How to Shop for Plants

The best places to shop, how to spot the healthiest plant in the bunch, and what to expect when shopping online.


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Where should I buy my plants?

The answer might feel obvious at first, but if you live in a metropolitan area, you might have a few options. Try to purchase plants that have been grown locally. I have some favorite stores here in NYC that have some harder to find plants, but generally I like buying from farmers markets. The plants will better adjust to your home if they’ve been grown nearby. Less travel time means less stress on the plant, reduced risk of picking up pests and diseases, and a smaller carbon footprint!

If you can’t  find that special plant you want locally, you can buy plants online (Ebay and Etsy have some great sellers). You can opt to buy seeds which is more difficult but rewarding, or buy fully grown plants.


Do some research before shopping

Before purchasing a plant, search for the light requirements as this can be the hardest factor to adjust in your home. If a plant doesn’t have the right amount of light it will not grow correctly.

  • If a plant needs full sun you need a southern facing window.
  • If a plant needs “partial sun” or “bright indirect light” or “4-6 hours of sun” ideally place it at a eastern facing window.
  • If a plant needs “partial shade” or “2-4 hours of sunlight per day” ideally place it at a eastern facing window.
  • If you only have northern facing windows, you will have many issues growing anything besides very low light tropical plants. There are many great ones! But you may consider getting grow lights if you really want to grow that cactus!


Not giving a plant enough light may mean it either will grow very slowly, or it will stretch itself out, appearing very tall and gangly. This is called “etiolation” Do not mistake this for healthy growth! This is your plant straining itself to find more light.

You should also know that windows reflect 50% of sunlight! This is a major reason why growing plants indoors is so difficult.


What to do when buying your plant in person:

1. Check for any discolored/spotty leaves, insects, brown tips, soggy/mushy trunks (give it a squeeze).

2. Choose the healthiest looking plant on face value after checking for any bad signs. Maybe its the bushiest one, has the most flowers, or is the nicest shape.

3. Get the exact name of the plant if you can, if it is not labeled. Scientific (latin) names are always better. At the least have someone identify it as a cactus, orchid, tropical etc. if you’re not sure.


What to know when buying fully grown plants online:

Plants will likely arrive wilted, with some leaves lost. They may need weeks or even months to adjust to your home and get over the shock of being transported.

If the seller says they will ship the plant “bare-root”, this means the plant will be sent without soil and should be immediately potted in soil upon arrival.

If your plant doesn’t like cold weather, heat pads should be included when shipping during the winter

A good seller will have very good packaging! Shipping plants is hard, and requires some creativity to keep it in the best shape possible. Sellers have their own creative ways to reduce soil spilling, or the plant drying out. If it looks like there was a lack of attention, that’s bad and I would recommend not shopping with them again.


Want to learn the basics of indoor gardening? Check out these posts:

Everything You Need to Know About Water

Everything You Need to Know About Light

Everything You Need to Know About Soil

Everything You Need to Know About Fertilizer

Everything You Need to Know About Plant Pots

How to Repot Plants

How to Get Rid of Pests Naturally