By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Bedding plants are usually grown in individual pots or flats of 24 to
72 plants. These flats can be subdivided into packs, each containing from
two to 12 individual plants. If you have a choice, buy packs with large,
deep cells (individual compartments) spaced as far apart as possible. These
larger cells allow plants to develop bigger root systems and won't dry
out as quickly.
Some plants are sold in solid packs. Take care when separating plants to avoid damaging the roots.
Choose bedding plants that are well proportioned with stocky stems. Avoid plants that are leggy or limp. The leaves should have a rich, green color. If the foliage appears mottled or the edges of the leaves are curled, the plants may be suffering from pests.
Yellowed lower leaves are often an indication of inadequate watering. If the soil mixture has been allowed to dry out completely, the plant's root system can be permanently damaged, and the plants may never flourish.
If you want your flowerbeds to show color immediately, choose bedding plants grown in four- and six-inch pots rather than in smaller packs. These larger pots offer a greater plant mass and a more established root system, which helps plants adapt faster to transplanting, especially when transplanted in bloom.
Try to do your transplanting on an overcast day or late in the afternoon to minimize stress. Before transplanting, check the soil in the packs or pots. If it's dry, thoroughly drench the soil, then wait a few minutes for it to saturate the soil. Plants should pop out easily when the pack or pot is turned on its side. If they don't, gently squeeze the bottom of the cell or pot to loosen the roots, and try again.
Before transplanting, use a trowel to loosen the soil to a depth of six to eight inches. Dig a hole in the ground the size of the root ball. Add about two inches of compost or composted manure, and mix in well. Then pick up the plant by its root ball (not the leaves or stem), and set it in the hole at the same depth. The exception is tomatoes, which can be set deeper.
During the few weeks it will take for the new plants to become established, give them daily attention. Water whenever the soil surface begins to feel dry. Provide extra nutrients once by applying an organic fertilizer or a general, all-purpose liquid or dry fertilizer according to instructions on the product label. Then water in well.
Mulching around the plants will help retain moisture and keep down weeds. Use a three-inch layer of bark chips, straw, or other organic matter such as shredded leaves or cocoa hulls around the plants.