choices and were very helpful and knowledgeable.  Unfortunately, this is also not often the case in big box stores.

Angelita Daisy

Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)

I was quite overwhelmed at the selection that was available and I could have spent hours just looking and making choices, but my family was waiting patiently for me and so I tried my best to hurry.   

Somehow, I got out of there with only 3 plants….2 Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’ and 1 Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii).  

plant nursery

It is a miracle that I came away with so few plants…..