Buying your first house plants

hanging houseplants

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A friend of mine told me she would love to add some plants to her home. But every time she went out plant shopping, she got overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start.

This is what you need to do:

Buy the best plant to give yourself a head start for success and a thriving houseplant.

But how do you do that? Where do you find the best houseplants, and how to choose the right one for you and your home?

Where to buy houseplants

Where to buy your plants?

Houseplants are very much back in style, and there are a lot of places where you can buy them. Grocery stores often have a small area dedicated to plants, as do home improvement stores. There are outdoor markets with stalls filled with flowers and plants. And of course the garden centers, boutique plant shops and plant nurseries. Each has its own pros and cons.

Your local grocery store might be convenient and probably cheap, but does it have the best quality plants? The plant nursery might have better looked after plants, but how do you know which one to pick from all the choices they offer.

Buying plants at the Grocery store.

There’s nothing wrong with impulse buying a plant at the grocery store as long as you know what to look out for.

When buying plants at the Grocery store, try to get plants soon after they are brought into the store. Recently stocked from the grower, they will be fresh and well taken care off. Don’t expect all grocery stores to give plants the attention they need. Or even watering them after they hit the shelves.

I have seen many plants positioned in places convenient for the store, but clearly nobody had been thinking about what was best for the plant. Placing the plants right outside the front door, might get them seen by a lot of potential shoppers, but the plants might not do very well standing in the full sun all day. I’ve seen succulents in sealed plastic packaging. Making it so that even if a store associate would want to care for the plants, it’s not even possible.

But don’t let this scare you, find out when the plants are restocked and buy them that day if you can. Just leave the sad looking plants behind.

Buying plants at the garden center or plant nursery.

My advice for first time plant buyers is to go to a nursery or gardening center.
Plants are their core business. They are focused and knowledgeable. New plants are frequently stocked. They tend to be in overall better condition, giving you a better starting point when you take them home.

If the wide variety makes it hard for you to choose, don’t fret. There is experienced plant-loving personnel ready to answer all your questions. Ask them for recommendations and plant tips.

Buying plants online.

Personally i prefer buying houseplants in a store where i can inspect the actual plant before buying. I want to see all the options available, and choose the best one. You can’t do that in an online shop. On the other hand, online plant shopping can bring all types of plants to your home that would otherwise be very hard, or impossible to find locally.

Buying plants from online stores can be a little tricky. Look at all the photos and read the descriptions thoroughly. What you see might not exactly be what you get. You might see a photo of a full grown plant, while the listing actually is for a small cutting of that plant.
Choose to shop at a reputable store and read reviews before you purchase.

Plant buying guide

How to choose the right plant for your home

Picking out the right plant for your home doesn’t have to be very difficult, but you do have to put a little thought into it. Just buying the first plant that appeals to you and putting it in a random spot in your house might not result in a happy and thriving plant.

Where will you put the plant?

Before you head out to your plant shop of choice, you should decide where you are going to place the plant in your home.

This is important because different plants have different needs. While some plants will be perfectly happy in a sunny spot, for others this can be too hot to handle. They might prefer a little bit of shade.

So we are looking at the light. If you want to put a plant in a low light location, go for a shade tolerant plant. A good rule of thumb is that plants with large, dark green leaves can do with less light. Plants with colored or patterned leaves tend to do better in spots with more light.

Inspect before buying

At this point you are at the store, you know your light situation back home, and you’ve selected the type of plant you want. Before you put any plant in your cart, do a quick plant inspection. You are looking for a few things.

Damage. Plants might have been touched or picked up by previous shoppers. For the best conditions, go for a plant from the back or middle. The ones in the front have most risk of being damaged. Choose a plant with firm, healthy foliage.

Roots. If you can, gently ease the root ball out of the pot. How do the roots look? They should be white and firm. And if you smell something funky, put it back. Off putting smells can be sign of root rot.

RELATED POST: When and How to Repot Houseplants

Bugs. Eww, bugs. We don’t want those. Check the whole plant for signs of pests. Inspect the soil, the underside of the leaves, and look along the stem. If you see something crawling, step away.

Soil. Does the soil look fresh, or is it bone dry and neglected? Damp soil shows you that the plant has been getting watered regularly. Are there any weeds? Those are using up precious nutrients. That, and it doesn’t imply very good plant care if there are weeds growing in the pot.

One thing left to do:

Buy the plant, take it home, and enjoy.

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