My local PetSmart frequently marks down their aquatic plants when they begin to "die". Typically, these plants have one or more moldy brown leaves on them. But that doesn't always mean a plant is dead.
I have scored several great anubias plants at 50% off - like the anubias congensis plant below:
Selecting "Damaged" Plants
The PetsMart I go to uses large yellow labels to mark these plants down. The last time I stopped in, they had three different packages of anubias priced at 50%. Two of them looked a little too far gone, but one was still in great shape.
When these plants are on the shelf in the store, it can be hard to tell what kind of shape they are in. I try to look through the top of the package and see if I can tell how many undamaged leaves there are. Sometimes there is only one rotten leaf, while other plants might have rotten brown spots on all of their leaves. I look for plants that still have at least 2 healthy green leaves.
In the case of this anubias, I could see that it had several dead leaves but also several green ones. I knew it would be pretty easy to clean up.
Cleaning Up Store Bought Plants
The first thing I do after opening the package is rinse the plant off in the sink and remove all the dead leaves. Plants from chain stores come packaged with their roots in a gel, so you want to clean all of that stuff off with tap water.
It was at this point I realized this particular anubias was actually two separate rhyzomes, each with about 3 healthy leaves. The regular price on this size plant is $4.99. I got it for $2.69 after tax. Since it ended up being two plants, I paid about $1.34 per plant.
After I remove dead growth and rinse off the gel, I bleach dip all new plants before they go into one of my aquariums. To do this I add some bleach (estimate a 1:20 solution) to a container of water. I soak new plants in the bleach solution for 5 minutes, then drop them into a bucket of water with a few milliliters of dechlorinator and let them sit another 5 minutes.
The bleach kills snails and algae, and other hitch hikers that might be riding on plants. After the rinse, plants are good to go into an aquarium. I do this with plants I get from other hobbyists and online as well. It only takes a few cells of an aggressive thread algae to multiply in a high nutrient environment and wreck a planted tank. I have had to tear down tanks and throw out plants because they got filled with algae that I couldn't get rid of.
Above is one of the new anubias congensis rhyzomes in my planted tank. It's already shooting off a new leaf, so it should grow out well.