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Garden Club of Cape Coral | Buying plants

By ANN BLOCK - Garden Club of Cape Coral | Jan 22, 2024

Everywhere you go in Southwest Florida you see plants for sale. Garden centers, box stores, grocery stores, flea markets and nurseries. Easy to buy but do you know anything about the plant … light, watering, how fast it will grow, how tall? Most plants will have a tag with basic information. But please be aware that those tags are generic and NOT specific to our Southwest weather. These tags sometimes fool an experienced gardener!

The big box stores can be the worst place to buy plants or any place that doesn’t grow plants for a living. Our hot summer sun does not allow the right conditions for the green-house grown plants in box stores or grocery stores. So please be careful. Best to do your own research before buying. Reputable nurseries ALSO have some plants shipped in, however, they buy from top-quality local growers … AND they can pass correct plant information to you. Local nurseries will assist with giving advice about any plant problems you may have. They also carry soil amendments, stock supplies for treating pests and have the knowledge to share. It sounds like I work at nursery. I don’t.

Annual and perennial plants come in 4 1/2-inch pots. Other plants are available in 1 gallon, 3 gallon, 7 gallon, 10 gallon, 15 gallon or 25 gallon. The largest size plants are balled and burlapped. These are field-grown. Plants in a 3 gallon usually have three plants in them which is meant to grow as a bushy plant. Please don’t separate them as their roots are intertwined. For fast growing shrubs, 3 gallon works well. If you need privacy quickly, buy 7 gallon. Trees and palms are offered in 15 or 25 gallon. If you want large mature trees or palms, please go to a nursery where they can install for you.

In Southwest Florida, we can plant anytime. But remember, you must be able to water daily for the first month.

And always mulch to keep your new specimen moist. Mulch also cools the soil aiding in root growth.

What does full sun mean, part sun or partial shade mean? Always confusing.

Let’s start with:

• Full Sun – At least eight hours of sunlight … every day.

• Full Shade – no sunlight touches the leaves of the plant. Bright indirect sunlight is perfect.

• Part Sun – At least four hours of strong sunlight … preferably morning sunlight.

• Part shade – Sunlight that is filtered possibly by tree canopies. Or early morning sunlight.

The north side of your house may have full shade, the south side is usually the sunniest. East side provides morning sun with a partial shadiness. West side is afternoon sun for part sun plants. We are in our winter season, so our sun has moved more to the south. Your plants will respond differently than in summer when our sun is overhead at noon.

Some basic planting information … When planting, dig a hole one and a half times as wide and as deep as you new plant’s pot. Add soil amendments to the bottom of the hole. Remove the pot from the plant’s base and gently loosen the roots. The top of the soil should be a little higher than the garden’s soil level. Make sure to water the bottom of the hole and rewater once the plant is in place.

Enjoy the process of buying and planting! And as always, Happy Gardening!

Ann Block is Past President of the Garden Club of Cape Coral. The club has meetings the second Wednesday of the month from September through May. Guests are welcome. Our website is Gardenclubofcapecoral.com. Like us on our Facebook page.