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Selecting Houseplants - Houseplants - University of Illinois Extension

Selecting Houseplants

What To Look For

Houseplants are sold in many different places, such as at florists, greenhouses, nurseries, home improvement centers, craft fairs, flea markets, and even out of a truck in a parking lot. Plant quality and guarantees, along with price are important factors to consider when making a purchase.


There are several things to look for when shopping for a healthy plant. Begin by inspecting the leaves carefully. They should have the right color, shape and size and be free of blemishes or brown edges. Also, the lower leaves should not be pale or yellow.

A good specimen should not look leggy or sparse. It should have a good, balanced shape and not be top heavy.

Look closely at stems and leaves for any signs of insects or disease.

Finally, look at the pot and soil. If roots are growing through the drainage holes or are seen at the soil surface, the plant has probably outgrown its pot. If you choose this plant, special care will be needed when transplanting into a larger pot.

If you are unfamiliar with the plant, a proper label will be important too.

Now You Have a New Plant, What’s Next?

It is a good idea to keep a new plant away from other plants for 2-3 weeks. This will protect the other plants from possible attack by any insects or disease you might have missed.

Most houseplants are tropical or sub-tropical in origin. Often, they have been grown in greenhouse conditions or even outdoors in southern climates. If plants have not been acclimatized, they may go through a period of shock.

Often, plants drop some leaves or some leaves may yellow, when first brought into a new environment. This adjustment period should not last more than a few weeks. During this time, keep the plant relatively cool to help minimize water loss through its leaves. Check the soil regularly to determine when to water. Also, do not fertilize at this time, since the plant is adjusting to lower light and humidity conditions.

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