So, before you skip off to the plant shop with your money in your hot little hand, pause and have a think.
Consider the environment the plant will be coming into; particularly the amount of light and the temperature and how much control you have over this. Can you amend these in any way, and if so, how easily and how much? I know I have temperature limitations in the depths of winter in my old wooden villa and this is a factor in my plant choice. Choosing the plant to fit the existing environment is so much easier on the stress levels of both you and your plant than trying to make it fit when it really isn’t an appropriate environment for it.
How much time do you have, or wish to spend, on your plants? Don’t buy a plant that needs daily watering if you are a busy, busy person. Go for easier-care plants. Likewise, if you are inexperienced, choose the easy and usually cheaper plants to start off with, until your skills and knowledge improve. Look at friends’ houses and see what is successfully growing there and see if it would work at your place.
Having had your think, you are at the buying stage. The plants will also have been kept in ideal conditions. So, you see a plant you like the look of. Go through your mental checklist. Look at how healthy it looks, paying particular attention to how fully ‘clothed’ it is with no bare branches, fallen leaves or buds. Avoid plants with wilting, damaged or diseased leaves – turn the leaves over to check for any lurking nasties. Brown tips or edges on the leaves as well as any discolouration is not a good sign either. Is the pot the right size? Too small may mean it is starved and rootbound (look for roots coming out the drainage hole). You will have to deal with this ASAP and the plant may not recover from being re-potted when it is so compromised. Too big a pot and the plant can be difficult to keep at the right degree of moisture and it can look out of scale or worse, silly. Also check the potting mix – is it too wet/ too dry? One way of telling is to pick up the plant and hold the pot in your palm and feel how heavy it is or isn’t (too heavy indicates wet; too light is dry). Also check if the potting mix has shrunk from the side of the pot indicating too dry. And check the pot for white patches or slime – neither are desirable.
Note here that some plants will be short-lived plants; particularly the flowering plants. So, if you are looking for longevity in your plant check that this is indeed the case. When buying flowering plants, ensure the plant isn’t in full flower – you want there to be a lot of buds that are yet to open.
Check there is a label – it’s helpful to have the proper plant name and to have cultivation notes to hand. These may be fairly basic, however, so do a bit more research to get a more complete picture of your plant’s cultivation requirements.
When you have bought your plant, ask that it be wrapped to protect it from the elements. Many of these plants have lived a princess life and don’t cope with cold winds and so on. Avoid leaving your plant in a hot summer car or a cold winter car – make the plant purchase the last bit of shopping you do before heading home.
Oh and just check that the plant is not toxic to children or pets before you buy. If you have ‘chewers’ in your house either re-think your choice or put the plant up high. The saying “no children or animals were hurt in the growing of this plant” applies at all times!
When you get your plant home, put it in a moderately warm spot out of direct sun and draughts to acclimatise it. Unwrap it if it’s been wrapped as plants can distort if left covered. Check if it needs a drink but don’t over water; we just want it moist. Leave it there for a week to get it settled into the new environment – don’t keep moving it around trying to find a proper home for it – just leave it be until the week has passed and then move it into its final position.
An exception to the above is when you bring a flowering plant home, such as a cyclamen, chrysanthemum or azalea – these need to go into their permanent position with as much light as you can possibly give them.
Let the affair begin!