The geraniums have been planted and soon the first bloom will appear. One of my favorite things about working at a nursery was seeing the first spring bloom. It was always the geraniums. Of course, we had to snip it off. I always felt so badly taking off the bloom it had worked so hard to make. The snipping will help the plant produce more stems and more blooms.
Between now and March in our area of NC, the nurseries are busier than ever planting the baby plants that are called plugs. Plugs usually come in trays of up to 100. The nursery workers will have prepared many 4 and 5 inch pots with a good growing medium for the plugs. When the plugs come in to the nursery, they are taken out of their boxes immediately and unwrapped. They get watered and taken to the back tables where they are unstacked and allowed to acclimate for at least a day.
The staff works over-time to get all the plugs in to the liner which will hold the plant until it is ready for resale or until it is transplanted to another pot and will continue to mature. 90% of what I buy is in 5″ pots. I like the established roots and the size of the plants. Some people try to buy plants too early from a nursery. They see the blooms and are ready to buy.
The staff tries to tell those folks that the plants are not ready. If you purchase a plug too early, it will not have established roots. It will probably have a stunted growth or perhaps even die. They need the regulated temperatures of the nursery. The nurserymen regulate the temperatures and feed applications for several months so the plant will leave the nursery with a good root support system.
Not only does the temperature and feed application need to be monitored but the growth is also watched. Too much growth and the plant will peak too early. You won’t buy it because you have purchased a hanging basket in the past that was too mature. It was pretty but it declined in health after its initial burst of color. You won’t do that again and nurserymen know that. They use growth regulators to help the plant stay healthy longer. Growth regulators can be used to slow or speed the growth. Each plant has different requirements.
A skilled nurseryman has a complicated job. You will return to a nursery every year if the plants you purchased were quality and lived up to the tag expectations. But if you purchase a plant from a nursery who has no clue what they are doing and misuse the growth regulators or fertilizers then you’ll be finding another place to shop. Growth regulators have gotten a bad rap from people who don’t know what they are. And nurserymen who use it to boost sales in the wrong way will drive off their own loyal following. If your plants do well all summer, then your nurseryman is more than likely educated on what he or she is doing.
Don’t be afraid of some chemicals being used by nurseries. If you have ever bought any plant at the big box stores, you more than likely got a treated plant. I worked in those nurseries for years and I never got sick once. In fact, I felt better while working there.
I inspect my roots before buying a plant and you should know how to do that too. They should be numerous and white but not twirled around the bottom of the pot. Don’t buy six packs until a good amount of the roots have grown 3/4 the way to the bottom of the six pack. If plants have dried out, they will probably forever be stressed.
Spring is coming and the nurseries are working hard for you. They want you to be excited too. There is much anticipation this year and hope that you will buy more plants than you ever have. Our nurseries need us to help them. They have been suffering for a few years now. I know many that have gone out of business. I am sad for them.
Let’s look forward to Spring!