Is bigger always better? ;-}

christinmk z5b eastern WADecember 8, 2010

Ok, you are in a nursery (ahhâ¦sweet winter fantasy, lol!) . There is a plant you have been looking for sitting over there on the shelf. They have two sized pots of this plant, big and little (the smaller costs less). Which do you go for in most cases? Does it depend on WHAT the plant is?

Is your way of thinking that buying the bigger one means you can divide it and get several plants from it? Or that you won't have to wait years for it to mature since it is already big?

Or are you the sort that would rather pay less and get a smaller plant, since it will get big eventually anyway?

I got to thinking about this the other day when someone I did a seed trade with said they hadn't bought such and such a plant because the nurseries always sold huge pots of it for a lot more than they are willing to pay.

Have to say I am the same way. Most times I would rather buy the small pot for less (which essentially means I can buy more of other things ;-). Plus I like doing this because if it is something I have never grown before and dies out, I won't feel quite as bad as I would have killing a large and more $$ plant! LOL.

Only times I prefer to buy the bigger pot is if it is a evergreen/slow growing shrub or the bigger plant looks healthier than the small guy.

How about you?


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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

It all depends on whether I'm adding to one of my collections or looking for a specimen plant for a certain spot. If it's just to add to a collection I buy small, it will grow. If I'm looking for a specimen plant to finish off a vision I have in my mind I'll go for it, I'll buy the one I think completes the picture.


    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 1:32PM
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I always buy the smaller plant. It makes it easier to tranisiton to my 'sea of clay' LOL.

They really do seem to adjust better, if they're smaller, when I plant them in the garden...and I can buy three or four smaller plants instead of one big plant!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 2:31PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

I buy the one with the most "plant" in the pot, and usually the one in bud and not in bloom. Sometimes I buy the smaller one - I usually try and see what kind of root the plant has on it before worrying about the height and flower. After all, it's what's below that counts most ;)

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 6:21PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

If we're talking perennials, I tend to buy smaller unless it's something I know divides well and is something I want to have multiples of. I have found that big pots, with big plants that have completely filled the pot, are often rootbound and don't transplant well unless they are divided, and sometimes not even then. For shrubs and trees, I look for a vigorous plant that looks like it still has a bit of room to grow - i.e. is not potbound. For container trees that usually means something under 6'.

In general, my experience is that smaller plants are easier to get established.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 10:24PM
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Lilyfinch z7 mid tn

Hmmm,, i prefer to buy bigger roses for quicker impact as im very impatient and dont want to baby little ones forever. But also because i have a hard time giving them alot of room if they are small (as if theyll never grow up!) But for most perrenials i buy the smaller size. Unless its something i have a hard time getting growing(like tall phlox, i dont know why it never takes off for me).
Generally i read the plant tags but never end up giving plants enough elbow room .

It was nice thinking about being in a nursery again!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 4:26AM
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A fixed budget means that I go for the small plants whenever possible. But it has a second benefit. I get to watch the plant grow. And I love that part more than the mature garden. Funny huh?

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 8:18AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-woodyoak, how come you don't buy rootbound plants? I have heard other people saying the same thing, but am not sure why?? Is it because the roots are more likely to be damaged/disturbed when getting it out of the pot? Don't think I have ever lost a plant because it was rootbound that I can recall...though fungal issues is another matter!

-lilyfinch, last year in winter I even started dreaming a few times about being in a nursery!!! LOL.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 1:34PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Perennials, I would buy THREE of the smaller ones hopefully for the same cost as the one big one! I like to plant multiples and prefer to get 3 small plants with their own root structure than divide up a bigger pot.

Shrubs, I always buy bigger just because of our slow growing season.

Rootbound, I'll tend to buy rootbound perennials and not worry too much about it. Trees and shrubs are another story, but I can say I have planted plenty of rootbound shrubs and trees and they seem to do fine as long as the roots are "dealt with" before planting.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 6:04PM
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For me it depends on so many things that can vary day to day. I bought roses in large pots as I know they need every advantage in a cold climate and I was impatient for blooms. They were in bloom when I got them at the end of June on sale and continued without a pause until well after freeze-up so it was worth it.

Plants that are new to me I sometimes buy in small pots - got my Walker's Low in a 5" pot and it took off unbelievably, should have got 6, and will get more next year.

If I want/need a lot of a certain type of plant such as the lavender I bought in a small flat of plugs as they were very inexpensive. They are also marginal here so I haven't lost much if only half survive.

For shrubs or trees I like to buy in larger pots. And I prefer they not be too root bound as it's just an extra stress for the plant. If I'm paying the big bucks for a potted tree I want it in very good condition.

I'm usually very frugal but it does depend on how desirable the plant is to me and how nurturing I'm feeling at the time. I've babied plants for decades so sometimes don't feel like taking on more. But every year do buy a few I know need it.

Overall I buy more small potted plants than large simply because they are a better buy and I can wait for them to grow.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2010 at 11:17AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

CMK - rootbound plants are often weaker than those that haven't reached that state, so they often don't thrive after planting, even after cutting off some of the root mass to stimulate new roots. Rootbound perennials have a better chance of surviving than shrubs and trees do in my experience. But it has to be a really good deal on a plant I really want before I figure it's worth the cost. Often a smaller (and cheaper) plant with healthy roots will have caught up or surpassed the larger one within a year. So it's usually not worth the extra effort to deal with the rootbound plant.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 1:47PM
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I'm always opting for small sized ones. For various reasons including:

That I'm patient and willing to wait it grow out.
that it's easier for the plant to transplant and easier for the plant to recover.
that it's the right price.
that I know how fast or slow a plant develops.

For example, this summer I was searching for a Hakuru Nishiki for my cousin and myself. One nursery priced it high because it was a large plant and tree shaped. I later found it at another centre for less than half the price because it small and bush shaped. I opted for the small plant because I knew what I needed to do to shape the plant into a tree. Also because the plant should achieve full size by year 3.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 4:25PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-woodoak, ah! I see. Thanks for the explanation on that one! ;-)

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 11:21PM
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lily51(OH 5)

Perennials,smaller. Reason, like many of you, so I can buy mmore, and within a short time,they catch up anyhow. Liked the comment about enjoying the garden grow..sort of like children!
Shrubs, woody plants I usually buy on the larger size.
We did plant3 blue spruce years ago when they were just 10"tall. They ara tall, beautiful trees now. Sometimes you have to consider how much wildlife problems you have, too, which we don't even in the country.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 4:13AM
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