Off to a Strong Start: 5 Tips for Buying Healthy Plants

Apartment Therapy's Home Remedies

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Buying plants can be overwhelming, especially houseplants, but with a little knowledge and understanding, you'll have a healthy indoor jungle in no time. To get the best start, here are some tips for buying the healthiest houseplants.

I got this velvet leaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens micans) from Flowerland Nursery in Albany, CA.
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Most houseplants are tropical because tropical understory (think rainforest) plants are the only plants adapted to growing in deep shade at a constant 75°F year-round. (Being tropical, i.e. humidity-loving, is why many houseplants suffer in winter when our heaters dry out the air.)

  1. Find a reputable nursery with knowledgeable people. Ideally you want to buy plants in person, so you can pick them out yourself and ask questions. A lot of local nurseries stock houseplants, and the good nurseries are staffed by certified, degree-holding plant nerds who can answer all your questions (I would know because I work at Flowerland, a nursery in Albany, CA).
  2. When you find your plant, check for damaged leaves, insects (scales, aphids, mealy bugs) and any signs of disease (black spots, yellowing leaves). If the leaves are limp and look wilty, it's more likely that the plant needs water than that it is sick.
  3. None of the houseplants you buy are going to be organic. All houseplants (being tropical) are grown in greenhouses — ideal ecosystems for pests and disease — and almost no commercial greenhouse would survive as a business without pesticides. After all, you would never buy a diseased or bug-infested plant.
  4. Additionally, most houseplants will have been grown in and shipped from Florida or often further abroad. Houseplants can go through numerous middlemen before reaching a storefront.
  5. If you can't find what you want in person, do your homework before buying plants online. Online plants can be quite unusual or rare, but are smaller and more expensive than what you find locally. Additionally, in the case of houseplants, 'rare' is pretty much a guarantee that the plant is only suitable to being grown in a greenhouse with specialist care. I recommend, if you're new to houseplants, to stay away from buying plants online until you know more about what you want and have the skill to care for.

(Image credits: Alexis Buryk; Emil Evans)

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