Houseplants make great gifts, but gift givers should be careful to make sure the plant is healthy. Here are some tips to prevent a festive fern from becoming a hassle for the recipient.
• Give each plant a good checkup before buying it. Look for plants with medium to dark green foliage, unless it is supposed to be a different color. Avoid plants with unnaturally spotted, yellow or brown leaves.
• Check under leaves for bugs or pests.
• Remove the plant from the pot and examine the root system. Healthy roots should have an earthy smell and be visible along the outside of the soil. Black, brown or discolored roots are typically signs of problems. Shoppers should note that some plants, like Dracaenas, have roots with colors other than white.
• Pick the right pot for the plant. Small containers are best for small, slow-growing plants and larger containers are better suited for fast-growing ones. Containers can be terra cotta, clay, plastic or ceramic. Plants in plastic pots will not dry out as quickly as plants in clay pots, increasing the danger of over-watering.
• If reusing plant containers, clean them by washing out any old compost, chemical or paint residues. Sterilize the container by placing it in a 10 percent bleach solution and rinse well.