How to Buy Plants


A lush vegetable garden or beautiful ornamental landscape starts at the very beginning when you're buying the plants. Don't just pick anything that catches your eye while you're strolling through a garden store or nursery. Researching your garden site and choosing healthy plants that match your environment is critical for the longevity of your landscape.

Step 1

Research your planting site, paying attention to environmental factors that will affect the types of plants you can grow. Important factors for selecting plants, according to Cornell University Extension, include whether the area is shaded or sunny; the kind of soil present, including soil pH as determined by using a pH testing kit available from most garden stores; and whether any nearby structures, like utility poles or roof eaves, will affect how tall the plants can grow.

Step 2

Choose the plant species you want to grow. Enter your environmental conditions into the University of Connecticut's plant database (see Resources), or call your regional cooperative extension office to find plants that can grow in your region and your garden's conditions.

Step 3

Visit a garden store or nursery that sells the plants recommended for your site. You'll typically be faced with dozens of potted specimens of a specific plant species. Quickly narrow your choices by only considering potted plants that are proportionate to the pot they're grown in. The University of Arizona warns against picking the biggest or smallest plant, as the former can be root bound while the latter may be a new seedling.

Step 4

Inspect the plant before buying it. Foliage must be the appropriate color for the plant species and not appear brown, curled or wilted, or marked with spots that may indicate a disease or pest problem. Additionally, look for insect activity, avoiding any plant infested with bugs.

Step 5

Buy the plant and transplant it home immediately. If you're using an open truck bed to transport the plant, cover it with a blanket or tarp to keep the wind from damaging it. If transporting the plant inside a car, open your windows to prevent heat buildup which can cause wilting.


  • "Taylor's Master Guide to Landscaping"; Rita Buchanan; 2000
  • Cornell University Extension: Plant Health Care
  • University of Arizona Extension: Plant Selection

Who Can Help

  • University of Connecticut: Plant Database
  • USDA: Find a Cooperative Extension Office
  • American Nursery and Landscape Association
Keywords: buying plants, selecting plants, choosing plants

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.