The Critical Part of Plant Shopping That Most People Skip

updated Oct 25, 2019
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Whenever I post photos of my plants on Instagram (and I do a lot, because what can I say? I’m a proud plant mom), the most common question I get is how I keep them all alive.

Given that the extent of my plant care knowledge is that they should probably all have some combination of water and sun and all times, I never really know how to answer this question. I mean, I bought most of my plants at a local grocery store. In other words: I’m no expert.

Indoor plants are more popular than ever, and it turns out that a lot of people are in the same boat as me: The advice for how to keep your plants alive (beyond just sun and water) often gets lost in translation or missed entirely. But the most important part of plant care is actually quite easy to master, and it comes into play before you even purchase your plants at all.

Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Apartment Therapy

Why You Should Check New Plants for Pests Before You Buy Them

According to the experts, checking your plants for pests before you bring them home is way more important than you’ve probably ever realized. Even if you give your plant the perfect amount of care, certain pests can mean an inevitable demise for your new plant — and put all your plants at risk. It’s important to check all kinds of plants for pests like mealy bugs, scale insects, aphids, and white flies (there are others, too, but these are the most common plant culprits) while you’re still at the nursery.

While there are resources online that can help you easily identify what each of these pests are (and tell you exactly why they’re dangerous), a good rule of thumb is to avoid any plant at a nursery (or grocery store) that looks like it has any kind of pest or bug on it (or even a weird fungus). Check the soil, stems, and everywhere — leave no leaf unturned. Even just one or two odd-looking bugs on or around your plant could be a major red flag. Not only could this mean the ultimate death of that plant, but these types of pests could spread to your other plants as well. 

Credit: Sukanin18/Shutterstock
White mealy bugs on a plant.

Mealybugs are one of the most common and most destructive pests around and are easily spotted by their cotton-like appearance. If there is a positive to mealybugs it’s that their white color makes them easy to spot right away. According to, cacti, succulents, African violets, ferns, and orchids are particularly vulnerable to the dangerous pest—so if you’re looking at any of those plants, keep a closer eye out for the white-colored bugs. 

So if you find yourself worrying about keeping plants alive, it really starts with giving the plant a good once-over before adding it to your collection—and then worrying about how much sun and water it needs.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: There’s a Critical Part of Plant Shopping that Most People Skip