Choosing healthy garden transplants pay big dividends

Select healthy transplants to ensure a great start to a productive and attractive garden.

Be sure to select healthy transplants when plant shopping this Memorial Day weekend. Healthy transplants ensure a great start to a productive and attractive garden by providing more reliable plant establishment, fewer pest problems and reduced time until you reap a bountiful garden harvest.

Here are a few shopping tips.

Purchase plants from a reputable source. Buy your plants from an established greenhouse grower or garden center. It’s generally a safe bet that a company that has been doing business for many years has managed to stay in business so long by providing a quality product.

Select disease resistant plants. Resistant varieties are noted by a letter (or series of letters) code on the plant tag in the pot or cell pack. For example, “VF” means that the variety is resistant to Verticillium and Fusarium wilts.

Healthy transplants
Example of tomato transplant sign at retail greenhouse. ‘Better Boy’
tomato is resistant to Verticillium and Fusarium wilt as well as nematodes.
Photo credit: Mary Wilson, MSUE

Closely inspect plants for signs of insects, diseases or poor care. Select sturdy, stout plants with deep green or appropriately colored leaves. Avoid plants with leaves that are dropping, wilted, curled, spotted or have holes or brown leaf edges. Lightly brush over the plants with your hands. If a cloud of white, fly-like insects appear, do not purchase the plants.

Check the stems for lesions or discoloration which indicate the presence of a disease. Pull a few transplants from their containers and inspect the root system. Avoid those that have a tangle of roots encircling the root ball. Also, make sure the roots are white and fibrous – avoid plants with brown or black roots.

Healthy transplants petunia
Petunia transplant with healthy white roots. This root
system is not “pot-bound.”

Remove flowers. While this may be a shock to you, your new transplants will benefit from this act! Young transplants without flowers will adjust to their move from the pot to the garden more readily than those in full bloom. Flowering transplants expend their energy on flowering and forming seeds instead of developing roots. You can help flowering plants adjust. Simply remove the flowers when you plant them into the garden. It may be difficult to remove the beautiful flowers you’ve waited all winter for, but a little sacrifice now will increase flowering (and fruiting) throughout the season.

Download a free PDF of the MSU Extension publication E-3175, Selecting Healthy Transplants. For additional gardening information, contact the MSU Extension lawn and garden toll-free hotline (1-888-678-3464) or the Gardening in Michigan website.

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