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Popular in Gardening

Choosing Houseplants

Select plants that match your decorating needs and the growing conditions in your home.

The Secret to Choosing Houseplants

Spider Plant

Foliage plants are the backbone of most houseplant collections. In full form year-round, they provide varied shades of green, a rich variety of textures, and shapes from massive to minute. Plants can be found to match the conditions in most any spot, from a bright corner by a window to a dim nook in a bathroom. How you choose to display the plants is up to you, but all can be made to match interior design and decor tastefully.

Flowering plants add bright splashes of color and exquisite scents. Some are difficult to raise indoors and are seasonal gift plants. Others are not quite so temperamental and will bloom year after year. The secret is to match your and your plants' needs so that you both get what you want: healthy plants that provide stunning color and delicate scent for as long as possible.

Where to Buy Houseplants


Buy from reputable stores where you know plants receive proper care. If the plant in a store looks healthy, you can feel reasonably confident that the plants you buy there will be vigorous and long-lived.

You may have to order more unusual plants through catalogs. Plant societies often are an overlooked source of unusual plants or unusual varieties of more common plants. Most garden magazines also have sections with sources for rare or exotic plants.

Buy from companies that offer money-back guarantees. If you receive damaged, dry, or diseased plants from a mail-order company, return them at once for a full refund. Ordering plants through the mail always is risky since plants can be damaged in transit by temperatures too high or too low. Most companies, however, stand behind their plants and replace them if necessary.

Many indoor gardeners start rare and unusual plants from seeds ordered through mail-order companies. Starting plants from seed is one of the most rewarding aspects of indoor gardening, one that saves you lots of money while giving tremendous satisfaction. Companies often send detailed growing instructions with the seeds. If you can't find a seed in a catalog try one of the seed exchanges now included in many garden magazines as a service to readers. You might try starting plants, too, from cuttings off friends' plants.

Tips for Choosing Houseplants

Examine plants carefully before buying. Foliage plants should be lush and full, and have good color. Stems and leaves should be firm, not wilted or distorted, and roughly equal on all sides. New growth should be evident. The foliage should be natural, not covered with a thin film of polish or wax.

Check plants carefully before buying them.
  • When choosing a flowering plant, don't pick one with flowers in full bloom. Though dramatic, the blossoms on plants in full flower often fade quickly. Plants with numerous buds, but fewer blooms, generally last much longer. As with all general rules, there are exceptions. Buy anthurium in full bloom since its flowers last for several months.
  • Check each plant for disease and insects. Look closely where the branches join the stem. Avoid any plant already infected with mealybug, red spider mite, or scale. These pests will quickly infect the rest of your plants.
  • Insects are especially common on plants imported from areas where they are grown outdoors. Also, plants displayed outdoors during warmer months may attract insects.
  • Check the soil. Feel it with your fingers. It shouldn't be too loose or too compacted. Some growers save money by using ordinary garden soil for potting. This soil usually turns hard as brick when dry, a condition that stunts plant growth. Repot plants with poor soil if necessary.

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