How to Choose the Healthiest Plants from a Supermarket or DIY Store

How many of you have had an impulse buy of a houseplant from a supermarket or while out buying a pot of paint?

They are usually positioned at the entrances and exits for us to pick up and can often be unhappy, pot bound or unhealthy.

These aren't specialist nurseries and usually the people looking after the plants aren't trained horticulturalists. I tend to grimace when I see staff hosing them all down in one go, or left to wilt on a metal trolley out in the cold.

So if you can't resist buying from these shop, I wanted to give you my top tips for selecting healthy houseplants from non-houseplant stores.

I'll also give you five extra tips to ensure your green friend thrives.

Assess overall plant health

First things first. Check the health of the plant by looking at it. Things to check are: 

  1. Are there lots of yellowing leaves?
  2. Is there any mildew on the leaves?
  3. Are there any leaves rotting around the base?

If there is evidence of mildew, yellow leaves and rot I would skip this plant and go to the next.

Check the soil

Supermarkets typically water all their plants uniformly, which might not be optimal for every plant species. Scrutinise the moisture levels and soil composition.

Look out for signs of algae or mould on the soil surface. If there is algae, this could be evidence that the soil has been very wet for a long time and this may have affected the health of the plant.

Check the roots

Houseplants that linger on supermarket shelves for extended periods can become rootbound, where their roots tangle and overcrowd the pot. Before making a purchase, carefully examine the root system.

Gently ease the plant out of its pot and check the roots. Are they very congested and circling round and round the base? They may even be coming out of the drainage holes and have formed a mat.

Avoid buying these plants.

Also check if there are any brown, mushy roots. This is evidence of root rot and you would need to dry out the plant and trim off the damaged roots and hope it recovers. Or just pass over it and check the next.

Is your houseplant in season?

It's common for supermarkets to offer houseplants that were forced to flower out of their natural season. As a result, these plants may cease flowering or appear fatigued once you bring them home.

With some TLC, these plants can flourish again next year, but just be mindful that they might not look as great in your home in a few week's time.

Always research the plant type when you get home to learn about its natural blooming season, when to feed and when it goes dormant.

A good example of this is the Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera truncate). Even though they're sold at Christmas they actually like bright light and humid environments. Not what our homes are typically like at this time of year.

They will go into dormancy at the end of January so you should actually reduce your watering and put somewhere cool.

Then at the end of March is when they start growing so is the best time to repot and feed.

Check for pests

Look for signs of pests. White spider webs could indicate spider mites. Check in between leaves for mealy bugs too.


The temptation to pick up a houseplant when you're doing the weekly shop can be really tempting, but hopefully with this guide you'll be able to check if your purchase is a good one.

Remember to check your soil quality, root system health, overall plant condition, and and hiding pests.

Always check their care too and see what type of watering, lighting, and fertilisation they're going to need. 

If you want personalised advice on how to care for you new houseplant, why not shop from us. We have a shop in Banana Block, East Belfast.