Landscape – Choosing Healthy Plants

I’ve mentioned before all the advantages of planting in fall: cooler temperatures, better establishment, bargains at the garden center. Even so, it makes no sense to waste your money on a sick or inappropriate plant. As you shop, be sure you’re choosing plants that will thrive for years in your garden.

EXAMINE THE ROOT BALL Despite the stares from other shoppers, make it a practice to lift a prospective purchase out of its pot to examine the roots. Their appearance will differ now compared to earlier in the season. In spring I like to see healthy white or tan roots that have just started to circle inside the pot. In fall, the roots have circled for months and formed a tangled mat of tissue inside the pot walls. If the leaves and branches of a plant look healthy otherwise, the hard root mass can be slit with a knife several times before you plant to re-encourage the roots to colonize the surrounding soil.

KNOW WHAT CAN BE FIXED Azaleas and rhododendrons will be very tall and “leggy” after being in the nursery for so long. They can be pruned severely next spring to make the shrub more compact. Daylilies and hosta look somewhat bedraggled now. If the root system seems healthy, be assured that these perennials will exhibit their true beauty next spring.

BUY RECOMMENDED PLANTS One of the delights of Georgia gardening is the wealth of information that is passed “over the fence’ from neighbor to neighbor. Ask friends to recommend which plants have done well for them and follow their advice on planting and culture. Keep a disposable camera in your car and take photos of landscapes you find attractive. A knowledgeable nursery employee can identify the plants and help you recreate the effect in your own landscape.

If you are still stumped on which plants do well in Georgia, save the plant lists you see below and choose from them plants the experts recommend for your landscape.

GEORGIA GOLD MEDAL PLANTS

Georgia Gold Medal Plants are selected each year by a group of knowledgeable horticulturists, nursery owners, garden center retailers, landscape professionals, county Extension agents and faculty from the University of Georgia. Organized in 1993, the program’s goal is to promote the production, sale and use of superior ornamental plants in the state.

ATHENS SELECT PLANTS

Founded in 1999, the Athens Select(tm) program is a collection of unique heat- and humidity tolerant plant varieties. Plants are “heat and humidity tested” for two to three years at the University of Georgia Trial Gardens before entering the program.

Recent introductions include:

‘Linde Armstrong’ cleome
‘Firefly’ cuphea
‘Tricolor’ and ‘Chocolate’ graptophyllum
‘Azure Skies’ heliotrope
‘Tricolor’ St. John’s-Wort
‘Athens Rose’, ‘Lavender Popcorn’ and ‘New Gold’ lantana
‘Stars & Stripes’ pentas
‘Variegatus’ and ‘Athens Gem’ plectranthus
‘Susan’s Song’ buttercup
‘Athens Blue Spires’ rosemary
‘Ground Hugger’ ruellia
‘Lemon Sorbet’ scabiosa
‘Persian Shield’ strobilanthes
‘Ron Deal’ and ‘Homestead Purple’ verbena

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