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Hort in the Home Landscape

A blog devoted to sharing timely horticulture topics and answering the questions of gardeners and homeowners.
Amaryllis bulb growing out of container

Inspect Those Bargain Plants

Buying bargain plants at the garden center can be very tempting, but before buying that marked down plant, it's important to give it a good inspection.

Usually when a plant is marked down it's either because it is towards the end of the season for that plant, or it's because there is a problem with that plant. Some of these problems may include various diseases or insects that are infecting the plant which you could then spread to the other plants in your home or garden.

Using some inspection techniques can help you decide whether that plant is a quality plant to purchase still.

1. First inspect the leaves and stems of the plant closely. Look on the upper and lower sides of the leaf looking for any symptoms of insects feeding on the plant or for any sign of disease. Signs of insect feeding could include a sticky, shiny substance on the upper leaf surface possibly caused by aphids. Or there may be white fuzz covered insects called mealybugs that have attached themselves to stems or leaves. All are common pests that can infect potted plants.

2. Look for any browning, spotting, or wilting of leaves as well. Those symptoms may be due to improper watering, but they may also me signs of other problems or disease.

3. The root system is also important to inspect. Carefully turn the plant over and gently remove the root ball from the pot. Upon doing this, check to make sure roots look white and healthy and have formed a solid root ball that does not fall apart when pulled out of the pot. Large circling roots may be a sign that the plant has been in that pot for an extended period of time and roots that are darkened and look diseased may be a symptom of disease problems.

As mentioned, the other reason a plant is marked down is simply because the season has ended for that plant.

Amaryllis bulbs for example are sold commonly during the holidays as a kit that includes the bulb, soil, and a container. I went through this inspection process myself recently at a garden center. I love amaryllis, so a 90% off amaryllis bulb is hard to pass up! Upon inspecting the bulb though, I noticed that the bulb had already begun to grow inside the package and there was a mold growing on the bulb, likely from being in a moist, warm package for too long.

If I had purchased that bulb kit, I likely would not have had good success in getting it to grow and bloom. An example of when plant inspection pays off.

The next time you're tempted by the bargain plant, be sure to give it a good inspection. If the plant passes inspection and is growing happy and healthy, that plant may be worth the reduced price as long as the planting time is still appropriate.


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