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Use This Expert-Approved Checklist Before Buying Your Next Plant

There are a few important things to check for before bringing home a new plant. Here's what a plant pro wants you to know.

Written by
Tehrene Firman

You go to a greenhouse and excitedly pick out a new plant. Then weeks later, it looking nothing like its once-happy self. It's easy to blame yourself, thinking of everything you could have done wrong. But rest assured, because it's not you—it's the plant.

Nick Cutsumpas, a plant coach and urban farmer in New York City, recently shared his "new plant checklist"—something he goes through anytime he's about to buy a new plant. Using his checklist not only ensures you're choosing a healthy plant, but it also prevents you from bringing pests into your home that could infect other members of your indoor jungle. Here's exactly how to choose a plant.

How to Choose a Plant, According to an Expert

1. Look for New Growth

Checking for new growth is one of the easiest things you can do to determine how healthy a plant is. "If the plant isn’t happy coming from optimal conditions, it’s probably not going to be happy in your home," says Cutsumpas. Look for new leaves forming or bright green leaves—two indicators that a plant is in great shape.

2. Check the Soil

Even if your plant looks healthy now, being planted in the wrong soil can quickly make it take a turn for the worse. "Just because it was planted in that soil doesn’t mean it's right for that plant," he says. Do your own research to ensure your plant has everything it needs to thrive in its new home. Cacti and succulents, for example, need a gritty soil that offers optimal drainage, while regular houseplants thrive in most potting soils.

3. Inspect for Pests

If one of your plants gets infected by pests—be it spider mites, fungus gnats, scale, or mealybugs (shown above)—it can be really hard to keep it healthy. That's why Cutsumpas says it's crucial to do some detective work before buying a plant. "Pests especially love hanging out on the underside of leaves," he says. When you bring a new plant home, you definitely don't want a bunch of creepy crawlers tagging along for the ride.

Now that you know how to choose a plant, one question remains: Which type are you going to bring home first?