The second thing you should do after unpacking your new plant is simply hold the pot in your hand and move it side to side in a slightly vigorous fashion. Is the plant rock solid in the pot or does it wiggle and jiggle like it is going to fall out any moment? If it is rock solid it means there is probably a large, healthy root system holding your plant in place and providing it with all the water and nutrients it needs. If it wiggles and jiggles you need to investigate more.
Sometimes a loose plant simply means it was repotted recently and the roots haven’t quite locked the media in place and attached the plant to its new home. Look to see if the roots you can see, both on top and by peeking in the drain holes on the bottom, are healthy. Healthy roots will be plump and white or green (depending on how dry they are) and have obvious green, growing tips. If this is the case the plant is fine in it’s new home. The thing you now have to consider is did you get what you paid for?
Scenario 2 is a little more iffy: The plant is loose in a pot that just looks too big for it. If the grower described it as “well established in a 3” pot” I’d call shenanigans and ask for a refund. The grower is likely overstating the true size of the plant in the search of a higher price. If the grower stated ”recently potted up” then you can probably assume the grower is honest and he expects the plant to fill the pot in the near future.
If the plant is wiggly in the pot and on further inspection the roots are brown, soggy, stringy or flat it means the plant doesn’t have a healthy vascular system and is likely in for hard times or worse. In this case you should contact the grower and ask for an explanation/new plant/refund.
Now, if you are satisfied with your new plant and have decided to keep it please keep in mind you should still isolate it and watch them for at least a week. Some things are hard to spot at first so go through your new checklist a couple of times before you allow your new baby to co-mingle with the rest of your plant family!
Blaine Maynor, CPG (Chief Plant Geek), Orchids for the People