How to Pick the Perfect Plant

How to Pick the Perfect Plant

Posted by Jessie Jacobson on Jan 29th 2024

How to Pick the Perfect Plant

Getting Started

As you wander the aisles of the greenhouse, you may wonder what's the perfect plant for me? It's a lot to ponder, and the answer is many. But let us break it down for you. People and plant pairings meet perfection with a few careful considerations.

Consider the source

Most obvious is to purchase plants from a greenhouse you know and trust. But not every greenhouse is perfect all the time. Examine your plants before you purchase.

Check the roots. Healthy roots are white to tan in color with fleshy white tips and tiny root hairs. Roots should be firm, but not hard and certainly not squishy. If the roots are brown or black, that's a definite no. Foul smelling roots may be suffering from root rot, a general term for fungal diseases that attack roots.

Make sure your plant prospect is rooted in well. Some plants move to market before they are fully mature in the pot they are in. Sometimes a plant may just have been upsized, say 4" to 6", but it wasn't quite ready. Sometimes plants are shipped before they are even fully rooted in. This can be common with plants that are propagated with many stems per pot, typically ivy, pothos, and scindapsus.

Examine the leaves. Flip them over to inspect the undersides. Look closely in the cracks and crevices of the stems. Spider mites feed and reproduce on the undersides of leaves and look like a dusty coating. Mealy bugs look like a cottony mass stuck where a leaf meets a stem. Aphids are usually more obvious and not as common on indoor plants but can be found on the fresh new growing tips of delicate plants, herbs, and citrus. Whiteflies are just that, tiny white flies that swarm around when you brush the leaves of a plant. And finally, thrips are harder to spot, but their feeding damage can be evident as it looks like silver scraping or streaking.

Look for new growth. Healthy, light green growth is a good sign plants are getting exactly what they need to thrive. Buy blooming plants with big, juicy buds so you can watch them open.

Ask about disease and pest prevention in the greenhouse. What is the Integrated Pest Management strategy? At Tonkadale, we rely on beneficial insects and bioilogical treatments to do most of the heavy lifting and we feel good about that!

Compare and contrast. Healthy plants may not be the biggest, but they might be the most branced. Compact plants have been grown with enough light and space and are less likly to become overgrown and flop over in your home.

Most importantly, ask questions. We are obsessed with your success!

Know your light

Light is one of the most important factors when picking the perfect plant. The simplest way to understand how your plant will receive light is to quite literally envision what your plant sees from where it sits and which direction does it face.

In general North facing windows provide the least amount of light and are best suited for low- to medium-light plants. South facing windows are reliably bright, may experience direct sun and best suited for bright light plants and those that thrive in direct sun. East facing windows provide gentle, direct sun in the morning with bright, indirect light in the early afternoon; best suited for low- to medium-light plants, as well as bright, indirect light plants if the window is quite large. Lastly, Westerly windows provide low or indirect light in the morning, and hot, bright and direct sun in the afternoon; best suited for medium- to bright, indirect light plants and suitable for direct sun plants depending on conditions.

If you take time to peruse our online store, you can filter plants by light requirements which is a great place to start. Simple click Shop> Indoor Plants> Bright Light (lower left side of the page!)

Some of our favorite bright light plants are Cactus, Succulents, Fiddle Leaf Figs, Rubber trees, and Bird's of Paradise! Many of the larger specimen plants fall into the bright light category too.

Shop medium light plants here! Our favorites include Money Tree, Ferns, Philodendrons, Anthuriums, and Monsteras to name a few.

Low light plants don't really "like" low light, but rather tolerate it. Sansevieria, ZZ plants, and potos are gtg (good to go) in these situations. Preview low light tolerators here!

Do you have pets?

Our collective love of plants and pets is inseparable. We love them both and treat them as members of the family. We name them, we feed them, we water them, we enjoy them. And both need to live in harmony as high-ranking members of the household.

Know your pet, know your people. Some animals never show interest in plants. Others will paw, shred, dig, and devour. Best practice is to keep plants out of reach, but that's not always possible. Next best step is to purchase in invite pet safe plants into your home. Here is a list that is good to grow!

Bright Light
  • African Violet, and others in the African Violet family
  • Cactus (as long as pets don’t get too close)
  • Haworthiopsis
  • Holiday Cactus
  • Hoya
  • Jasmine, but not Gardenia varieties
  • Lipstick Plant
  • Norfolk Island Pine
  • Orchids
  • Orchid Cactus
  • Ponytail Palm
  • Peperomia
  • Succulents including Burro’s Tail Sedum, Echeveria, Living Stones, Baby Toes, Aeonium
  • Zebra Plant
Medium Light
  • Air Plants and Tillandsia
  • Begonia (not for cats)
  • Bromeliads including Aechmea, Neoregelia, and Cryptanthus
  • Fittonia
  • False Aralia (not for cats)
  • Ferns including Boston Fern, Sword Fern, Mother Fern, Button Fern (never Asparagus ferns for cats)
  • Goldfish plant
  • Grape Leaf Ivy
  • Jewel Orchid
  • Majesty Palm (Ravenea rivularis)
  • Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
  • Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens)
  • Neathe Bella Palm
  • Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana)
  • Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes)
  • Pilea, including Pilea peperomoides
  • Selaginella Moss
  • Spider Plant
  • Staghorn Fern
  • Swedish Ivy
Low Light
  • Calathea
  • Cast Iron Plant
  • Prayer Plant (Maranta)

You do you

Be in love with the plant you pick! Just because a specific plant is common or easy, doen't make it boring. Common and easy plants can be the most rewarding as they are the most forgiving if they don't get exactly enough light or water.

Celebrate small successes - they add up to big wins!

Happy shopping!