Are cheap plants more likely to die? 6 things to check before buying a plant

Alan Titchmarsh discusses the benefits of gardening in lockdown

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Gardening is an extremely popular hobby right now, with many of us taking better care of our gardens during the pandemic. Lockdown has seen many of us become reliant on our garden as a calming space within nature, or just as an extension of our homes. This has in turn led to people giving their garden some much-needed TLC to transform it into a welcoming retreat, but the process can cost lots of money. Is it okay to buy cheap plants, or are cheap plants more likely to die? Express.co.uk chatted to Gardening-Guru at Miracle-Gro, Kate Turner (www.lovethegarden.com) to find out.

Buying a few plants is the obvious first step to transforming your outdoor space, whether you’ve got acres of land or a small balcony, patio or kitchen windowsill.

However, if you’re strapped for cash you might be reluctant to splurge on plants.

Kate said: “When it comes to plants and flowers, there will always be the question of whether or not you should invest in them, or if cheaper options are the way forward.

“Some will say it’s worth the investment, but some may challenge that – especially if they are gardening novices or living somewhere that they know won’t be a ‘forever home’.”

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Are cheap plants more likely to die?

Supermarkets and money-saving stores sell plants and flowers much cheaper than specialist stores and garden centres, but are bargain plants cheaper because of the quality?

Kate explained that while it might be easier to buy plants and seeds during your weekly supermarket shop, these plants can be “very hit and miss”.

She explained: “Plants will often be mass-produced and imported, alongside being put in the hostile environment of a shop and often neglected for weeks by staff as they are not professional gardeners.

“Similarly to humans, plants also get stressed if they are put in hostile environments – they might look healthy when you purchase them, but within a few weeks, they may well fail.”

Forget convenience – if you really want to build a beautiful garden that continues to flower for years on end, you will need to spend a little extra money.

Kate said: “I would recommend buying your plants and flowers in garden centres or nurseries as they will more likely be cared for and be less stressed to start with as they are handled by gardening professionals.

“You will also be able to get specialist knowledge and help if needed, which is something a supermarket or bargain store wouldn’t be able to offer.”

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Wherever you buy your plants or flowers, Kate said there are six things you need to check before you hand over the cash:

  • Check the leaves of the plant and avoid buying them if there are holes, sticky leaves or if they fall off when you gently shake them. The plant may have an infestation or disease and you won’t want to take that home with you.
  • If you can, tip the plant out carefully from the pot and check the roots, if they go round and round then it is root-bound and unlikely to thrive once planted.
  • If the plant is really dry or really wet then it will already be under stress and hard to look after at home, especially houseplants.
  • If it’s an outdoor plant but is sold inside then don’t plant outside straight away, let the plant get used to being outside by taking it out during the day and bringing it in at night for a week or so.
  • If buying bulbs, give them a squeeze. If they are soft with any green on them, don’t buy them.
  • Don’t buy seed or bulb packets if they are kept in a sunny location as they need to be stored in a cool dark place.

Can you buy plants online?

If you don’t fancy going into a store to buy plants, you can definitely buy your plants online.

However, Kate said: “Many bargains can be found online, which is especially useful during the lockdown, but I would always recommend buying from a reputable source.

“Many companies, such as Thompson and Morgan and Marshalls and Crocus, are very experienced and will have lots of information online to help you choose.

“They will also have a higher stock turnover, so you know what you buy is unlikely to have been sitting around in a cold warehouse for ages.”

How to save money when buying plants and flowers

Plants can seem expensive with some costing over £500 per plant, but Kate has revealed her five tips to saving money when doing up your garden.

She recommends sowing annual flower seeds because a packet of 100 seeds can cost as little as £1.

She said: “By choosing this option, you will also have a much wider choice and many seeds, once grown, self-seed will come back year after year.”

Buying flowering bulbs such as tulips and alliums in autumn and dahlia tubers in spring will also save you money because they are much cheaper than buying as plants and will look just as good.

Kate recommends buying smaller plants especially shrubs and trees as they will establish much quicker. But make sure their eventual height won’t be too large for your space.

She added: “Don’t buy anything with lots of flowers as most of its energy will be used up and you will hardly have any flowers once you plant it out. Instead, look for buds.”

Each time you go to the garden centre, make sure you have a plan and don’t just impulse buy.

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