It was not long ago when i started gardening few years back. It took a lot of mistakes, wasted money and valuable time to understand how and when to buy plants or seedlings from a plant nursery. In initial years excitement always overcame the wisdom and patience. Now things are quite different. Here are some of the tips from my personal experience on how to buy the plants from a plant nursery.
Do not buy a plant in bloom
Remember if you buy an already blooming plant then after transplanting it will not focus its energies on root development instead blooming only. Even if you are buying plants in pots and do not intend to transplant them, still it is better to buy healthy plants with no bud/bloom. If there is a bud or two, remove it before transplanting. As a result the plant will use its energies on root development and after then blooming will be profuse and much better.
Do not buy a plant not meant for your climate
In Spring, i always ask nursery men whether this aquilegia (columbine) is a perennial in my hot climate or not and believe me, although they very well know the correct answer, every time they say it is perennial. Sadly it is not true. Same is the case with delphinium and fuchsia which are annual for my zone 10. This is inversely true for northern gardeners that plants like brugmansia and jasminum sambac do not survive cold weather.Conclusion is, always consult form internet whether a particular plant is annual for your climate or not.Or if you are lucky you might find an honest nursery men.
Buy plants with healthy growth
Here is the trick which some clever nursery men do. They take a healthy plant out from soil bed and put it i a large pot and sell it by saying it was raised in this pot. You must ensure the plant you are buying has a healthy new growth. Avoid plants with yellow leaves, wilting leaves, spotty leaves,brown or burnt leaves, leaves with bugs or pests on them. If there is not new growth then it can mean few things. Either the plant is dormant or the plant is root bound or there is some problem with this plant. If plant is root bound you will see the roots coming out of the bottom of the pot. Transplant root bound plant as soon as possible although i would discourage buying a root bound plant. Remember there are few perennials which bloom only when root bound. So some exceptions are always there.Purchase a dormant plant only if you very well know the plant.
Do not buy a plant in pot but roots in soil
Sometimes a plant is in a pot but the roots outbreak and reach into the soil searching for water and nutrition. Do not buy such plant as the root damage will shock the plant and it will not recover the shock. I once bought a yellow buddleia whose roots were gone into soil although it was in 6 inches pot. The plant did not show any damage within first 15 minutes. But it was dead in next 2 hours.
Keep cell numbers of sales man in your phonebook
It is very handy. You can always ask the sales man before going to nursery for availability of a plant. I use it for price comparison as well. My cell phone book contains more than 30 numbers confined to seeds shops and plant nurseries.