PLANT BUYING GUIDE

Plants  for Sale

How exciting! It's time to start looking for plants to buy! Unfortunately, it can be tough navigating the world of nurseries. Many nurseries carry a growing variety of native plants, but plants can be expensive and having a little know-how of what to look for when buying plants can save you time and money.

How are plants sold?

When you're buying plants, they aren't usually just laying out on a table in a pile of dirt. Your perennials may come in pots, plugs, or seeds. 

What's the difference between Pots, Plugs, and Seeds

 

If you go to a nursery, odds are you will be buying pots or container stock. There plants typically have a root system that fill most of the container and adds instant life to your yard. They are usually on the pricey side since a lot of time and energy has gone in to keeping that plant happy and healthy for you.

Plugs are a less common type of planting container. Most places use plugs for annuals, but are starting to be used for perennials as well. They are a cheaper alternative to pots because they are smaller with less-established root systems and won't give you that immediate satisfaction of planting larger container stock. However, with care and patience, plugs will grow wonderfully.

Seeds are the cheapest way to buy plants. You can get them online from reputable sellers, making it easier for you to buy exactly what you're looking for. However, it does mean a little extra care on your part.

What's the takeaway here? The form in which you buy your plants is determined by time, impatience, and cost. Keep in mind that whether you are buying seed or container stock, it is the care that you put into your plants that helps them grow. So if you have some time on your hands but not a lot of money, skip the nursery and try growing from seed. If you want to see results right away, container stock is the way to go. And, if you're really clever, you can plant both pots and seeds.

What am I looking at here?

Yep, that definitely looks like a plant, but how can I tell if it's a good plant?

What's the difference between Pots, Plugs, and Seeds

 

If you go to a nursery, odds are you will be buying pots or container stock. There plants typically have a root system that fill most of the container and adds instant life to your yard. They are usually on the pricey side since a lot of time and energy has gone in to keeping that plant happy and healthy for you.

Plugs are a less common type of planting container. Most places use plugs for annuals, but are starting to be used for perennials as well. They are a cheaper alternative to pots because they are smaller with less-established root systems and won't give you that immediate satisfaction of planting larger container stock. However, with care and patience, plugs will grow wonderfully.

Seeds are the cheapest way to buy plants. You can get them online from reputable sellers, making it easier for you to buy exactly what you're looking for. However, it does mean a little extra care on your part.

How Can I be Sure it's Native?

Use the Scientific Name

 

Common names can get confusing, especially when a plant has more than one. Sixth grad science taught us this and it's finally coming in handy in the real world! Scientific names seem scary but are incredibly helpful in this situation. If you know what plant you're looking for, the best thing to do is look online before hand and check the scientific name and glance at a few photos to get an idea of what the plant looks like. 

But what about cultivars?

 

There are many cultivars of native plants that are bred for specific colors, forms, and environmental tolerances. On the whole, cultivars are not as good, ecologically speaking, as the straight native variety. Cultivars are usually indicated in quotation marks and are usually some cute or descriptive name. If you can get your hands on the non-cultivar, straight native species, buy that one. If cultivars are your only option, consider researching the cultivars you found to make sure there are no outstanding concerns about it.

Tree Info

Trees are a valuable, often underappreciated, part of our lives. They provide shade, filter air, clean the water, and support ecosystems among so many other important services. If you're planting a tree, you are doing the Earth a great service. But to maximize its' skillset for you and the environment, you have to choose the right one.

How are Trees Packaged?

Like perennials, trees come in different ways

 

Small trees and saplings often come in container stock/pots. 

Balled and burlap is the default root holding system for most trees. Trees grown in a nursery are dug out of the ground with a giant shovel machine. The root ball of the tree is then wrapped in burlap and secured with a metal basket. Because the tree roots stay contained in the soil, this method allows for trees to stay out of the ground for a bit.

While balled and burlap is an industry standard, it is also problematic. When the tree is dug up, the spades slice through roots, leaving the tree with a fraction of the network it once had. This stresses the tree out, as well as limiting its ability to absorb nutrients and water once the tree is planted in its new location. The large ball of soil is also quite heavy, and often requires the aid of heavy machinery to get it into the ground.

Seeds are the cheapest way to buy plants. You can get them online from reputable sellers, making it easier for you to buy exactly what you're looking for. However, it does mean a little extra care on your part.

What is Caliper and DBH?

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