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10 Tips for Buying Houseplants at Big Box Stores

snake plant with text - 10 tips for buying houseplants at big box stores

Houseplants have surged in popularity over the past few years. My love of houseplants really has exploded in the past 3 years and collecting houseplants and caring for them has become a fun hobby of mine. And you can tell that houseplant love is spreading every time you go into a big box store like Walmart, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and even your local grocery store. Big box stores offer a convenient and accessible way to purchase a variety of houseplants, catering to both beginners and experienced plant enthusiasts. However, navigating the aisles filled with greenery can be overwhelming, and it’s important to make informed choices to ensure you’re bringing home healthy and thriving plants. Here are some valuable tips for buying houseplants at big box stores.

1. Do Your Research Beforehand: Before heading to the store, take some time to research the types of houseplants you’re interested in. Consider the lighting conditions in your home, your level of gardening expertise, and the specific care requirements of the plants you’re eyeing. This knowledge will empower you to make well-informed decisions and choose plants that are suitable for your space and lifestyle. If you have time and get to the store to find a plant you are not familiar with, I suggest googling the plant and learning about it right there. See how difficult it is and if you are up to the challenge.  Look for websites specifically for houseplants or houseplant blogs, like Plant Proper. You can get some really random information about houseplants on the internet, as is true with just about anything you research.

Also, if you have pets, know that some houseplants are toxic. Check out this post for indoor plants safe for cats.

2. Check for Signs of Health: Inspect the plants for any signs of poor health or pests. Look for lush foliage, vibrant colors, and no obvious signs of damage, discoloration, or wilting. Check both the upper and lower sides of leaves for pests or signs of disease. Avoid plants with yellowing leaves, brown spots, or evidence of insect infestations. If you see webs or anything crawling or flying around, put it back. 

3. Examine the Roots: Healthy roots are essential for a thriving houseplant. If possible, gently remove the plant from its pot and examine the roots. They should be white or light tan in color and should not be overly crowded or mushy. Avoid plants with a strong, foul odor, as this could indicate root rot. If roots are black, put it back!

4. Choose Compact Growth: Opt for plants with compact, well-proportioned growth rather than ones that are tall and leggy. Compact growth suggests that the plant has received proper care and lighting in the store, and it’s more likely to adapt well to its new environment.

5. If It Is Sitting In Water, Put It Back: Big box stores have a tendency to overwater their houseplants. I am not sure why this is, but so many times, I’ve seen plants just SITTING in water. If you push the soil and can see the water, it is best to put it back and possibly just abandon ship and go to a different store. Houseplants do not need to be watered as often as most non-houseplant enthusiasts realize. Overwatering kills houseplants more often than anything else!

6. Read Care Labels: Most big box stores attach care labels to their plants. These labels provide valuable information about the plant’s light, water, and temperature requirements. Take the time to read and understand these labels to make sure you’re equipped to provide the right care once you bring the plant home. Sometimes, however, things are mislabeled. So again, I like to google the plant and really research what I am considering buying.

7. Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions: If you have questions about a specific plant’s care or suitability for your home, don’t hesitate to ask store staff for assistance. They can offer valuable insights and recommendations based on their knowledge and experience. Sometimes, however, houseplants are provided by another company and the big box store employees do not know about them. Again, google is your friend.  Better yet, call a plant lover friend for advice, if they are not already shopping with you!

white knight philodendron - tips for buying houseplants

8. Quarantine New Plants: When you bring a new plant home from a big box store, it’s a good idea to quarantine it for a few weeks before introducing it to your existing plant collection. This helps prevent the spread of pests or diseases that may not be immediately visible.

9. Repot if Necessary: Plants from big box stores are often kept in standard nursery pots with basic potting mix. Consider repotting your new plant into a slightly larger container with well-draining, high-quality potting soil. This promotes healthy root growth and provides your plant with the best possible start.

Natural plants in pots, green garden on a balcony. Urban gardening, home planting.

10. Be Patient: Finally, remember that plants need time to acclimate to their new environment. Don’t be discouraged if your new plant doesn’t show immediate growth. With proper care and attention, your houseplant will likely flourish over time.

Bringing home a new houseplant from a big box store can be a rewarding experience, as long as you approach it with careful consideration and a little bit of know-how. By following these tips, you will increase your chances of selecting healthy plants that will thrive in your indoor space, adding beauty and vitality to your home.

Do you have any tips for buying houseplants to add? What is your favorite houseplant that you have found at a big box store?


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Monday 28th of August 2023

I admit I am a plastic plant person 😳😳 I managed to kill a cactus once! But my sister LOVES her plants, her house is gorgeous and lush looking. SO I forwarded this on as she has an obsession with buying plants. It was really interesting to know what to look for as I always think plants would make a great present for her but I know nothing, so I end up going for something different. Glad I can now try my hand at buying her something.


Thursday 31st of August 2023

That's great! Thank you. Maybe you should give it another go at the houseplants! :)


Monday 28th of August 2023

I have never thought about checking the roots of a plant before buying it. This is such great advice! We love our house plants and have many of them.


Sunday 27th of August 2023

I'm a little bit of a houseplant junky; I have trouble resisting when I see a cute plant. Thanks for these tips, it'll help me make better decisions in the future. :)

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