Your plant babies may need a little extra TLC while they adjust to a different environment than they were used to.

By Andrea Beck
Updated June 01, 2020
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Buying houseplants to add to your home can feel like an investment, so you'll want to make sure to start off on the right foot. Whether you picked them up from a garden center or ordered online, many types of plants will need a little extra love to help them adjust to their new digs. You'll want to keep an eye out for any wilting or yellowing foliage, for starters. Sometimes a drooping fiddle leaf fig or pothos shedding leaves just needs something simple like a big drink of water to perk up again. Follow these tips for moving in new houseplants, no matter where you bought them, and no doubt they'll soon be thriving and making you proud.

Credit: Marty Baldwin

Buying Plants In-Person

After you find the perfect plant at the garden center or grocery store, make sure it’s protected for the trip home. Even if that fiddle leaf fig looked completely healthy in the store, it could still get damaged in transit. The weather can be one culprit; in the winter, warm up your car and cover plants with a fabric bag before bringing them outside to ward off the chill (tropical plants and succulents are especially sensitive to freezing temperatures). And in the summer, help your new plants avoid heat stress by making sure their soil is damp.

If it's a windy day and you've got a large, leafy plant, wrap a piece of cloth or a tarp around the branches and secure it to the stem to protect foliage and branches. Remove the wrap as soon as you get indoors. When transporting plants in a car, be sure to set them in a secure spot where they can't tip over; falling and rolling around on your floor mats could damage stems and foliage, plus no one wants to clean up a dirt spill.

Once you get home, you can repot into a decorative container if you want, but most plants will also continue to grow just fine in whatever pot they came in for a while. It’s also a good idea to check the soil; if it’s damp, you can wait a few more days before watering, but if the soil feels dry, add water until it drains out the bottom of the pot (just don't let the extra moisture sit in a saucer).

Finally, keep your new plants separated for a couple of weeks from those you may already have in your home. If any pests or diseases managed to hitch a ride, this measure will avoid spreading them around. You also may want to make note of what plant and specific variety you bought. It’s surprisingly easy to forget over the months and years, and this info will be super valuable if you have care questions down the road.

Credit: Blaine Moats

Ordering Plants Online

Buying plants online from popular retailers like The Sill and Bloomscape is a little different than picking your newest plant baby out at a store. You don’t see your plant until it arrives, and the shipping process can be a little rough sometimes. But there’s plenty you can do to help your houseplant acclimate, even if it arrives looking a little droopy or with a few crispy leaves. Like new plants you pick out in person, check the potting soil when it arrives; if it’s bone-dry, go ahead and give your plant some water (it might also need more soil if any spilled during the shipping process).

Choose the Best Spot for Your New Plant

Not all plants will survive in similar spots. Some can tolerate low light, such as ZZ plant, while others, such as aloe vera and croton, need bright light. Make sure you know what your plant needs as soon as it arrives; several companies will include a care guide along with your new plant that will tell you how much light and water it needs. Especially after a journey in a dark box, plants that love sunlight will need a bright spot to perk up.

Trim Off Damaged Leaves

If your plant arrives with damaged foliage (including torn or shriveled leaves), the plant experts at The Sill recommend trimming them away to quickly improve your new plant’s appearance. Most houseplants benefit from pruning every now and then anyway, and torn leaves won’t heal, so it’s best to snip them off.

Credit: Dean Schoeppner

How to Fix Wilted or Brown Leaves

According to Joyce Mast, Bloomscape’s Plant Mom, if your plant arrives with wilted or browning leaves, it probably needs a good drink. She suggests soaking the plants in water, rather than watering from the top (if water splashes on the leaves, it can damage them more). Fill your tub or sink with a few inches of water, then place the potted plant inside (without its saucer) so the roots can soak up water through the drainage hole(s) at the bottom of the pot. Let the plant soak for at least 30 to 45 minutes, until the soil is evenly moist throughout. You can also spritz the top of the soil with water to speed up the soaking process. Once all of the soil is moist, empty your tub or sink and let the pot continue draining excess water for an hour or so. Then move it back to the spot where you want your plant to go and place its saucer under it again.

Mast also recommends being patient with your new plants; it’s normal for a few leaves to drop off, especially in the first few weeks as the plant adjusts. If you suspect that something more serious might be wrong with your new plant, most online plant delivery services have experts on staff that you can reach out to for help diagnosing any problems, and they’ll be able to help you with a solution.

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