You may have found the plant on your wish list, or maybe you’re buying your first houseplant. But, before pulling out your wallet. Spend some time with your new prospect.
Use the following houseplant buying guide to ensure you’re getting the highest-quality plant. Touch it. Turn the leaves over. Inspect the stem and roots. (Like checking under the hood when car shopping) Really get to know it.
Houseplant Buying Guide
Leaves: Check the leaves to ensure the plant’s leaves are green if it’s supposed to be green. Bushy? Vibrant? Also, avoid plants with wilting, torn, or notched leaves, all signs of pests.
Grow Pot: You want a plant that’s proportional to its grow pot—not too big, not too small. Next, check the bottom for root growth. If roots are coming out of the drainage holes, the plant may be “root-bound.” When roots are itching to grow but are tightly constrained in a pot, they wrap around themselves to form a web.
If the garden center will allow you (or help you to do it) lift the plant out of its pot. The soil should hold together, not fall apart or come out as a solid mass of roots.
Flowers: Look for ripe buds, not fully open blooms. So, you can watch the plant grow and enjoy the entire bloom period at home.
Give your new plant some protection before leaving the store. For example, wrapping a houseplant in paper insulates it from cold and protects its leaves from bumps and bruises (the salesperson should be able to do this for you).
Bubble Wrap protects and insulates plants in winter (you may need to bring your own). Leave a plant in a hot car only as long as necessary.
Once home, unwrap your new plant and place it on a plate or tray to protect the surface underneath. Then, if you cannot immediately repot, leave it to acclimate in a draft-free, not-too-sunny place until you can.
Choosing Houseplants to Buy
Houseplants are a diverse group, ranging from desert to jungle plants. Some are seasonal, while others bloom year-round.
Choosing and buying houseplants requires care for long-lasting displays. Garden centers, nurseries, florists, and main-street shops sell houseplants. Regardless of the source, inspect the plant before buying it.
Every plant has a Latin botanical and common name. Botanical names are unique, like bar codes for plants. However, some plants share common names, which can be confusing.
An example is Kalanchoe blossfeldiana (Latin botanical name), which goes by the common names:
- Flaming Katy
- Panda Plant
- Widow’s Thrill
- Florist Kalanchoe
14 Houseplant Buying Tips
- Buy from reputable sources. A cheap plant may be costly if it dies after a few weeks.
- Never buy a houseplant displayed outside a shop; in winter, they get chilled, and in summer, they get intense sunlight. Flowering plants are most sensitive to extreme temperatures.
- Avoid pest- and disease-infested plants. They usually don’t survive and can infect your other houseplants. Be sure to check leaves, flowers, and stems for signs.
- Never buy a plant with roots growing from the pot’s drainage holes. This means the plant needs repotting—possible growth retardation.
- Buy flowering plants with plenty of buds that are ready to open. Full-blooming plants will fade quickly.
- Don’t buy wilting plants; they’ve likely been neglected and may die.
- Check the soil’s moisture. Overwatering and being too dry can wilt plants.
- Green mold on soil indicates neglect and overwatering.
- Buy clearly labeled plants from a reputable source.
- Avoid large plants in small pots or small plants in large pots. Large plants in small pots need frequent watering, while small plants in large pots are challenging to keep evenly moist.
- Make buying a plant a separate event or your last stop.
- Don’t store plants in a cold car trunk in winter. These areas get hot in summer, so avoid them.
- Avoid cold or hot drafts near open windows.
- Leave kids and dogs at home when buying plants.
What to do Once Home
First, get your plant home safely. Then, you’ll need to take a few steps to get your plant situated.
Plant Acclimatization Tips
- Unwrap your plants as soon as possible. Covering can distort stems and foliage.
- Make sure the potting soil is damp but not soaked.
- Place your plant in a cool or warm room, out of direct sunlight and drafts. Then, you can place it at the desired temperature and light intensity after a few days.
- Avoid bumping a flowering plant, as it may lose buds.
- If you suspect your plant has pests or diseases, you should isolate it. Then, treat with an insecticide or fungicide.
Following these tips and things to consider when buying a houseplant will set your plant up for success.
Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.