Buying Perennials -- Go for the Buds, Not the Blooms

Cynthia Dermody
perennial buying tips


I stopped by the nursery this weekend for some pale pink petunias to surround the dwarf boxwood in my whisky barrel, and what do I do? What I know I'm not supposed to -- I grabbled the flat with the most blooms, thinking these plants were healther and better than the boring flowerless ones in the back.

Since petunias are an annual, this is not a big deal. Annuals re-flower all summer with proper deadheading, and some need no prompting at all.

But when buying perennials at garden centers, the gardener's rule is to "Stay away from things in bloom," says auroragold, owner of the Green Thumb Society. (Meet auroragold and see pictures of her garden in her recent Home & Garden Buzz  interview.)

"They are typically forced and in bloom too early. You'll get an immediate payoff, but it may well be short lived. Better to look for healthy plants with buds. That way, you're assured some punch in your flower bed and it'll last longer."

Apparently, I'm not the only one that acts like a honey bee at the nursery. A few weeks ago, auroragold was at a garden center, where all of the clematis (a vine with purple, pink or white flowers) was in full bloom. People were snapping them up.

Meanwhile, auroragold's 5 year old clematis was nowhere near its bloom time. The garden center obviously forced the blooms in a greenhouse, and once they're gone, you have to wait a whole other year.

Do you buy your nursery or garden center plants in full bloom or bud stage?

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