Choosing Healthy Houseplants

There is no doubt about it; houseplants transform a house to a home bringing both color and life to your living area. Lush green foliage - particularly in the midst of winter - uplifts the spirit and invigorates the soul. Choosing the right houseplants for your home and your lifestyle makes the difference between a tropical paradise and barren desert filled with dead and dying plants. I should know. I've experienced both. 

Lighting Before you step foot in that greenhouse brimming with fresh new growth, you need to know what you are looking for. That means understanding the amount of light in your home - as each plant's light requirements are different. Bringing home that tropical plant that thrives in the midst of the rain forest and placing it in direct sunlight is a recipe for disaster. Knowing the lighting in your home or office allows you to choose plants that will thrive in those conditions. Browse for plants that match the lighting you have to offer and resist the urge to choose that gorgeous sun-loving plant if all you have to offer is filtered light.

Foliage Examine the foliage of your new plant before you make a purchase. Leaves should be healthy and green - or the proper shade for that particular plant, well formed and full-size. Stunted or discolored leaves are a sign of poor care and may signal disease. Yellowed lower leaves are a no-no, too.

Shape The overall plant should be dense and compact with ample foliage. Vining plants should not have large spaces between leaves and all but the leaves on the growing tip should be full size. Small stunted leaves along the vine indicate poor health. Tall leggy plants suffer from a lack of light or overcrowded growing conditions.

Check the soil for any signs of mold or mildew. This may appear fuzzy green, white or black. Check for unpleasant odors - such as a sour or moldy smell. Healthy soil smells fresh, is free of plant debris, and is moist - but not soggy.

Roots Inspect the bottom of the pot for roots that have grown through the drainage holes. This indicates the plant is pot bound and in need of repotting. Remaining in a pot that is too small may have stressed the plant, making it susceptible to disease. Likewise, roots that protrude above the surface of the soil or are tightly wound inside the pot are signals the plant has outgrown its container.
Insects Check the undersides of leaves for any signs of insects. Look for tiny white webs or chew marks on the leaves. These may appear as jagged edges or leaves may have a buckshot appearance. Even if there are no insects present, chew marks open your plants to fungus and other diseases.

Bringing Your Plant Home Isolate your new houseplant from other plants for at least a week once you bring it home. Insects or disease can easily be transferred to your existing plants risking their health. Some prefer to wash new plants in sudsy water made from a drop or two of dish detergent and warm water. If you suspect an insect infestation, washing the plants is a good practice.

Choosing new houseplants wisely ensures healthy plants that can add life to your home. With proper care most plants thrive in the average home - even in the midst of winter. So go ahead, indulge in new plants to lift the spirits, but don't forget to check their health before you bring them home.