So I Ordered a Houseplant Online, Now What?

The first thing to do when you receive your package is to open it ASAP.  Be careful and try to keep the box upright.  After opening your plant, the best thing to do is nothing – allow it to adjust to your environment.  This means you do not re-pot for at least a couple of weeks, if not more.  Be careful not to cut through any leaves while opening the box.  Carefully remove packaging and if the plant has been shipped bare root (without a pot), be sure to check the roots.  This is also a good time to check for pests.  As with buying a plant in store, it is important to keep your new houseplant separate from your others for at least a week.  During this time continually check for pests and illness as to avoid a larger outbreak in your home.  You can look at our troubleshooting page so see some examples of houseplant pests. 

I know that it can be tempting to repot, a new pot can be beautiful, but transit is incredibly stressful for your houseplants, so it is important to allow them to adjust before causing any more shock.  So, take your time, allow your new houseplant to breath, and enjoy looking at your new plant baby.  After you unbox your plant, the next step you take depends on the condition that plant is in. 

If the plant comes bare root and is healthy…

If the plant is not dehydrated, just leave it.  After checking the roots re-wrap them in moist paper towel or a moist cloth as leave in a moderately bright space in your home to acclimate.  Ensure that the paper towel or cloth you use has been well wrung out – moist, not wet.   

A dehydrated plant will droop and wilt.  It may have a few yellow leaves, as a plant would if you underwatered it.  If the plant is dehydrated rise any soil completely off the roots and place the healthy roots into a glass of water of moist sphagnum moss.  If you use the moss, make sure to wring out any excess water to avoid rot.  Place this is a moderately bright space to acclimate.

A Spider Plant placed in water to acclimate or grow new roots

If the plant comes potted and is healthy…

If the soil is at all moist then leave the plant as it is [and] simply place it in a moderately bright space in your home and allow it to acclimate. 

If the soil is dry and you think you need to water, place the pot into a bowl of water and allow the plant to soak up the water that it needs. Then simply place it in a moderately bright space and let it acclimate. 

If the soil is overly wet, there may be a risk of root rot developing.  You can try placing a dry paper towel or dry towel underneath the pot to try to wick away some moisture.  Place this plant in a brighter environment with indirect light.  The brighter light will also help to dry out the soil.

What if my plant looks ill?

If your plant is looking at all unhealthy – before you do anything – take pictures and contact the seller. See what advice they offer and follow their instructions.  This will ensure you can get the best help possible regarding any refunds or returns.  Be kind – not all damage is their fault, a lot can go wrong in transit. 

If the plant in unhealthy due to root rot

Remove all rotted pieces of stem and all rotted roots, even if that means leaving the plant with no roots at all.  Ensure that you do not cut off the node – you need this in order to grow new roots.  Place what remains in water, sphagnum moss, or a semi-hydro system.  You can also use rooting hormone if you have it.  You are essentially propagating this plant. 

A Monstera Deliciosa in LECA, a form of semi-hydroponics

If the plant is very damaged…

Cut off any yellow leaves but leave the ones that are still able to photosynthesise.  If a leaf is green, no matter how battered, it can photosynthesise.  Try to save as many energy producing leaves as possible.  Then treat the plant as you would a healthy one and allow it to acclimate. 

If your plant has bugs…

Treat the plant using either an insecticidal soap, fungicide (in the case of mildew), or a neem oil solution.  Use a soft brush (like an old makeup brush) to clean the leaves and stems.  Ensure this plant is kept far away from any others and allow it to acclimate, treating it every few days, until you are confident the pests are gone. 

close up shot of mealybugs

To summarize, when acclimating a new houseplant to your home, if doing nothing is an option, then do nothing.  Let your plant settle in, re-hydrate and adjust to its new atmosphere.  After it gets comfortable, then you can pot up your bare root plants or re-pot your potted plants in the appropriate soil medium.


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