Some Things to Consider Before Buying Plants

When purchasing plants there are a few things key to consider before heading out to make your selections. Read on for a few tips from Master Gardener Audrey Gillespie:

Abilenian Article by Audrey Gillespie

Do you have a general plan for the area you are going to plant? If you do, you will likely be more satisfied in the long run than if you buy all your plants on impulse.


How much sun will the plants you buy receive? If a tag says full sun, be sure there are eight hours of sun in that area.

Shade is a little trickier. Light shade can usually be achieved with an eastern exposure. According to Steve Huddleston, the senior horticulturist at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens and author of “Easy Gardens for North Central Texas,” light shade under a tree means you look up and see only about 20-30% foliage compared to the amount of sky visible. Medium shade would be about 50%. Dense shade is no more than 20-30% of visible sky.


What kind of soil is present in the location you are considering for plants? Whether clay or sand, adding compost will improve it. If you are considering plants that demand excellent drainage, you need a sandy soil or need to build an above-ground bed to accommodate your choices.


As you consider color, think about the effect you want. Cool colors like blues and grays will give the illusion of distance, a decided advantage in a small garden. They are also soothing.

Bright colors demand attention. Create an atmosphere of excitement with them.

You can create a harmonious planting with colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. For drama, combine colors from opposite sides.


Unless you are planting succulents or cactuses, you will need to pay special attention to watering. A rule of thumb is to water at least three times a week until the plants are established. That might be a couple of weeks for many annuals and herbaceous perennials or a season or more for shrubs and trees. Those fragile roots need time to recover from being transplanted. You can buy a water meter for just a few dollars to help you keep the root ball from drying out without overwatering.


Have mulch ready to cover the soil around your new plants. Three inches will help reduce evaporation of water from the soil and help moderate soil temperatures. If you use an organic mulch like wood chips, it will break down over time and actually improve the quality of your soil.


Be sure you look for a copy of the first edition of the Big Country Master Gardener Association’s new book, “Successful Gardening in the Big Country” at the plant sale. They are just $15 and will prove to be a great resource.


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Until next time, happy gardening!

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