When choosing perennials, I tend to go to the garden store and choose the largest and healthiest looking plant I can find in the size pot I can afford. It has done me well. However, this past weekend I went to the garden store to fill the holes in my vegetable garden caused by cut worms, suddenly wilting tomato plants, and other casualties, so my perfect plant search followed different rules.
With veggie transplants, bigger is not better. If it already has flowers, pass it by. It has taken me a while to admit that this is true, but these annuals have a life cycle and you don't want a plant that is already at the flowering and fruiting stage. This will result in a smaller plant and less fruit in your garden. Look for small and healthy. Vine plants should only really have one true leaf before transplanting. That way, they aren't root bound yet and will thrive once in the garden.
So I looked at the poor picked over veggie plants and chose the best ones I could find. They were 40% off, so I got a few extra, just in case. This morning, it looks like they're settling in well. Let's just hope no more calamities strike my garden.