Select the best container-grown shrub for your garden

Buying shrubs can be expensive so you want to make sure you select the very best. Here are a few tips to help you select for success.
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1. Check the roots.

What are you looking for? The roots need to be healthy and plump. You need to be able to see compost through the roots, not a mass of roots. Always check that the roots aren't spiralling as this means the plant has been in the pot too long and is root bound. Most good garden centres will not mind you knocking the plant out of the pot to check this. While you are looking at the roots check that there are no soil borne pests like vine weevil.

2. Roots

If the roots have started to show through the bottom of the pot don't worry too much as long as you check that they are healthy and that they are not spiralling around the pot.

3. A little annual weed is good

Finding a small amount of annual weeds in the top of the pot shows that the compost has sufficient nutrients to support the shrub.

4. What is this?

This is Liverwort it shows that the plant has been in the container for a long time and will have exhausted the available nutrients in the compost. The other reason not to select a plant with excess liverwort on the compost surface is because when it has been watered the liverwort stops the water getting to the shrubs roots.

5. What about moss?

Moss is not as bad as liverwort as it allows water to travel to the roots but it still is taking water and nutrients from the plant.

6. Tempting

Although it is tempting it is not advisable to buy shrubs in flower. Because when you plant it in the garden the shrub is still putting its energy into them rather than new roots to establish itself in its new environment. If you do buy in flower make sure you provide your newly planted shrub with extra aftercare like regular watering.

7. The exception to the rule

As always there is an exception to the rule. Roses, an expert can identify between the rose types for example climbers and ramblers but even an expert cannot identify the colour of the flower until the rose actually blooms. So if you are buying a rose for a special occasion or for a particular colour then buy it in bud or flower to guarantee that it is correct. But remember it will need extra aftercare.
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Knowledge and advice

Search our ever-growing knowledge base to find plants and information. Find out about pests and diseases you should be keeping an eye out for. Watch How to videos or follow step by step guides for tasks in the garden. Free download for your phone or tablet.
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