House plant care: How to re-pot house plants


How to re-pot tired houseplants
Without the fuss, of course

By Marion Owen, Fearless Weeder for PlanTea, Inc. and
Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul


Tom Hanks' "Power of Four" solution

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Did you know that July 27 is a special day? Mark your calendars: It's Take Your Houseplant for a Walk Day.

Indoor plants need special attention, just like kids and, dogs. Give them water, plant food and, the right kind of light and they'll thrive. And, just like kids outgrow tennis shoes, plants outgrow their pots.

How can you tell if a plant is pot-bound?

If your indoor potted plants have any of the following characteristics, they may be pot-bound. Pot-bound roots have outgrown their container and are starting to circle around the inside or poke out the drainage holes in search of more growing room.

  • Stunted
  • Deformed
  • Pale and dull
  • Top-heavy
  • Generally declining
  • Water drains quickly through soil

To see for yourself, tilt the plant on its side and gently slide the plant a few inches out of the pot. If the roots look like ropes winding around in circles or they're matted at the bottom the plant's overdue for a change. The solution is "stepping up" -- moving the plant to a larger pot. By stepping up, you fix several problems at once: restricted root space, replenish tired potting soil and you make the plant look better in a container more in scale with its larger size.

Which container is best?

Resist the urge to move a plant to a substantially bigger pot. Select one a couple of inches bigger. If you use too large a container, the extra soil will soak up too much water, the plant’s roots will grow more than necessary (like moving into a larger house and filling the space with stuff) and foliage and flower growth will decrease.

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To learn more about caring for houseplants, check out my articles, Houseplants That Clean the Air, How to Clean Your Houseplants and Aquarium Water and Coffee Grounds: Unusual and Healthy Houseplant Foods That Are Right Under Your Nose.
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Re-Potting, Step By Step (I promise)

1) First you'll need to identify pot-bound plants. Gently roll or tap the container to loosen the plant and gently ease it out. Tip: Dry soil tends to hang onto the inner walls of the container, so watering your plant help grease the skids a little. Catch it in your other hand, with the foliage peeking between your fingers and the surface of the root ball supported in your palm. If the plant is a giant one, such as a fern, fig, or avocado tree, lay it over onto a tarp or newspapers spread on the floor.

Tired of bugs buzzing around?
Yellow sticky traps provide a safe method for trapping aphids, thrips, fungus gnats, whiteflies and more. They are Ideal for indoor and outdoor plants and are one of my must-have garden solutions. (Fortunately, bugs go for them, too.) You can buy them through my online catalog. A set includes nine, 3x5-inch sticky traps, 3 wire holders and complete instructions. $7.00 per set. To see how effective they are, check out this photo. (WARNING: Not for the squeamish!)
They are worth every dime, believe me!

2) With your fingers, carefully loosen the roots at the base and along the sides of the root ball. At this point, many experts say to use a knife to split the lower third of the root ball to encourage new roots to grow outward and down, rather than to keep spiraling. I say, put the knife away and use your fingers. Using a knife to hack and slash at a plant's root system is overkill. If you find any dead or damaged roots however, use pruning shears to trim them off.

3) Center the plant in the new, larger container, making sure it’s upright. There's nothing like going through the whole process only to gaze at your plant a month later to see that it's leaning in one direction. Buy a high quality potting soil and adjust the soil level so the top of the root ball is about 1/2 inch below the rim of the pot; more for larger plants. Using your hand, sift new potting soil in around the plant and firm it with your fingers. Tip: Those flexible cutting boards makes the job of sifting soil around the plant easier, and cleaner!

Water the plant until water runs out of the drainage holes. This will help settle the soil and give it good contact with the roots. Add more soil if necessary.

Re-potting your indoor plants is like sending it to a health spa. It really improves overall plant health. We tend to ignore indoor plants, treating them like green statues, until they look so awful there's no way you can not see them. Take some time this year to make a difference in your houseplant's life!

Thanks for visiting and please stop by again. I'll put the coffee on!

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