1. Brown leaves
You can tell a lot about a plant by looking at its leaves. If the plant you're admiring looks a little worse for wear on the ends of its leaves, i.e. they are turning brown, you might want to find another plant.
If you stick your finger in the soil and it's dry, it might just be thirsty. If the soil is wet, it could be worse, like root rot.
2. Yellow leaves
You want your potential new plant baby to have lots of lovely new growth. If the leaves are starting to yellow, it could mean several things.
From overwatering to underwatering to the wrong light and pests - it can be hard to pinpoint the exact cause. So it's best to step away from the plant before you become too attached.
4. The soil
The soil should be next on your checklist. Poking your finger in the soil is a great way to determine how moist it is. If it's dry as a bone, there's a chance the roots have dried out.
If that's the case, then you don't want it. Other soil indicators that your plant might not be so healthy are weeds and roots growing out of the bottom of the pot (more on this later).
5. Signs of pests
Pests are very common in houseplants. Many of them are so tiny, making them hard to spot before it's too late.
Here are some tell-tale signs, a plant is infested with unwanted pests.
Aphids: aphids suck the sap out of a plant, making it weak. Aphids leave a sticky substance behind known as Honeydew, which ants love! So if you notice some sugar-loving ants obsessed with the plant of your eye - it might be aphids.
Spider mites: spider mites look like tiny yellow spiders. If you notice any white webs in between or underneath leaves - run!
Scale: scale is the name given to describe lots of sap-sucking species, of which there are over 7,000. A common sign of scale is tiny shell-like bumps on the stems or leaves of a plant. If you scratch the bumps with your fingernail and they come off - it's scale. Another sign is sooty mould on the leaves and dark spots on the stems.
Mealybugs: mealybugs are another common plant pest. The plant should not be for sale if you spot anything white and fuzzy on the leaves.
Fungus gnats: fungus gnats are small flies about 1/8-inch long and are attracted to moist potting soil and decaying plant matter. Take a minute to watch the soil and see if anything moves.
5. Look at the roots
It can be tough to tell the condition of a plant's roots while it's still in its pot in the garden centre. If a plant is rootbound, it's outgrowing its pot and will need to be repotted soon. Signs the plant is rootbound are the roots growing out of the drainage hole and roots growing on top of the potting mix.
Root rot is common cause of death for plants, usually brought on by overwatering. While signs of root rot can be very similar to some of the other red flags mentioned, keep an eye out for mushy brown roots (they should be white) and a foul odour coming from the soil.
Now you know how to choose a healthy plant; all that's left to do is to keep it alive.
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