Proper root condition for planting potted plants

Spring has sprung! For many of us, this is a breath of fresh air. Time to put away the down jackets, release some winter tension and begin enjoying our gardens again. When you get out in the backyard, you might find your garden needs a “fresh face” for the season, and a great way to do that is by putting in some new plants.

Fortunately, all of the major nurseries are bringing in fresh stock. However, too much information and too many choices can make plant shopping overwhelming. Here are some tips to find success with your garden refresh.

Bigger isn’t always better: Don’t fall victim to one of the biggest mistakes shoppers make when purchasing plants in a container. An overly-large specimen may mean it has sat in its container for an extra season (or longer). This can be a major flaw, especially in woody plants. You will be hard pressed to find plants in a plastic container in nature. They’re meant to be growing in the ground, and should only be in pots for a short time.

Get down to the roots: Potted plants often bring with them serious root defects that could derail your planting success. When searching for the right plant, I recommend looking at plants from the bottom up. Don’t focus on the height or number of leaves; pull off the pot and inspect the root system. The roots are the key to a plant’s survival. If you find seriously bound roots (all knotted up together and filling the pot) or stem girdling roots (circling around the base of the plant), put that plant back and grab another.

Root issues likely won’t make a difference for a few seasons, but they can cause serious damage down the road. At that point, it can become both costly and painstaking to deal with the problems. Shop smart, shop early, and continue to enjoy your plants for the totality of their lifespan.

Get more tips on selecting plants for your garden at our Spring Plant Sale on April 9th from 8am-12pm.

Brian Larsen
GHF Garden Manager