The real killer for me, as a newbie gardener ordering from catalogs and relying on plant tags, was my own excitement. I would fail to research (on Dave's Garden and other reliable websites) BEFORE BUYING to learn about prospective plants and seeds from a source OTHER THAN catalogs and plant tags.
It's good to remember that .com sites, catalogs, and the wholesale nurseries that tag plants are trying to sell their products. Even the best catalogs and plant tags may not tell you everything you need to know to make a smart decision.
For example, I have tons of Northern Sea Oats in my garden that all began with one plant. The description in the catalog and on the plant tag said that the seeds of this plant were infertile! I thought this lovely grass would be perfect for our climate and add winter interest. The plant did indeed do very well the first year and looked great with a dusting of winter snow. However . . .
Five years later, I have learned to prune the seed heads before they dry, drop, and spread like wildfire. If I don't do this, I end up spending all spring and summer digging up seedlings. The plant is great as a dry shade or full sun ground cover, but is a tough gangster in a mixed planting bed.
Had I curbed my enthusiasm, and done better research before buying, I would have known better than to buy this plant for the spot where I thought I wanted it.
Thanks for the compliment and for sharing your experience with Northern Sea Oats. I've had the identical experience that you describe. My remedy, like yours, was to cut off the seed heads before they ripen. And, yes, we often don't get enough information about a new plant and so can't provide the habitat that it needs to grow and thrive. There is a new gadget on the market that purportedly tells you everything you need to know about growing a particular plant successfully. It's called PlantSense EasyBloom. Time will tell if it lives up to the company's claims. If you'd like to take a look, you can do so here: http://www.easybloom.com/
Wow, that's pretty cool!
Sure wish it read PH, too, though.
Maybe with the next version they'll get to that.
I found a good site for info about tropicals, in case you like those: http://www.plantdelights.com/
They are actually part of a botanical garden. When I called, knee deep in a brugmansia I was trying to transplant, they actually walked me through the process over the phone. Great folks!