From the Desk of Ed Hume: Repotting Houseplants

January 27, 2010 at 2:57 AM Leave a comment

Because of weather-related limitations on outdoor gardening activity during the Winter, the gardener’s attention often turns to the care of indoor houseplants.  Pinching back unwanted growth, repotting, or pruning are sometimes all that is required to improve the appearance of a plant and get it back in good growing condition.  Over-generous care or neglect at some time can result in robust, spindly growth, loss of leaves, or retarded growth.  Late Winter is a good time to set about to correct any of these conditions that may have affected your houseplants.

Repotting

Lack of growth or poor leaf color may simply be a sign that a plant has out-grown its container and needs to be repotted.  This is especially likely if a plant has been in the same container for several years.  Matted roots on the soil surface or roots protruding from the drainage hole of the pot are other signs to look for.

When you set out to repot any plant, be certain to observe a few basic principles for good results: First, select a new container that is only one or two sizes larger than the original.   Second, provide suitable drainage.  Third, choose a soil mixture that is compatible with your plant.

When a houseplant has become overcrowded, it is sometimes difficult to separate the plant from the pot, so it may necessary to break the container.  Use a hammer or hit the pot against a concrete surface.  Moisten the soil before you do this so the soil will cling to the roots.  Be careful not to damage the root system or top growth when you break the container.  If the root structure is overly-crowded, it is a good practice to lightly loosen or gently break the roots along the edge of the rootball with your fingertips.  Make certain that the new container has a drainage hole at its base or on the bottom sides of the pot. Good drainage is a must for 99% of the tropical houseplants.  Also, use a quality all-purpose commercial potting soil mix which contains the proper nutrients to get your newly potted plants off to a good start.

Now you’re ready to start repotting.  After putting a bit of your soil into the bottom of the pot, place your plant so the top of the existing root system is about a half an inch below the top rim of the container to allow space for watering.  Most soil mixes already contain fertilizer, so it should not be necessary to add more plant food.  If it doesn’t, add a mild fertilizer like liquid fish food.

Don’t become alarmed if your plant remains dormant (inactive) for several weeks or even months.  Generally repotted plants will take some time because new root growth is taking place in the soil.

One last word!: NEVER REPOT INTO A POT MORE THEN ONE SIZE (TWO SIZES AT MOST) LARGER THAN THE ONE THE PLANT IS CURRENTLY PLANTED IN!

If you have any other questions on repotting, leave us a comment and we’d be happy to answer all of your inquiries.

Best,

-Ed

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