Houseplant Buying Guide: Tips to Buy Smart and Save Money

Houseplant Buying Guide: Tips to Buy Smart and Save Money

Last Updated on September 12, 2020 by Kimberly Crawford

Houseplants are available in grocery stores, dollar stores, hardware stores, big box stores, garden centers, and even on the internet! Here’s a guide to buying the best.

The very best place to buy houseplants is a nursery or garden center, where there are people knowledgeable about the plants and their care and where the plant selection is likely to be the largest, freshest and healthiest, but there is nothing wrong with buying plants at other places as long as a few simple rules are followed.

Be aware of growing conditions

Nothing is more disappointing than falling in love with a gorgeous plant only to have it die because it didn’t like the conditions.

It’s crucial to know basic things like the kind of light the plant’s prospective home gets, the average humidity levels and high and low temps,

For instance, a plant like a Calathea will be miserable in a cool, dry home. It needs a fairly high level of warmth and humidity, one that many homes can’t provide. Without it its beautiful foliage will blacken and shrivel up.

It’s also important to find out what kind of care a plant needs. An Asparagus fern won’t do well in a high traffic area, as its leaves are sharp and prickly and fall off easily.

buying houseplants

Check toxicity

If there are children or pets in the home, never purchase a plant without knowing its toxicity level. Many houseplants are poisonous.

For example, Ivy plants can cause skin rashes while the leaves of the Pothos plant cause severe vomiting and stomach upset if eaten.

Find out the store’s schedule

Getting there the day their shipment of plants arrives gives a better chance of getting both a good selection and a healthy plant.

Inspect thoroughly

Plants sold in home centers and grocery stores often receive little or no care, making a thorough inspection very important.

Pick up the plant and get a good look at the stems and under the leaves. These are where most insects hide. Also check for mushy stems, brown spots, stickiness and other signs of rot and disease.

Don’t be afraid to tip the plant out of its pot and inspect the roots or sniff the soil. If it’s moldy, slimey, smells like fish or anything other than fresh earth, or if the roots don’t look firm and healthy put the plant back.

Separate new purchases

No matter how fresh and healthy a plant looks, it’s crucial to keep it isolated from other plants for 1-2 weeks to insure it is free of insects and disease.

Once it’s done so it can then move to its new home. Let it acclimatize for 4-6 weeks before repotting or fertilizing.

Buying Houseplants Online

houseplant online buying

It used to be that if you wanted to buy a houseplant, you had to go the store. Now all you have to do is surf the web!
There are many places online to buy houseplants.

Most large nurseries have websites these days, and there are some, such as Logees, that specialize in houseplants. Online florists such as 1800Flowers are another place to find plants, and of course there’s EBay. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Nursery Websites

These are a great place to find unusual houseplants. Most large nurseries offer a decent selection of houseplants along with their annuals and perennials.

Look for ones that have a professional looking website with lots of pictures and clearly described shipping and refund policies. Beware of sites that only accept checks or money orders as payment.

Online Florists

While they do offer a fairly decent selection of plants, they do so at a steep price, thanks to the decorative planters and wrappings they add to each plant. Add shipping to that, and you’ll find it’s not worth it at all.


eBay is a great place to find houseplants. A recent search turned up over 1700 listings for houseplants of all kinds! You can even get houseplant seeds there.

But before hitting that Bid or Buy Now button, make sure you read the listing over very carefully. It’s important to be sure of exactly what you’re buying.

Check the shipping charges and return policy. Finally, make sure you read the sellers feedback, both what he’s received and what he’s given to others. This will give a clear view of any problems and how the seller handles them. There are some real bargains to be found on eBay, but you need to be careful and know how the site works.

No matter where you buy plants online, there are a few things to be aware of. First, avoid buying plants online during the winter months if you live in a cold climate. Houseplants and frigid air do not mix. If you do buy in the winter, expect higher shipping charges, as responsible sellers will ship plants in a special insulated box or with heat packs to keep them from freezing.

Make sure you have your order shipped to a location where it won’t be left on the porch all day. The same is true when ordering in the warmer months. It doesn’t take long for plants to cook when left in a mailbox or on a porch in 90 degree heat.

When you get your plants, make sure to open them right away. They’ll most likely need to be watered right away, and in some cases, they’ll need to be potted up. Many sellers, especially on eBay, ship plants bare root to save on shipping costs. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as they are packaged up correctly. Finally, solate your new plants for a week or two, to make sure there are no insect surprises.

The Internet is full of rare and unusual houseplants for sale, as well as some real plant bargains. Proceed with caution and remember the helpful tips above, and you’re sure to come out a winner!

Buying Houseplants By Mail

houseplant buying
These days a wide variety of houseplants is available online and through catalogs. Here is a guide to choosing the best places to shop from-and on knowing who to avoid!

There was a time when the only place to get houseplants was the garden center or if one was lucky, the floral department of the local grocery store.

Now, thanks to catalogs and the Internet, houseplant lovers have access to a wide variety of plants, including ones they might never have had the chance to own otherwise. However, ordering by mail or online does come with certain risks. Here are some tips to help make the experience a good one:


Before making a purchase from any online or mail order nursery, it’s important to do some homework first. Visit the Better Business Bureau’s site and pull up their report on the nursery in question.

It will include the number of complaints they’ve received in a 12 to 48 month period, and whether they were handled satisfactorily. Avoid any business with an unsatisfactory rating!

Another good place to check out mail order and online nurseries is Gardenweb’s Garden Watchdog site, which holds a massive collection of user reviews for every nursery imaginable.

If the purchase being considered will be made from Ebay, be sure to read the seller’s feedback carefully. Take note of the responses, if any, the seller has made to the feedback received.

Lots of name calling or rude remarks is a sign of an unprofessional seller and one who may not be willing to work with you if something goes wrong. It’s also important to carefully read the seller’s refund and shipping policies.

Good sellers will either refrain from shipping during periods of extreme cold or will add heat packs to the box to keep plants from freezing.


The payment methods an online or mail order nursery will accept say a lot about them. Be wary of any that insist on cash or money orders only.

These methods are insecure, untraceable, and the chances of getting a refund if necessary are low. Credit cards are the best way to pay due to their built in protections.


Finally, check and see if the nursery has a brick and mortar presence. There’s nothing wrong with those that are strictly online or mail order, in fact many are quite good, but those that also do a retail “face to face” business tend to be more reliable.

Buying plants online or through mail order can be a satisfying and rewarding experience, giving houseplant lovers a chance to purchase plants they otherwise may never have had access to. By following these tips and doing a little housework, the bad seeds can be avoided. 

These simple rules should help insure smart, successful plant purchases that will enhance any houseplant collection!

Houseplant Buying Guide: Tips to Buy Smart and Save Money