When purchasing outdoor plants, inspect the leaves and roots. Inspect the leaves for signs of damage or discoloration, and avoid plants that have leggy growth, as this can be a sign of insufficient light. Roots should fill the pot but not be spilling out through the drainage holes.
Damage to leaves can come from insects, diseases or poor growing conditions. Some signs to look for include yellowing, wilting or spotty foliage. Insects may also leave signs of chewing, webbing or a sticky residue. On woody plants, look for signs of physical damage, such as scars or nicks, which can be vulnerable to disease.
Avoid plants with dry, brittle roots. You should also look for signs of weeds in the roots as these compete with the plant for nutrients and can spread in the garden.