New Plant Checklist

New Plant Checklist

If you’ve ever brought a plant home and had it die within the week, I assure you you’re not alone. You can absolutely do that with really terrible plant care, but there is a chance that your plant was doomed before you brought it to its final resting place. 

Even when I knew how to take better care of plants, I still had some new plant mystery deaths that took me a while to figure out. Turns out there are a few things you can look for while you’re shopping that can help you determine a plant’s general health before you commit, giving you a better chance at keeping it alive. 


At First Glance

  • Generally, how is the vibe? Seriously though, are the leaves firm, vibrant and healthy, or are they wilty, discolored and sad? Are the leaves pretty clean or are they covered in dust or water spots?

  • If there is discoloration, how much of the plant is affected if you had to give it a percentage? If the presence of discoloration is higher than 5-10% (depending on the size of the plant), it’s a good idea to look closer for other potential issues.

  • Is there new growth anywhere? This is a sign of a happy plant because it means it’s using its energy to grow instead of heal an issue. Look at the ends of long vines, the tops of stems or in the center of the plant for signs of any baby leaf nubs poking out. There are some examples in a recent Instagram post of mine.

A Closer Look

  • Pests are typically a deal-breaker if I’m buying a new plant. Look closely at or near the discolored leaves, at the undersides, in any nooks, joints, etc. where potential pests may be hiding. If you find anything suspect, bring it to the attention of someone working at the store. Pests can spread and infect healthy plants and they’ll want to get it quarantined.

  • Touch the discolored leaves or stems. If they feel mushy or slimy, that could be a sign of potential root rot. If they feel crispy or dry, that could just mean the plant needs a thorough drink of water. 

  • Next, pay attention to the soil. How does the top feel? Is it soggy like it’s never seen a dry day? We’d prefer it to lean on the dryer side. Soggy soil can lead to root rot, one of the harder things to bring a plant back from. 


Really Getting In There

  • If you can do so without making a complete mess of the store, see if you can wiggle the plant out of the grow pot and peek at the roots. 

  • Healthy roots are firm, juicy, and almost white in color. The root system should be complex enough to be pretty intertwined with the soil, meaning it would take a bit of effort to separate it if you had to. 

  • If it’s mostly roots under the soil’s surface and they look like a crazy living ball of yarn smushed into the shape of the grow pot, the plant is rootbound and will need to be repotted pretty soon. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if there aren’t other symptoms, this plant just requires a small project that you may or may not be interested in right now. 

  • If any part of the roots are darker, feel slimy, or are smelly, these are signs of root rot and likely a tombstone in the near future unless you want to take on a larger project. This is something to look for especially if the soil feels really soggy, and something to notify greenhouse staff of as well. 

  • For some photos of pests and healthy/unhealthy roots, check out a previous post Can I Save This Plant.


Starting out as a new plant parent can be intimidating, let alone when you inherit an issue that you didn’t know you were signing up for. Being mindful of these things when you’re considering a plant to bring home will help make sure you can keep it alive when it gets there. 

I hope this helps you feel more confident in your plant shopping, but if you need any further support, Slow Green Death is here for you. Reach out over on the Services page and we’ll help you get started on your dream jungle. 

Thanks for reading and happy shopping!

May all your plants’ deaths be Slow and Green,




Original post date: April 5, 2023

Back to blog