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Bringing New Plants Home

My love of indoor plants started with a stab at rehabilitating clearance plants from Big Box Stores. These are the plants that are clinging to life with a yellow sticker on them that reads, “$3.50.”

If I hadn’t had so many casualties in those early days, maybe I would not have been so frustrated by houseplants early on. Here’s how to prevent your new leafy friend from kicking the bucket.

Pick a Winner

It feels great to get a plant for a few bucks and save it from the perils of the wire shelf at Home Depot. But, if the plant is nearly dead at the store, why do you think you can revive it at home? If rehabbing is your jam, go for it, but don’t expect an unhealthy plant to bounce back once it’s in your loving arms.

Best to start with a healthy little gem.

Check for Pests

If I had checked more carefully for pests every time I brought home a plant, maybe I could have avoided those mealies and spider mites…

Take a few seconds to thoroughly check for insects and signs of them before bringing a plant home.

Signs of spider mites:

  • Mottled leaves – The leaves have a splotchy, yellowed appearance, particularly near the ends of stems
  • Webbies


Signs of mealybugs:

  • White, cotton-like substance – this is often in the crook where the leaf and stem meet, so be sure to inspect carefully

To Repot or Not

Inspect the soil of your new plant. Is it sopping wet? Bone dry? Rootbound?

Too Wet

Most of the time, it is best to wait until your plant acclimates to your home before you repot. However, if the soil is far too wet, you are saving the plant by repotting right away, using a pot that is no larger than 2″ bigger than its current pot.

Generally, I recommend potting in terracotta because the pot will help draw moisture out of the soil and prevent root rot. In addition, use a soil mix that drains quickly and will not retain too much moisture.

I recommend equal parts orchid bark, perlite, and cactus soil for most house plants. If your plant’s care requires a bit more moisture (e.g. Syngonium), edit the ratio to a mix that’s heavier on the soil side, with less bark and perlite.

Too Dry

If your plant is bone dry, give it a quick drench and let it acclimate to your home before repotting. Keep an eye on that soil, however. If it has retained most of the moisture a few days after you’ve watered it, go ahead and repot.


If your plant is rootbound (roots are seen from the underside of the pot, or even growing out of the pot’s drainage holes), it’s okay to wait a bit before repotting. Give your plant about a week to acclimate, then repot in a pot no larger than 2″ bigger than it’s current pot.


I do not recommend fertilizing when you first bring a new plant into your home.

Generally, nurseries add slow-release fertilizers to their growing medium so your plant is likely already being dosed and you don’t want to overdo it by adding to that. Wait at least a month after repotting to fertilize your new friend.


I treat every plant I bring home as soon as it gets here with two preventatives.

I dress the soil of my new plant with Bonide Systemic House Plant Insecticide and Mosquito Bits.

These treatments prevent pests for my new friend and, if there are a small number of pests that have gone unnoticed, these two products will eliminate them.


This is the second most common houseplant no-no I come across.

Research your plant’s requirements before you purchase it. Decide if it’s a good fit. Read that bio before you swipe left or right.

If you already have a spot in mind for the plant you are shopping for, make sure you are purchasing a plant that will be happy there (e.g. Don’t buy a fern and hang it in a southern window). Do a quick google search when you come across something you like in the store.

“Hm. I’m feelin’ this Calathea Musaica… it would look so pretty in that south-facing window with the deep sill.”

*googles “Calathea musaica care”*

*walks away from Calathea musaica*


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