Insects and pathogens frequently hide in the leaf axil, where the leaf joins the plant.
Select plants that are sturdy, clean, well-rooted, shapely, and well-covered with leaves. Plants should be free of insects and diseases. Inspect the undersides of the foliage, the leaf axils (see photo at right), and the root system for signs of insects or disease. Avoid plants with spindly growth, spotted or yellow leaves, brown leaf margins, or wilted or water-soaked foliage. Plants that have good color and leaf buds along with young growth are usually of high quality. It is easier and cheaper to select a plant that matches the environmental conditions in your residence or office than it is to alter the environment to suit the plants.
Getting your plant home
Extreme temperatures can damage plants. A temperature range of 50º to 85ºF (10º to 30ºC) is recommended to avoid damage. In the summer, avoid placing plants in a closed car where the temperature will rise, destroying the plants in a short period of time. Shade them with a plastic bag or sheet during transport if they are exposed to direct sunlight.
If temperatures are near freezing, wrap plants thoroughly before leaving the store. Even brief exposure to very low temperatures can kill or severely damage tropical plants. Wrap plants thoroughly with newspaper or a bag, and place them in the front of the car with the heater on.
Helping your plant adjust to its new home
Because nurseries often grow tropical plants under high light intensity, these plants have so-called 'sun leaves' (pdf) that are structurally different from the leaves of plants grown in shade (shade leaves). Sun leaves are thicker, smaller in surface area, and photosynthetically less efficient than shade leaves. If these same plants are placed in low light, they usually drop their sun leaves and grow a new set of shade leaves, which are photosynthetically more efficient. To reduce the shock that occurs when a plant with sun leaves is placed in shade, gradually reduce the light levels to which it is exposed. This process is called acclimatization.
Before placing indoor plants outdoors in summer, acclimatize them by gradually increasing light intensities and then reversing the process before plants are brought indoors in the fall. Acclimatize newly purchased plants by initially locating them in a high-light (southern exposure) area and gradually reducing their hours in that area over a 4- to 8-week period before moving them to a permanent, darker location.
Plants Indoors: Selections for various environmental conditions. UC. Buy leaflet