Most flowers are grown from seed, but if you want faster color and blooms in your flower garden, buy bedding plants. These are available through most garden stores and online. However, it is better to buy flowers for planting from a local source---to inspect them for quality.
Check local ads in the newspaper for sales on bedding plants. In early spring, most garden centers and some home improvement stores sell plants for flower beds.
Check the plants for signs of disease. Even if you find a great sale on flowers, it won't be much of a bargain if the flowers die when you get them home. Check for brown spots on the leaves, fuzzy gray or brown areas on the foliage, including the stem. In addition, the University of Vermont Extension recommends looking for yellowed leaves, which could indicate the plants have not been watered enough and may have permanent root damage.
Look for signs of insect activity. Obvious signs include visible insects and chew marks on the plant. Also check under the leaves, especially near the stems, for a white sticky substance that may indicate mealy bugs. Although most greenhouses spray plants for diseases and insects, this doesn't always mean the plants will be disease and insect free.
Choose the sturdiest plants---and don't feel you have to buy the whole flat or flat sectional if one or two plants look unhealthy. Ask to exchange the unhealthy plants for healthier specimens. Healthy flowers are pert, with no signs of wilting. Depending on the type of flower you choose, they may or may not already have blooms. Petunias and marigolds generally do and will add instant color to your flower garden.
Look for many unopened buds on flowers for continued blooming after you get the flowers home and planted. The University of Vermont Extension suggests also opting for plants grown in 4- to 6-inch pots, rather than in shallow flats, if you want the flowers to establish more quickly in your garden. Larger plants in these pots have a better head start than smaller bedding plants in flats.
Ask the merchant for a discount if you buy in bulk. Smaller, privately owned shops are more likely to offer a discount to please customers and keep them returning. Also, ask what fertilizer is used and how often so you'll know what to feed the flowers and how often.