I have (and surely many others have) bought poorly planted plants. I do try (if the plant is in a pot) to pull it out and look at the roots, but as you say... that's impossible with B&B trees and large shrubs. I've had better luck with bare-roots from reputable nurseries... usually. Had some lousy "specials" from mega-suppliers.
funny how when the plants are easier to pull out and inspect, they seem less likely to be holding surprises! I know there are many who enjoy pretty gift plants made for putting on your work desk with no muss---but thats just not me. A plant is a pet with an expected lifespan, to me.
Yes, good reminder that 'baring the roots' ( with some care) is not so awful for a plant, often not as awful as other fates.
It's so often a rescue instead of a purchase when buying plants! A pet peeve of mine (I like the 'pets' analogy!) is those dumb little strawflowers they glue to cacti--aaaaargh!
Thanks for bringing up this subject, Sally.
"A plant is a pet"...
LOL- I never thought of it that way, but that's exactly how I feel!
My first orchids were some of those half-price, out of bloom dendrobium hybrids from a big box; I figured if they could survive there long enough to go out of bloom, then I probably wouldn't kill them either. And now several years later, they are happy and bloom regularly - two are the same, but oh well!