by Linda Geist and Pat Miller

You might feel like a kid in the candy store when you go to the plant nursery this spring.

“There are so many plants to pick from with gorgeous colors and interesting textures,” says Pat Miller, University of Missouri Extension field specialist in agronomy.

Go slow before you grow to avoid disappointment, she says, by planning before you go to the nursery.

“You’ve done this in the past and maybe the results weren’t that great when you got home,” Miller says.

She offers these tips to help you plan like a pro:

1) How much time you have to garden? Choose container plants if you have limited time and space. They do not need weeding. However, they may need daily watering. Ask yourself if you have a trusted friend to water your plants when you are away from home. You can also choose drought-loving plants like succulents or cactus that do not need daily watering.

2) Start small.

A small, well-tended garden looks better than a large weedy bed, says Miller. “If you’d much rather lounge on the patio than weed flower beds, a few containers may be your best bet,” she says.

3) Plan from the bottom of the pot up.

Choose pots that are large enough to give plant roots plenty of room to grow during the season. Small pots full of roots need lots of water. Also, select a good quality potting soil. Cheap mixes do not hold water and they dry out quickly.

To prevent water pooling in the bottom of the pot, choose a pot with a drainage hole. Roots need air to breath and will drown in a flooded pot. Use a coffee filter to cover the hole to allow drainage and keep the potting mix from washing out.

4) Make a list before you go to the nursery.

Ask yourself how many pots you have and how big is your garden area? Is it full sun or shady? Is the garden spot boggy or drought prone? What colors do you want? Miller suggests choosing large splashes of a single color for the most impact or complementary colors. Consider how big the plant gets when it matures.

5) Shade or sun?

Read the plant labels and consider lighting needs. If you have a large pot for a shady porch, choose al l shade-loving plants with like watering needs. Full sun plants in the do not bloom well in the shade. Likewise, a shade-loving hosta will burn in full sun.

6)  Take a pro with you.

If you are still unsure of yourself, Miller recommends you take an experienced gardener with you, at least once.  Ask employees or customers who look confident.  Most gardeners enjoy sharing their knowledge.  They can suggest some of their favorites and dissuade you from potential mistakes.

“But most of all, enjoy the experience.  Plants add enjoyment to our surroundings and that is what it is all about,” says Miller.

For more information check MU Extension Guide 6629 Annual Flowers:  Characteristics and Culture (G6629) at