How to Buy Your First Plants

Hands up if you’re a little nervous about the how-to when it comes to buying plants. And by buying plants I mean, knowing where to go and what you need to ask when you get there. There are many people who feel this way – scared to the point where they’ll convince themselves that a hydroponic bunch of basil from the supermarket is all they want or need… no, I’m joking. But there is some truth to it. So for anyone out there who feels daunted by the process of how to bring plants home, here are my three golden tips…

buying plants

Take a deep breath then go on in to discover a world of options and inspiration.

1.   Where to go…

There are two basic choices – an independent garden centre or a large home improvement centre. Both stock plants, and there are good reasons to go to each one.

An independent nursery will carry a broad range of stock, but possibly not in great numbers. They will have staff who are knowledgeable because this is a major part of what they are about and why people visit them. This is the place to go when you are a novice and need to make several visits to work out what you need and which plants will suit your needs. This is probably not the place to grab large numbers of plants – 25 tree magnolias to line your driveway – unless you’re happy to mix it up a little, or wait for them to put in a special order for you.

The big “box” stores are great when you know what you want or you’ve managed to drag someone in with you who does. The range of stock won’t be so large, and before you think that’s a bad thing, sometimes less choice makes for easier decision-making. You’ll find quantity if that’s what you’re after, but don’t expect garden advice to be on hand, at least in every store.


2. Before you head out…

You need a game plan in hand to have success in this outing. Spend some time at the kitchen table thinking about what you’re trying to do and what you’d like it to look like when you finish planting. It doesn’t matter if it’s a row of pots on your kitchen windowsill, a big planter by the front door, or the garden bed that wraps around the patio: you need a plan. Sketch the space and draw in what might work. Make a few notes about how sunny the spot is, and maybe jot down your ideas on colour and the sorts of plants you like the look of. Use books, magazines and on-line resources to help the process along. Draw in roughly what might go where, but relax… the aim here is to produce something that looks like a map drawn by an eight year old, not the scaled 3D rendering of a landscape architect. Rough enough is good enough.


3. Don’t be distracted…

When you actually get to the garden centre, you will instantly be distracted by everything going on around you. These are places where plants are grouped and displayed to help inspire people, which is great. But you need to keep your focus so don’t let go of that piece of paper with all your jottings.

If you find a knowledgeable staff member, make good use of them by sharing with them the contents on your piece of paper, then following them around as they show you your options. This is the most straightforward way to go about it because they will help you focus on the plants that meet your needs. Or if you’re doing this solo, don’t rush. Enjoy drifting around and looking at anything that catches your eye. Be sure to look carefully at the plant label before you pop it into your basket – you need to be the tough here and be sure it meets your needs.

That’s it. 1. Decide where to go.  2. Do a bit of thinking before you go.  3. And stick to your thinking when your out there in the wild wonderful world of plant stores . . . . Aaahhhh! It’s fun!!


buying plants wholesale

It quickly goes from a serene sea of green at the growers (above) to a sea of options at the retail centre (below). Yes, it can be overwhelming!

garden center



garden center signage

Watch for signs, because someone is trying to make things easy for us, and the information is usually easy to process.


garden center

This is even better than a sign – a push button for help!


Sweet Spot roses

You’ll find plenty of distractions along the way (which is part of the fun), usually something new and exciting (like these Sweet Spot roses). Do stop and look at what catches your eye but also stay focused.


perfect garden center

This scene is my idea of heaven, a place filled with gorgeous plants that are well organized and cared for by someone who is nearby and willing to help.


One Response to How to Buy Your First Plants

  1. Gerty Gift March 30, 2018 at 3:12 pm #

    You made a great point about visiting and figuring out what to plant first before purchasing anything. I love having a plan before I make any decisions. I think this is a great way to make sure you know exactly what you want and where it will go before you buy every pretty plant in the store. Thank you for the advice.

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