How to Select High-Quality Plants


When picking out plants, it’s critical to pick the highest-quality ones. When choosing a plant, consider its growth, the coloring, and scout for any problems.


Picking out new plants, whether for the garden or to grow indoors, is fun for many people. They enjoy perusing through the rows and rows of gorgeous seedlings at the nursery or garden center. There’s no doubt that it is fun, but there also needs to be a serious side to it to ensure you pick the highest-quality plants to purchase.

Take a good look at the plant overall. Does it look healthy? Are the leaf colors standard for the plant type, and vibrant?

How to Select High-Quality Plants

Beyond that, take time to look for the following issues, and avoid picking plants with any of these problems. While the situation itself may be easy to fix, you can’t undo any damage that has already occurred. The damage may not be clearly visible now but can show up later as reduced growth or lowered yield.

Leggy Plants

Leggy plants are tall and spindly, with elongated spaces between the leaf nodes and maybe a thin stem and pale yellow coloring. This signifies the plants aren’t getting enough light; the distances between the nodes should be compact. A plant’s growing tips are attracted to light, and when they aren’t getting enough, plant hormones elongate the stems to reach sunlight.

How to Select High-Quality Plants
Reddish-Purple Leaf Coloration

A reddish-purple hue on the plant leaves is a symptom of phosphorus deficiency. It is common in seedlings shortly after they germinate and use up the nutrient reserves in the seed. It is easy to fix with an application of fertilizer, but the deficiency may have already impacted the plant’s growth and yield.

How to Select High-Quality Plants
Insect Pests

Aphids, fungus gnats, and spider mites are common problems in indoor plants, especially when plants are grown close together in a greenhouse and the humidity levels are high. Pests are problematic because they can suck nutrients from the plants and increase susceptibility to disease. Look at the foliage for any signs of pests, especially under the leaves and in the crooks of the stems.

How to Select High-Quality Plants
Brown Leaf Edges

Dry, papery, brown leaf tips and margins are a sign of underwatering and a cause for concern. When plants don’t receive enough water, photosynthesis may slow down or halt. Photosynthesis is the process within plants where water and carbon dioxide produce glucose and oxygen. The glucose is then used by plants to fuel metabolic processes, including growth.

How to Select High-Quality Plants
Leaf Chlorosis

Chlorosis is a yellowing of leaves related to a lack of chlorophyll. Some possible causes of chlorosis include damaged or compacted roots, poor drainage, and nutrient deficiencies in the plant. Deficiencies of iron, manganese, and zinc are commonly associated with chlorosis because they are critical players in chlorophyll production.

How to Select High-Quality Plants
Leaf Sunscald

White or really pale yellow leaves on a plant indicate sunscald, a problem similar to sunburn in humans. It occurs when plants are moved from filtered light conditions to an area where they are exposed to brighter sunshine or more UV rays. They aren’t prepared for this change in intensity, and the leaf tissues bleach out.

How to Select High-Quality Plants
Mushy Leaves

Mushy leaves or stems are related to overwatering and could be a symptom of root rot. When plants are overwatered, it causes a lack of oxygen in the growing substrate, and the roots suffocate and drown. The low oxygen environment also triggers the growth of naturally occurring soil fungi that infect the roots. Once the roots are infected or smother, they can’t take in water, oxygen, and nutrients, and the plant perishes.

The major problem with root rot is once symptoms are visible as mushy leaves, the problem may be past the point of fixing.

How to Select High-Quality Plants

At first, it’s easy to assume that weeds aren’t a big problem, especially in a container plant. With the smaller pot, it’s easy to grab ahold of the weed and yank it out — problem fixed! But what isn’t fixable is that while the weed was growing alongside the seedling, it was pulling valuable resources like water and nutrients from the soil. Resources is needed fot the young plant’s optimum growth, battling against a competitor during its early stage of life, putting it at a disadvantage.

How to Select High-Quality Plants
Rootbound Plants

As container plants grow, they develop intricate root systems that can quickly fill the growing media. When they are left in the same container over an extended period, the roots tangle and clump together. When this happens, the plant is considered rootbound, and it cannot pull in enough water to meet its needs.

How to Select High-Quality Plants
Fungal Diseases

Fungal diseases are common in greenhouses where plants are watered from overhead — powdery mildew and botrytis especially. As the moisture sits on the leaves, fungi thrive because of warm air temperatures and a lack of air circulation if plants are grown close together.

How to Select High-Quality Plants
Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew looks like a white powdery film on the leaves and stems of your plants, similar to a dusting of flour. It may darken to a gray color and move to the soil surface as it ages. Since it covers the leaf surface, it impairs photosynthesis because the plant doesn’t collect energy from sunlight. Over time it stunts plant growth.

How to Select High-Quality Plants
Gray Mold

Gray mold occurs when airborne Botrytis fungal spores land on the plant foliage and make their way inside the leaves through wounds or other disease spots. As it reproduces, it appears as dusty, gray mold spores on the soil surface or in the densest foliage areas.


Mold on the potting soil of container plants is common, especially when plants are grown indoors, as the air temperature and relative humidity act as a catalyst for mold growth. Depending upon the type of mold, it can be innocuous, but it also may be problematic.

White Mold
How to Select High-Quality Plants

White mold shows up as fuzzy growth on the soil’s surface with a downy appearance, looking cottony. This type of mold is typically a saprophytic fungus, which means it poses little harm to plants or the people in proximity.

Sooty Mold
How to Select High-Quality Plants

Sooty mold is the one to be concerned about. It appears as black, sooty-looking patches on the plant and the soil surface. When you see sooty mold, it’s likely the plant is infected with a sap-sucking insect that secretes a substance known as honeydew. So the underlying problem is insect pests. This type of mold doesn’t harm the plant directly but can inhibit photosynthesis.