On Lunch breaks these days I am found, lurking around the garden centers in my area. I am always on the look out for something new and beautiful. Most people are looking around for the plants with the most flowers blooming. There is really nothing wrong with that, I suppose. But lets face it, plants are expensive. So why not get a little more bang for your buck.
Do a quick scan of the leaves are they green? Do they have insect or sun damage? If you removed the brown/damaged leaves would the plant be bare? Buy a plants with uniformly green leaves, free of insect damage.
Is the plant well proportioned? Or lopsided? Unless you are going to take the time to even out the plant (which usually involves snapping half of it off), it will never look nice.
Pull the plant out of the pot, Do the roots look healthy? Is the plant pot bound (ie Are the roots growing out of the bottom of the plant)? Steer clear of root bound plants, they never grow well.
Buy the plant with no flowers/buds. This is the rule everyone throws out the window. Before you plant at home, you should snip each of the flowers off. That way the plant with concentrate on the roots and not those flowers. It is just the begining of the season, there are plenty of time for flowers.
Another sad fact that I have found: In the spring you can by plants everywhere. Every hardware, home improvement, discount, grocery store is selling plants. Unless you are at full-time garden center, much of the staff does not know what it is talking about. It is a sad fact, but true. They are always helpful, but if you are looking for gardening advice, it may be best to go somewhere else.
Have a question, I can help. I worked as a grower and landscaper for 5 years. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good Luck and Happy Shopping!