7 Tips For Buying House Plants

Sure, they might look nice. But there’s a lot more than aesthetics to consider for indoor plants! Here are 7 tips for buying house plants

By Diane Small

Spring means it’s time to grow plants – indoor, and out!

And why not? There are many benefits to growing plants indoors, from improving your home’s connection with nature to purifying the air.

Of course, there are many house plants to choose from. And not all of them may be suitable for your space.

To help you make the right choice, here are a few easy, useful tips for buying house plants.

7 Things To Consider When Buying House Plants

tips for buying house plants

1. Maintenance

Some house plants require a lot of love and attention. These include: orchids, indoor ferns, bonsai trees and fiddle leafs, amongst others. Such plants need careful amounts of water and light to survive, or may even need regular pruning to look good. These are great if you fancy a challenge, but best avoided if you’re looking for something low maintenance.

Travel a lot? New plant mom? Try snake plants, spider plants, peace lilies and most succulents. All of these are famously hard to kill and require little upkeep.

Another of our tips for buying house plants is to remember that different plants thrive in different levels of sunlight. If you’re looking for a plant to place by a large sunny window, consider sun-loving plants like jades and palms. If you’re placing a plant on the opposite side of the room from a window, consider a shade-loving plant like a ZZ plant or Boston fern. 

Humidity levels are also important to consider. Some plants thrive in humid conditions, such as pathos and ferns. These are ideal plants to grow in a bathroom. Others like cacti and aloe vera are happier in drier rooms. 

2. Health

Before you buy any plant, make sure it’s healthy! The most obvious sign of a plant’s health is, of course, its foliage. Be sure that the colour of the leaves is even, vivid and bright. Leaves that have brown tips or yellowing could indicate under or over watering, respectively. Foliage that droops or wilts can indicate a plant that’s shocked or stressed. This could be from being moved, transplanted or another change in conditions. Stressed plants may or may not bounce back.

One of the most important tips for buying house plants is to ensure your plant has no symptoms of insect infestation. Look at both the soil and the undersides of the leaves. Red flags include holes in foliage, black or white spots), leaf squishiness or stickiness, distortion of leaf shape, and of course, any visible insects.

Finally, if you see any weeds growing around the base of the plant, think twice. These will have siphoned water and nutrients away from the main plant, making it weaker than its weed-free siblings.

3. Size

Before choosing a house plant, consider how. you want it to appear in your house.

Looking for a small plant to place on a coffee table or a windowsill? It’s important to choose something that won’t grow too large. Cacti and succulents are famously very small and ideal for desks and tabletops.

Other plants will eventually require a larger floor standing pot. This is particularly the case with indoor tree varieties like eucalyptus and fig. Be wary that some plants will need to be regularly pruned to stop your home looking like a scene from Day of The Triffids! 

But the truth is, plants will only generally grow as large as their pots allow them to. The bigger you want your plant to grow, the bigger the pot you should buy.

4. Pots

And speaking of pots, it’s essential to choose a good one!

There are three main materials to choose from: plastic, terra cotta, or ceramic.

Plastic pots

These tend to be lightweight and low-cost. Don’t use these for outdoor plants, as they tend to photo-degrade, meaning sunlight destroys them. Black plastic pots can also cook your plant’s roots in the summer heat. And course, plastic doesn’t biodegrade. And it looks cheap!

Terracotta pots

Made from red clay, these classic pots are ideal for all plants. The porous material absorbs water from the soil and then dries. So you can either pair these plants with drought-tolerant species (like succulents and rosemary), or plants that need lots of water.

Ceramic pots

These glazed pots are sturdy, heavy, and come in many colours. Almost any plant will do well in a glazed ceramic pot. The two drawbacks are higher prices and a tendency to crack in freezing temperatures.

The size of your pots matters, too.
For smaller plants, go for ten inch pots. These are ideal for succulents and herbs, as well as vegetables like leaf lettuce, strawberries, turnips, beets, small carrots, and flowers like marigolds and zinnias.
The next size up is 14 inch pots. This diameter is great for leafy house plants like elephant’s ear or Boston ferns. If you plan to have indoor shrubs, 18 inch pots work best, while 24 inch pots are great for indoor trees, like dwarf citrus.

Almost all plants will need to be repotted at some point in their life. You’ll know this is necessary if your plants need to be watered much more frequently, or if you notice roots are growing out of the holes on the bottoms of the pots. In general, most plants will need to be transplanted into a new container once every two years.

5. Toxicity

One of the most important tips for buying house plants is knowing which ones can kill your pets.

Did you know that some lilies are incredibly toxic to cats? And that aloe vera is highly toxic to dogs? If you have these pets, you may want to avoid buying any plants that could accidentally poison them if they decide to nibble them.

While you can train pets to stay away from certain plants, it’s much safer to just avoid growing these plants in your home.

The level of toxicity can vary in plants and some house plants may only pose a mild risk due to their very low toxicity, and therefore could still be worth considering. 

Check the chart below if you want to ensure your pets’ – and your own – health is safeguarded.

Image above: Grace Luxton/rd.com, Getty Images

6. Cost

It’s important to consider your budget when buying a house plant. While most houseplants are fairly cheap to buy, there are some plants that come at a high price due to their rarity and demand. This includes variegated monsteras, specially cultivated philodendrons and century-old bonsai trees.

If you’ve never owned houseplants before, you should avoid pricier plants. Instead, start with cheaper ones so that you can put your green fingers to the test. After all, accidentally killing a $5 plant is a lot easier to make peace with than accidentally killing a $200 plant!

7. Place of purchase

Finally, our last tip for buying house plants is to consider the place you’re buying from.

Although it’s common today to find plants for sale in shops like Target and Walmart, the local plant nursery is your best bet. There, the staff will understand plant care and be able to advise you on your purchase. They’ll also have a wider selection to choose from.

If you don’t have access to transport, you may find it easier to shop online. That way, the plants can be delivered directly to your door.

Some worry that buying plants online might negatively impact on the environment. Fortunately, this is something that many online sellers have taken into consideration and many now offer plants delivered in 100% sustainable packaging. Bonus!

For those who are truly crazy about plants, there are now even succulent subscription boxes you can join up for.

No matter where you buy them from, there can be little doubt that adding plants to your home, whether indoors or out, will make it a happier, healthier, more beautiful environment, if you choose your plants well.

Diane Small

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