Guest Author - Lisa Beth Voldeck
When spring arrives, houseplants respond with a flush of new growth. Plants that have done nothing but collect dust through the cold months suddenly demand some attention. Longer days combined with stronger light intensity and warmer temperatures act together to signal to your plants that its grow-time!
Larger plants will often be happy with some trimming of the roots and leaves and maybe a little top-dressing of the soil. Slow-growing plants only need re-potting once every several years. For plants in smaller pots with lots of growing to do, re-potting is essential.
An important element of re-potting is the selection of the proper pot. Any style is fine, in general, but the size of the pot is important. Try to estimate the amount of growth you expect from the plant. Usually, moving up one pot size is sufficient. For instance, if you are currently using a 6 inch pot, an 8 or 10 inch pot will be fine.
Do not place pebbles or broken pottery shards in the bottom of the pot. Contrary the old belief, this does not improve drainage. If drainage is of concern, you can add perlite to the potting soil as an amendment. If you use a good name-brand potting mix, you donít need to worry. These are generally good just as they are. I personally use Schultz Potting Soil or Bacto Professional Planting Mix.
When you have removed the plant from its old pot, itís a good idea to check the condition of the plantís roots. The roots should be white and crisp, not brown and soggy. If the plant has been looking healthy, the roots should look good as well. You can prune the roots, if you desire. Try not to get too carried away with pruning if you decide to do so. Only a little trimming is needed to stimulate new growth. I generally stay within the 20% range, if I prune the roots at all. You could also break up the roots by hand, pulling them gently apart and shaking out the loose, broken roots.
Add potting mix to the new container and set the plant inside. Check to see how high the plant is sitting in the pot. The existing soil that the plant is in should be about a half inch to 1 inch from the rim. Less of a distance is necessary with small pots. Larger pots should be given about and inch from the soil surface to the top of the pot. This is so that when you water, it wonít flow out of the pot carrying soil away and making a huge mess.
When you are satisfied with the height of the plant, begin to fill in the space between the existing soil and the pot. Do not cram soil into the pot, but donít just sprinkle it in, either. You should gently press the potting mix in so that the plant is firmly secured in the pot, but also so that air and water can move through the pot easily.
Also, be sure to avoid putting more soil on top of the soil that the plant was already in. This pre-existing soil surface should be the surface in the new pot. If you plant deeper than that, and bury the plant further into the soil than it was originally, it will more than likely die. It is okay to add a very thin layer of soil to the top of the new pot, but always keep the soil depth the same to avoid rotting the stem of your plant.
Once you are finished, water-in your new pot. Tepid water is best, to avoid causing any further stress to your plant. Your plant should now have everything it needs to flourish for at least another year. Thatís one down, for me. Only 46 more to go!