1. At the nursery: Buy the best
Look for plants that have healthy foliage and no roots creeping out of the nursery container’s bottom drain holes (which means they’re probably rootbound).
2. Small is smarter
When you have a choice, buy little plants (in 4-inch nursery pots); they’re less expensive (usually under $5), easier to handle, and will catch up to the larger ones with winter rains. Smaller plants are your best bet if you need multiples to fill out a bed. Gallon-size plants, on the other hand, start around $10 each but can provide instant effects.
3. Check plant tags
Find out how big the plants will grow, and whether they need sun or shade. Then choose plants that will thrive in the spot you have in mind for them. “Full sun,” for example, means you should plant in a spot that gets at least six hours of sun a day.
4. Consider compost
Unless you have your own compost pile at home, or perfect garden soil that drains well, buy bagged compost to add to the soil before planting annuals, edibles, and many ornamentals (trees and native plants generally do not need added compost). It’s often sold at nurseries in 1- and 2-cubic-foot bags, and in bulk at garden suppliers. Avoid bagged compost that looks as though it has been piled and stored in hot sun for months—it won’t do much for your soil.
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