Regardless of how the plants are displayed and packaged at your local garden center or retail nursery, you should always look for good quality plants.
First, you should look for species that are not problem- prone. Look for good foliage color and strong branches. Avoid plants that are root-bound in containers. A root- bound plant has a root system that has become too large for the container. You can see the roots growing out of the container's drainage hole. Be sure bare roots of deciduous plants have been adequately protected from moisture loss and bud break has not yet occurred. The soil ball of balled and burlapped plants should remain firm, rounded and intact when handled. Fairly new burlap cloth should hold the root ball. Avoid plants with root balls that are soft, saggy, pancake- shaped or too small. Plant grades and sizes should be in accordance with the "American Standard for Nursery Stock", published by the American Association of Nurserymen.