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|Starts, Roots and Soil||| Print ||
Chain store plants have very few starts or plugs compared to the number in a florist quality plant. Starts are the small rooted shoots that are originally planted in the grower pot. These will eventually grow into the finished plant. I don’t care how good a plant person you are, California Ivy with only three starts will always look thin and straggly compared to one with ten starts. If you buy a dracaena with only one stalk instead of two or three, you have little room for an over watering error before the plant is totally dead. When you buy a plant, take a few minutes to look at the place where the soil meets the stems or the stalks. Make sure you can count 5-10 green stems or 2-4 firm stalks depending upon the plant. Mushy stalks or brown stems are your warning sign not to buy the plant. Remember, if there are not several well rooted healthy starts, you are at a disadvantage from the day you buy the plant.
Roots bring nourishment to the rest of the plant. The roots of chain store plants usually have not been given enough time to fully develop before the plant is put up for sale. Over water a plant with small, thin, poorly developed roots just a few times and those roots turn into a soggy rotten mess. No roots means no nourishment, which means one dead plant. It’s easy to tell when a plant’s roots are in trouble. The plant looks like it needs water; the leaves are soft and droopy, but the soil is very wet. There are just no roots left to transport the water from the soil to the leaves. In florist quality plants the root ball is usually strong and firm. This strong root structure will give you a second and maybe even a third chance if you accidentally over water the plant. The easiest way to check the root structure is to gently pull the plant out of its pot. You should be able to see the roots just starting to take on the shape of the pot.
Soil quality is one of the key factors in determining how well a plant will grow. If the soil is too sandy the water runs right through; if it is too claylike it never dries out. Plants that come straight from Hawaii, and have not been repotted at a greenhouse, are in nothing but lava rock. Even more important is the fact that, poor quality soil may have bugs and diseases lurking in it. In order for chain store plants to be sold cheaply, not only do they have fewer starts and weaker roots, they are also “usually” planted in a poor quality soil mixture. Florist quality plants are “usually” planted in premium soil.