You just bought a houseplant, so now what?
Congrats, you've just purchased a houseplant! Maybe it's your first one, or maybe you've tried your hand at houseplants before and killed one too many. Regardless, you may feel a little baffled and aren't sure what to do next. If you purchased from a local nursery or boutique plant shop, you'll probably have a plant that's properly identified and comes with good care instructions. However, that's oftentimes not the case if you buy from a big box store like Home Depot or Lowe's. The plant is unlabeled or mislabeled, and comes with no instructions, or worse - the wrong instructions. I used to think that plants were a one-size-fits-all deal: you're just supposed to put plants in full sun and water them every day, right? Not at all, and I sure learned that the hard way! Plants have personalities just like people, and their individual care varies so much.
Once you've gotten your plant home, make sure you know the proper name of the plant. If it's not labeled, there are awesome plant identification groups on Facebook where you can post a picture of your new green buddy and people are more than willing to help out. You can also Google a description of the plant (for example: "vine houseplant with heart shaped leaves") and look at images to see what matches your plant. I love identifying plants, so you can always email me with your mystery plant at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop me a line on social media.
Once you've got a solid ID on the plant, it's time to figure out how to keep it alive and thriving. You should probably toss the care tag that came with your plant if you got it from good ol' HD or Lowe's and instead do some research. Like I mentioned in my intro post, there is a good deal of conflicting information out there. My favorite thing to do is to cross-reference a few different resources. The library is a great source for plant and horticulture books, and so are used bookstores. In the end, sometimes it just comes down to trial and error with a plant, and that's okay - you'll get there!
I know that you'll want to put your new plant into a cute pot and show it off right away, but that's not always the best practice. You want your plant to acclimate to the conditions in your home. The lighting, temperature, and humidity in the greenhouse your plant grew in are vastly different from the conditions in your house. Isolate your plant when you get home (in case there are pest - pests usually hitch hike in from the nursery), keep it in the black nursery pot it came in, and let it get used to it's new environment. After about a week or so, you can think about repotting it and grouping it with any other houseplants you might have.
Take care to find the best place for your plant in terms of lighting, temperature, and humidity, and figure out out how often it likes to be watered. Sometimes it's a case of musical chairs and you have to shuffle your plant a bit or lose a couple of leaves before you have the care routine down pat. Don't let some yellowing foliage or brown tips discourage you! Once you start feeling more confident in your plant care, I believe it's best to do research on a plant BEFORE you buy it in order to make sure you are able to give it the best care. You don't want to bring a bunch of sun-loving succulents into your house that only has low light, after all!
If you're not sure what constitutes bright light, or how to increase humidity for a plant, or how/when to repot, there are plenty of blog posts to come! So stay tuned!