Whether buying from a reputable nursery or greenhouse or from the back of a truck in a shopping-center parking lot, Garden Ideas and Outdoor Living magazine recommends the following when selecting flowering houseplants for the home.

- Pick out plants that are well-proportioned for the size of the container they come in. Along these same lines, choose short and stocky plants over tall and lanky ones. Too often people buy the biggest plant they see, figuring it is the healthiest of the lot, which may overlook the fact that it's too big for its root system.- Choose plants loaded with buds over those in full bloom. That way everyone can enjoy the whole show, not just the final act.

Of course, there are exceptions. Buy anthurium in full bloom, because its flowers last for several months.

- Even if buying from a reputable nursery or florist, check all plants for disease and critters (mites, aphids, mealy bugs). Look closely at the axils, where branches join the stem. This is especially important if buying from an itinerant plant seller, who may not be around tomorrow to give a refund. Even if no bugs are present, check for evidence that they may have been there - wilting, leaf damage, yellowing, or spots on the underside of leaves.