There it is in the corner – that bargain bin filled with plants in desperate need of a home. Like when you walk into a pet adoption center, something in you feels hopeful and confident. Instead of your heart, though, it’s likely your green thumb and eco-friendly side compelling you to rescue a few of these clearance plants. It’s okay to indulge yourself, but choosing cheap plants wisely when you do can save you some heartbreak – and wasted cash. Consider these tips when buying bargain plants that are likely to flourish.
Tips for Shopping for Bargain Trees and Plants with a Chance
The primary factors to consider when shopping at a nursery for cheap plants are pretty much the basics we look for in any plant – keeping in mind, of course, that it is the clearance rack.
- Inspect the roots: When possible, get a look at the plant’s roots; sometimes the plant will slip right out of the pot, and some roots will be visibly hanging from drain holes. Avoid moldy, black, rotten, or stunted roots. Look instead for a ball of lighter colored roots that ideally fill the container’s bottom.
- Avoid annuals: Most annuals struggle to recover before their proper growing season ends. Perennials, trees, and shrubs are easier plants to rehabilitate.
- Pass on the Charlie Brown tree: Although it may pass all other inspections, efforts to salvage shrubs and trees that are severely misshapen along the main trunk may prove futile.
- Avoid diseased plants like the plague: Spotty, withered, discolored, or curled leaves or discolored bark could all indicate diseased plants.
- Indications of life: Look for sprigs of new growth on the branches and trunk if it appears dormant. Scratching the bark with your nail can help you see if any green, juicy tissue remains that show signs of life. Avoid plants with brittle branches and dry brown bark.
Tips for Successfully Growing Salvaged Plants
So, you took the plunge to rescue a few cheap plants. Here are a few pointers for rehabilitating distressed plants and shrubs.
- Expect little to no blooms from your plant this season, and know that it may be years before your perennials and shrubs catch up to their healthy, established counterparts. Those that make a quick rebound are a nice surprise.
- A little water and a little shade protection during blazing temps can go a long way in helping a distressed plant.
- Adding phosphorus to the planting hole can promote root growth; however, you should avoid fertilizing until the following spring. Plants often have their own timetable in mind.
- Prune away newly planted shrubs so far as to remove their dead wood only, and save the heavier pruning and shaping until springtime.
- If your planting takes place in spring, reduce stress on the plant’s root system by pruning them back by at least one half or a third.
With a little knowledge walking in, you can choose worthwhile plants from the clearance bin and have a decent chance of fostering their survival. Remember, it’s not the surface appearance that counts most, but rather it’s what lies at the root of the plant and beneath its skin that matters most.