Choosing Plants And Positioning Them Correctly

There is a huge range of houseplants widely available, so take care in choosing the right plant for the spot you have picked for it. Buy a healthy specimen, transport it with care and allow it time to adjust to its new surroundings.

Matching plant and position

Plants vary in their light and heat requirements, so it is important to choose one that will flourish in the position you have picked for it.

buying-plantsDon’t try to place a plant that prefers cool conditions in a hot spot. Central heating provides too dry a heat for most plants, so place the pot on a dish of moist pebbles to provide humidity. Do not allow the pot to stand in water, as this can rot the roots.

The right amount of light is also vital. The intensity of light in a room decreases dramatically as the distance increases from the window. Plants positioned 2.4m (8ft) from a window receive only 5-10 per cent of the light available on a window-ledge, and light intensity and don’t buy plants just because they look nice together.

Sunshine also varies depending on the direction a window faces and the time of the year. See the list for choosing plants for different positions.

Making a plant feel at home

Plants don’t like sudden changes in light or temperature. Although they may appear to put up with change for some weeks, they will eventually show their unhappiness.

To help a plant to adjust to its new surroundings, place it in a fairly cool room, away from direct sunlight and draughts. Keep the compost slightly moist but don’t overwater. Sometimes a flower or leaf may fall off during this period of acclimatization, but this is nothing to worry about, so long as it is only one or two.

After about ten days the plant can be moved to its permanent position.

Plant buying tips

  • A healthy plant will amply reward you for the time and care spent in inspecting what is on offer before you buy. Here are a few quick checks to make:
  • Don’t pick plants with roots appearing from the pot’s drainage holes. They should have been repotted ages ago.
  • Check for pests and diseases. Lift and look under the leaves as well as checking the tops.
  • Pick flowering plants with lots of buds; a mass of hilly open flowers will give only short-term pleasure.



  • Buy plants only from reputable garden centres and retailers.
  • Choose those that are clearly labelled, so that you know exactly what you are buying.
  • Go for bushy plants, rejecting those with long stems bare of leaves.
  • Pick a plant in a pot of the correct size. Avoid plants with a lot of foliage in tiny pots and small plants in very large pots.


  • Buy plants which have green slime on compost or pot. This is a sign of excessive watering and possibly that the plant’s roots are slowly being killed.
  • Choose plants standing outside a shop, especially if the weather is extremely hot or cold. They may appear fine but could collapse and die soon after you get home.
  • A healthy plant, displayed in the right spot, will reward you with its continuing good looks and long life; so take time to choose exactly the right specimen.

Choosing Plants for Position

Bright, Sunny Windows (South Facing)

Partial Sunlight (East- or west-facing window or south-facing in winter)

Bright but Indirect Light (close to but not directly by a window)

Plants for Semi-Shade

A Safe Journey

Getting your plants home safely, especially during winter, is as important as buying a healthy plant. Here are a few helpful guidelines.

  • Make buying plants the last job on a shopping trip, so that you can get them home as soon as possible.
  • Ensure that the garden centre or retail shop either wraps the plant or places it in a paper sleeve, so that stems and buds are protected in transit.
  • If possible avoid buying plants during very cold weather. Icy winds can soon do damage, especially to plants in flower.
  • Don’t put plants in the boot of your car in very hot or cold weather; they will either bake or freeze.
  • To make sure plants do not fall over in a car, use a cardboard box with high sides and pack around pots with paper.

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