Shopping for Plants: Thoughtful plant choice over impulsive buying

The growing season is fast approaching. The local big box stores will soon be bringing myriads of plants for sale. It is very typical that these plants show up forced in bloom and ready to be nabbed up by customers weary from cold, dark colorless days of winter. My advice; be cautious when impulse plant buying.

Many of the plants on display are early spring blooming and once the warmer weather starts later in the spring many of those plants tend to burn out or head into a summer dormancy period and not look great again until the next year.  Sure you can buy them if you like, just realize many of those plants will be a “Flash in the Pan” bit of color and then nothing the rest of the growing season.

Best advice is to have a well thought out plan before you go shopping and make sure to address all seasons to be sure your garden looks good at every point of the growing season.  This might mean buying plants with just a few scant leaves early in the spring. Have faith and know these plants will come into their own when the season is right for it.  In the early spring when you are tempted to buy only what is in color you will probably end up with one season of bloom.  A good example of this is Hibiscus moscheutos, the Rose Mallow. This is a hardy form of perennial Hibiscus most noted for its very large (up to 12”) red, pink, or white blossoms.  The Rose Mallow at that time may just appear as a container with a small amount of cut off, dead looking stems.  Rose Mallow usually doesn’t start growing actively until well into May so if you just shop the dazzling color on display early in the spring you will miss planting for late summer and early fall, the season when the Rose Mallow is at its finest.

This is just one of many, many examples of plants that may not look like anything when you are eagerly plant shopping in the spring especially when you are comparing them to the early spring flowers of Ranunculus, Phlox and Rockcress.

Plan and do the research, better yet work with an experienced professional who knows about plants and design. Do not be afraid to by the pot full of dormant (but healthy) looking stems or buds it may surprise you later!

Eichenlaub can help you design, install, and maintain plants that you will love all season!  If you have any further question about selection and design of an “All Seasons Perennial Garden” just let us know!


– Kevin Anthony Prall


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Kevin Prall is a landscape consultant at Eichenlaub with a degree in ornamental horticulture from Colorado State University.