It’s Mother’s Day once again. And this year, for a change, why not put your mother to work? To work planting flowers, that is.

I know I’ve mentioned my family’s Mother’s Day tradition of taking me to a garden center and letting me loose, but I’ll mention it again because – it’s such a great idea!

Once there, I check out everything that’s sprouting, leafing, flowering, or otherwise emerging from the soil. And if I admire several, vacillating over which to buy, my family (probably anxious to get home to what they consider more important things) generally buys me all of them.

I was at one garden center this week to check out their inventory when a woman who was admiring the flowers looked at me and said, “It just makes me want to take home one of each.”

How did she know? That’s my struggle every time I visit a nursery and surround myself with all the brilliant colors and inimitable shapes lined up in endless rows of careless profusion.

But if you’re planning to buy your mom a nice plant, or two, or three, there are a few things you should look for. Make sure the plant has been kept well watered. Sometimes, especially at some of the larger, less plant-specialized stores, flats that have been relegated to the middle or back of those big shelving carts do not receive enough water. In addition, many times these plants are left exposed to overnight frost. Check to make sure the leaves are not wilted or browned on the edges. While there are varieties that will withstand some abuse, many plants, annuals such as lobelia and impatiens for example, may be unable to bounce back from poor treatment.

If it’s perennials you’re after, why not try something new? Stairway to Heaven polemonium, or Jacob’s ladder, sports vivid blue flowers and variegated leaves in shades of cream, pink, and green. Thalictrum Black Stockings, a variety of meadow rue, reaches a height of 72 inches, with lavender flowers on nearly black stems. The Jolly Bee geranium is a nice, new addition to the family. Its flowers – blue with a contrasting “bee,” or center – are borne on two-foot stems, blooming from early summer to frost.

If your mother is hankering a shrub, be sure to check out the PJM rhododendrons. Perhaps the easiest rhododendron to grow, the PJM is known for its abundant and beautiful spring blooms of pale lavender. It is appropriate for planting in partial shade to full sun. The PJM’s small evergreen leaves are a dark, shiny green in summer, turning to plum or bronze in winter.

The shrub requires a well-drained, moist soil high in organic matter and a bit acidic. Mulch, but do not cultivate, to keep weeds down and moisture in. Hardy from zones four to eight, the PJM rhododendron will generally grow to six feet, maintaining its rounded form.

Just be sure, if you lavish your mother with plants this Mother’s Day, that you are willing to help her plant them. Otherwise, her Mother’s Day could turn into Labor Day.