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The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Trees and Shrubs

Trees and shrubs are a great way to add real value to your landscape. Because they have a lifespan that can potentially outlast you and your house, it pays to shop smart. A failure to plan can spell disaster down the road-for your trees and shrubs, and for your pocketbook.


  • DON'T buy trees and shrubs on an impulse. Buying a tree or shrub because it's on sale, because you love its show-stopping flowers, or because you think you will be able to find a place for it when you get home, is a bad idea. Trees and shrubs are not bedding plants. If they fail, you're not out the price of a tomato plant, you're out serious money.
  • DO take time to do your homework before you head to the store. Make your selections based on budget, site location, future growth, and year round suitability. Read up on the time and care required to keep the tree or shrub you're thinking of buying healthy (pruning, disease prevention, pollinating partners, etc.)
  • DON'T rely solely on salespeople for information. While sales people can be a great source of information, their job is to sell you plants. If you don't shop as an informed consumer, it's much easier to be seduced by a good sales pitch.
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  • DO gather your information from multiple sources. This is not a concern if you already have a good relationship with the owner of your local nursery, but in larger cities, you may not know the person you're doing business with. Scan reference books and talk with garden experts from your county extension agency. Online garden forums are a great place to ask gardeners from your area about their experiences.
  • DON'T choose price over quality. Once you factor in the price it costs to remove trees and shrubs that have failed, the great price you paid for them no longer seems like such a bargain.
  • DO choose specimens based on overall health, and avoid specimens that show signs of injury or disease. Healthy trees and shrubs have strong stems or trunks, symmetrical growth, and shows signs of new growth. A tree's bark should be undamaged. Its trunk should thicken as it tapers toward the roots. Look for branches that are evenly spaced that have not been pruned at the tips.
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  • DON'T take a short-sighted approach to future maintenance.
  • DO match trees and shrubs to your site. On average, people move to a new home every seven years. Take into account future growth so that the trees and shrubs you select now don't outgrow their welcome and cause problems for future owners.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.

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May 15, 20080 found this helpful

Good advice. I'd also toss the importance of working with a landscaper (or talking to a gardening house) that is local -- so that you get a perspective on what will grow in your area. Soil conditions can change dramatically from one town to another.

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May 9, 20090 found this helpful

Dear Ellen...I always get excited when I see that you have written another article on ThriftyFun. You always include something in your articles that educates me or answers questions I have. You're most appreciated advice I found with this article, is not to depend on all sales people to know everything regarding what you are about to buy.

Without going into detail of what a sales person said or didn't say, is it required to have two or more "Razzle Dazzle" Crepe Myrtle bushes in order for them to bloom? We planted a Myrtle bush several years ago that refuses to bloom. Everything appears to be correct regarding the proper location for full sun. It's growing nicely, well rounded and healthy but it just won't "Razzle Dazzle."


If needing two bushes, to produce blooms, is just a bunch of bunk, rather than buying another myrtle, I would prefer to buy a nice healthy weeping cherry tree to fill the next spot we have picked out for our next point of interest in our yard. Thanx Ellen! Your opinion is gratefully appreciated as well as respected. Please keep writing! Love it!

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May 14, 20090 found this helpful

I wonder if people realize a fruit tree in blossom is as lovely as any flowering bush, plus you get fruit later.
Buy in pairs for pollinization, even if it says you don't need to, because it does produce more fruit to have two around. One day you will be old and need to keep up your health; who knows what things will cost, or what condition our economy will be in. What about our children and grandchildren. If you have planted for them, they will never forget you. Four dwarf fruit trees which last about 20-30 years can be planted in the corners of an 10x10 foot


square, and put one regular apple tree in the middle. By the time the dwarf trees are dead, the standard apple tree will be ready to last another 40 or 50 years.

You don't have to spray them with much, maybe a bordeaux mix once a year [sulfur and lime], and if you are lucky enough to be able to have a chicken or two let them peck below the trees and they will get rid of any bugs in nothing flat.

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