Here are the 10 most common Gardening Mistakes and how to avoid them:
MISTAKE: Shopping for just flowers, not foliage
SOLUTION: “I often tell my customers that every flowering plant is beautiful at its prime — full of lush, abundant blooms,” says Flora. “But then I’ll ask, ‘How does it look for the rest of the year?’” Before you buy, consider the plant’s leaves and structure. Include specimens with spectacular foliage, like the annual coleus, the shrub cotinus, or decorative grasses to help keep beds interesting when flowers are not at peak.
MISTAKE: Buying insufficient amounts of a single variety
SOLUTION: “Taking home only one or two pots of a particular specimen is a surefire way to make your garden look hodgepodge,” says Flora. Depending on the size of the pot and the type of plant, she suggests buying at least three containers (though six or more of a species is preferred) for a unified, well-designed look.
MISTAKE: Purchasing unhealthy or diseased plants
SOLUTION: Leaves can tell you a lot about the health of the plant. Avoid picking specimens with brown, yellow, or wilted leaves, which could signify poor health (left) or neglect. Also inspect the foliage for insect damage like aphids (little green bugs), scale (translucent bumps or blisters), and spider mites (webs). You don’t want to spread pests throughout your garden. Instead, go for plants with lush, perky, vibrant-looking foliage.
MISTAKE: Choosing flowers in full bloom
SOLUTION: “Don’t be seduced by pots with abundant flowers,” says Flora. Instead, look for healthy foliage and plump buds. Let the plants peak in the ground at your home, rather than in pots at the nursery.
MISTAKE: Picking plants with poor root systems
SOLUTION: Steer clear of anything that is root-bound (you’ll notice a mass of roots coming out of the bottom of the container), because tangled roots can suffocate and rob the plant of its nutrients. Also leave those with underdeveloped roots (ask a nursery employee to check) to mature longer at the nursery.
MISTAKE: Ignoring the labels
SOLUTION: The plastic tags sticking out of nursery pots contain vital plant information. In addition to water and light requirements — and bloom times, if applicable — they describe how large a plant will get. While it may seem obvious, mistakes like planting a tall perennial in the front of a border or tucking a dwarf variety toward the back of a bed are very common.
MISTAKE: Not knowing the dimensions of your garden
SOLUTION: Bring a photograph of the bed you are shopping for and the measurements of the space to the nursery, so that employees can help you buy the right number of plants, choose the correct size, and find colors that go well together.
MISTAKE: Failing to determine a color scheme
“All colors can be beautiful, but not all colors can be beautiful together,” notes Flora. When you’re shopping for plants, don’t think of each one separately; instead, consider the plant as part of an ensemble cast. “Gardens look best with a specified color scheme. Pick one you like and stick to it!” ”If you love cool colors like blues and purples, but also want a hot palette of oranges and yellows, put them in different beds.”
MISTAKE: Waiting too long to put pots in the ground
SOLUTION: Try to place plants in the ground as soon as you bring them home. To help you figure out where they should go, set the pots out in the beds where you’d like to see them positioned, and then move them around to suit your design. If you have to delay planting, keep them in a shady or partly shady area where they won’t dry out and put them in the ground as soon as you can. Don’t leave pots in the hot sun where they’ll dry out.
MISTAKE: Trying to do it all yourself
SOLUTION: “Ask a lot of questions of nursery staffers. Don’t go it alone.” We recommend seeking out a local nursery with a knowledgeable crew who is passionate about plants. These establishments are often more adept at knowing what grows best in your region than the big-box stores.