Is bigger really better when it comes to buying plants; what are the pros and cons? Is spending your hard-earned garden budget dollars to buy bigger plants a wise decision financially or for your garden plot? It depends.
Buy Bigger Only If ...
A reader wrote us and asked: "Whenever my wife and I go to the nursery together, she wants to buy plants in the smallest containers, to save a few dollars. I’d rather buy larger plants so the garden looks full quicker. We’re going to be adding some shrubs this spring, and we’d like your input on whether one size has an advantage over the other, aside from the obvious."
Here's the Answer
The larger size plant is worth the extra cost when the plant is central to the design or if it is a species that’s slow to grow in its early stages. Otherwise, read on for the pros and cons of whether bigger really is better.
Half- or three-quarter-gallon pots are the standard size of shrubs sold at garden centers. These plants are usually one year old, and they’re the best for general planting. They have a healthy root system that is in good proportion to their top growth. Shrubs in two-gallon containers do give you a head start on a more “finished” garden, but if a smaller plant is given good growing conditions it will usually catch up.
As we already mentioned, the larger size is worth the extra cost when the plant is central to the design or if it is a species that’s slow to grow in its early stages. Your best solution—as usual—is to compromise. Buy a few larger plants and some smaller sizes. If the gaps around the smaller shrubs bother you, fill them in with some annuals or short-lived perennials.
Plants even larger than two gallons are available. If you’re tempted by these impressive beauties, be extra attentive to their care after planting. They will be working hard to generate roots to balance their top growth. In fact, you may not see new growth for several years, while the roots become established.
This excerpt on containers originally appeared in Horticulture April 2011 issue. Back issues are available at GardenersHub.com. Join thousands of gardeners just like yourself and get smart gardening advice from experts delivered right to your home—Subscribe to Horticulture.