How To Choose A Healthy Plant

If you’re new to gardening, this guide will help you in choosing a healthy plant.

When you’re starting out, choosing a plant may be pretty difficult. You may not know how to differentiate a healthy looking plant from a sick one. Here are some things to consider when shopping for plants. Before we move forward, let me say that plants are not perfect and are not meant to look perfect at all times, but with this being said, there are some definite signs to look for to increase your chances of success with a plant you may purchase.

Before You Get Started

Consider your conditions at home. You’re gonna need to be honest with yourself with what you have going on. You need to consider your space available for plants, what kind of light you have available, and what amount of time you’re willing to spend on your plants. Knowing all these things will help you figure out what kind of plants may work for you in your space. Now we can start shopping!

Is This Plant Dead Or Nah

Depending on where you will shop, some plants that you may come across may look a bit stressed. Some are salvageable and some are not. There are some plants even the most greenest of thumbs cannot save. Here are some things to consider when choosing a plant.

Does the plant look lively? Ideally you will want a plant that is bright in color and looks lively. Droopy plants may indicate the plant needs watering but it could also indicate other things. If the soil is bone dry, it’s safe to say that it’s most likely very thirsty. If the soil is pretty moist or wet and the plant still looks droopy, it may have some root rot going on. If this is the case, I would say it’s best to leave it.

What color are the leaves or plant overall? It is perfectly normal for plants to have some yellowing and browning of their leaves. Plants will naturally do this to shed leaves and make space for more growth. If a plant has a lot of discoloration to their leaves like yellow or brown, possibly even having spots on their leaves, I would say to avoid it. If a plant has a lot of discoloration, it could mean that the plant hasn’t been watered properly. Possibly by too much over watering or under watering. It could also indicate that the plant is light stressed, possibly by having too much sun exposure. Speckled leaves could indicate leaf rot or a fungus of some sort. If a plant looks brown/black and feels mushy, it’s best to leave it. It is dead and rotten.

Does this plant have new growth? Most people will tend to shop for plants during the growing season, about April to September. During this time healthy plants should be putting out new growth. It is a very good sign if you see new growth and the new growth looks bright and healthy, having a light to dark green color to it. I would avoid a plant that isn’t pushing out much new growth or new growth looks stressed, such as having holes or discoloration to them.

Does this plant have holes? A big problem with buying plants is buying one that may have a pest problem. If you see a plant with leaves that have holes on them, consider if the new growth has holes on them too. Most pests go straight for the new growth. If the new growth is fine, the plant may have had a bug problem the year prior but may currently be pest free. Be sure to check for aphids and mealy bugs too. Examine the plant closely, for these pests are tiny. Look out for any black gnats flying around the plants as well, as these could be fungus gnats.

What is the structure of the plant like? When purchasing a plant it is best to choose one that is lush and full. You will want to find one that doesn’t look too leggy or sparse in any particular area. Ideally you want a plant that didn’t experience too much damage from being shipped. Being root bound isn’t necessarily bad. Excess roots can be trimmed back and lightly separated before repotting. You want the plant to look like it’s living it’s best life.

Starting Off On The Right Track

When you consider all the above before purchasing, you greatly increase your chances of success with that particular plant. If you are a beginner gardener, these 5 things to consider will greatly help you start off right. If you are pretty knowledgeable about plants and their care, some leaf discoloration, pests, or shipping damage may be no problem for you to remedy. It really comes down to what you are comfotable with and how much time and patience you have.


Little Groundwork is an online oasis documenting the everyday lessons and changes involved with cultivating a greener environment. Rooted in a love for all things nature and design, Little Groundwork hopes to spark that same passion into the hearts of many. We hope that you follow along with us and together we can learn, grow, and create a greener environment.

Leave a Reply