It's hard enough not to kill houseplants with your own neglect, but if you start with a dud of a plant, you're asking for failure. Home design blog Apartment Therapy has put together a guide for buying a good plant, and one of the big takeaways is to inspect the base of the stem.
The base of a plant's stem has a few telling details that can help you easily gauge a plant's health. If the plant has yellow leaves, black spots or a blackness on the stem, it's not worth buying. Additionally, when you're poking around the stem, look for a gap between the soil and the pot. This is an indication the plant was left without water for a while. If you're the type to kill a perfectly good houseplant within a few months it's best to at least start the process with a good one. Hit up the post on Apartment Therapy for a few more tips to picking out a winner.
How to Choose Plants Wisely at the Nursery [Apartment Therapy]