Steps to Getting a Green Thumb
Since quarantine started, I have become WAYYYYY too obsessed with plants. It was so bad that when I came home from college I had to move out a WHOLE CAR just filled with plants alone...I might have developed a problem, or at least a good one LOL. Since my love for plants has grown over the past couple months, I have been getting involved within a nursery setting and noticed many people are picking up on the same hobby as myself. However, most individuals that come in have no idea WHAT they are looking for. Then when employees ask specific questions to help create an idea on which plants to select, they sometimes don't know the answer. Seeing what people have asked, I have collected a couple tips that I feel is SO important to know before coming into a nursery (so you can find the best plants for your yard)!
Hours of sun that area gets...This is definitely the number one priority. We have had people come in saying they thought all plants had the same sun requirements and let me tell you...that is FALSE (and they found out the hard way). There are plants we categorize as a full sun (+6 hours of direct sun), part sun/shade (4-6 hours of direct sun), or full shade (less than 3 hours of direct sun). Be careful and check with either an employee or look up information to see what specific plants will require in your particular zone.
*Sometimes these plants come in from the northern region of the US, so they may need full sun there, but in Texas, the sun is too harsh. It doesn't hurt to be extra safe!
Water requirements- we have people come in looking for plants and always want something that takes full sun, doesn't need a lot of water and has beautiful blooms....unfortunately, those kinds of plants aren't as common as you may think. Any plant is going to require water, but MOST will need it consistently. Do some research on plants that might need less attention (if that is what you want) and talk to a nursery employee about the options that are available at the nursery. The more prepared you are, the better we can assist your needs!
*Plants are generally going to like moist and well-drained soils. Don't know if the soil is moist? You can check by doing something called the pencil test, or you can just feel it with your finger. Here is a link that can show you different ways to check and how to do it properly!
Soil Nutrient Levels- Surprisingly, this does matter! We have people come in and wonder why their flowers are dying and there are some occasions where the soil pH or nutrient levels aren't fitting for the plants they decide to put there. You can use the soil test kits in your local nursery, or call into different locations to see if they can test a sample of soil for you!
Soil types-Most people think soil is soil, but there are different measurements of specific levels of clay, sand, and silt that can determine different factors for the plant's health and growth, like the drainage. If you give a plant cacti soil, for example, it will not retain water like normal container soil. There are multiple factors to consider when getting soil for your plants, but you can determine which would be best based on what your nursery provides in the store. If it is something like Calloway's, we have different bags that are labeled as flowerbed, container, tree/shrub, etc.
Perennial vs Annual- a perennial is a plant that is expected to come back for multiple years, while an annual will be something that lives for one year and WILL NEED to be replanted every year. Just keep that in mind when looking for a plant!
Bright light vs Sunlight- Bright light is going to be for indoor plants that need a lot of window light (also known as indirect sunlight), while for sunlight, it is the same as the outdoor sun (direct sun). If it is hard to differ from the two, just think about how you are in the sun. If you were to stand in front of a window with a lot of sun, you would feel a nice warmth and glow, but you wouldn't feel the actual rays of sun. However, if you stand in front of the direct outdoor sun, it will burn you up. The outdoor sun is harsher than the bright sun, and plants could be damaged (aka "sunburned") from that direct sunlight compared to bright light.
This is one of my FAVORITE plants called an Angel Wing...they are FANTASTIC plants for the shade in Texas regions; however, they do well in the sun for northern regions. In addition, they are great perennials for the northern region of the US, but will be an annual if planted outside in Texas soils (unless planted into a pot and brought inside during winter...you'' probably have it come back). This is just an example of how one plant can meet different standards in different regions of the US. (Be sure to do your research)!
Have a problem with a potential disease or no knowledge about the condition? Call your local nursery and ask for assistance, they want to help you! If you have done the research and you want to double-check, or. maybe you can't find anything on google, bring a sample in and just ask! You could go over the phone, but just as a doctor would need to see a patient in person to give the most accurate diagnosis, a horticulturist/certified nursery employee would need to visually see the condition of the plant to recommend what to do to best heal the plant to healthy conditions.
If you have any issues at a nursery or questions of any sort, there are nurseries, like Calloway's, that can help you with anything! After working there, I was able to learn SO MUCH (and continue to every day)! I hope that with my experience, I can help you better understand how to pick better plants and know the knowledge that goes into picking/caring for plants!