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Guidelines for Repotting your House Plants

As plants grow they need to be repotted into larger pots or containers. If you do not provide more space for the roots, they can become what is called “pot-bound”. This happens when the roots become so cramped together that they’re lumped into a tight mass that then prevents the plant from growing.

How to Recognize When a Plant Needs to be Repotted

When you purchase flowers online they have a finite life; however if you send an indoor plant as a gift they can last for many years with the right care! The clearest sign is if you can observe roots on top of the soil, or if roots are starting to emerge from the drain hole on the bottom of the container or pot.
If your plant shows slowed growth or appears to have stopped growing, it most likely is pot-bound. If you have a small plant, turn it sideways and gently slide the plant out of the pot or container. Have a glance at its roots to see if they are coiled in the base of the pot. If they are, then is absolutely time to repot your plant. Plants produce offsets and if these are crowding your pot they should be removed and planted in their own separate pots or containers.

The Best Time For Repotting a Plant

When you bring your new plant home from the nursery or garden center, it needs time to adapt to its new surroundings. Allow two weeks before you re-pot it. Plants go into shock until they adjust to a new environment with different lighting, temperature and humidity levels. If you don’t like the looks of the plastic pot from the nursery, just place it in something like a cachepot. If you have young house plants that are actively growing, they should be repotted into pots that are a little larger, using new potting mix, every year. If you have large house plants, like a ficus or plants that grow slowly, you can do this every other year or when you notice that a plant has outgrown their pot. A plant that looks top-heavy probably needs to be repotted into a larger pot. But if your plant seems to be thriving, you can relax because it’s probably just fine in the pot it’s already in. The best time to repot is when the plant is just starting a period of actively growing, which is usually in the spring. If you have winter-blooming houseplants, the best season for re-potting these is in early fall, once their dormant period has passed.

Choosing the Proper Container

When selecting a new pot for re-potting purposes the new pot needs to be 4-5 cm's wider in diameter at the rim OR it should be 4-5 cm's deeper than your old pot. The reason for being this precise is that if you repot into a pot that is too large the roots will have too much room to grow into. If this happens the top part of the plant won’t show any growth for a long period of time since it is unable to grow until the roots start filling the container. If a pot or container is too large it will hold much more water than is needed and cause the roots to rot. Make sure you select a pot or container with drainage holes in the bottom so excess water can drain out. You should always thoroughly scrub and clean out used pots and containers between plantings in order to get rid of any diseases or insects. To disinfect your pot soak it in a mixture of 9 parts water and 1 part chlorine bleach. Rince thoroughly with clean clear water. If you have a brand new terra cotta pot or container, it is important that you soak it in water for several hours so that it becomes moist before you put a plant in it. New terra cotta is extremely dry and if you do not soak it first it will certainly absorb moisture from the soil or potting mix, which will leave your plant needing water right away.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Repotting a Plant

First you must gently remove your plant from the pot it’s in by turning it sideways and gently slide the plant out of the pot. If the plant is solidly in there, you can slap the bottom of the pot with your hand or tap it on a hard surface to dislodge the plant. You can also try sliding a knife or trowel into the pot at the edge and maneuver it around the edges making sure you don’t hurt the root-ball. If you notice the roots coiled around at the bottom, use your fingers to gently pull them out straight. You should always prune the roots when you repot in order to stimulate the growth of new roots. Pruning the roots actually helps the plant to adjust to the new pot or container. The new pot or container should be partially filled with potting mix. Place the plant in the center, then pour additional mix around the sides to fill in and secure the plant. Pat the soil down using your fingers, and don’t forget to pat down along the sides of the container.

Water the plant thoroughly so the roots are moistened and for the potting mix to settle into place. If you need to add more mix, go right ahead.

Helpful Hints to Care for Re-potted House Plants

Because plants undergo stress when being re-potted they need some time to relax and recuperate. Here are some helpful hints to help your plants settle in, relax and adapt: This is not the time to place your plant in direct sun as the plant is in a weakened state and putting it in the sun right after repotting is just too harsh. The potting mix or soil needs to be kept evenly moist, but not soggy, though. If the leaves seem limp to you, this means the plant needs more water. If the leaves start turning yellow, then the plant is getting a little too much water. A high humidity level can on occasion help a pot recover from being re-potted. Check out our hints for increasing the humidity levels surrounding your plants. Do not put fertilizer on a plant that has just undergone repotting. If you’ve followed our instructions you have pruned the roots and they can get a fertilizer burn. You need to delay this for at least 30 days, then you can consider fertilizing because by now the plant’s root system will have recovered and be better situated.

Picking the Right Potting Mix or Soil for Your Plant

There are so many different types and brands of potting soil at any given nursery or garden center that most people find themselves very confused. The right type is totally dependent on your plant.
They seem to use the phrases “potting soil” and “potting mix” interchangeably but the truth is that many potting mixes have little or even no soil in them at all. The reason for this is that soil often becomes very compact in a pot or container, which has the effect of robbing the roots of oxygen, which they need to survive.

What a Potting Mix Should Provide to a House Plant

A potting mix should offer these three things:

A support system so the plant remains standing It acts to hold water and nutrients on behalf of the roots while providing good drainage to ensure the plant doesn’t become waterlogged Allows for air to circulate so the roots can receive oxygen

What Does Potting Mix Consist Of?

When you buy a ready-made potting mix there is often no soil in it at all.
Potting mixes are made from a peat moss base or comprised of other types of partially decomposed plant type material, like ground up fir bark. You might want to add some perlite, vermiculite and sand to the potting mix to help more air get into the soil to assist drainage. Remember how important it is to look at labels, so before you choose your potting soil, read the list of contents. Below is a list of the normal ingredients contained in potting mixes and what they are for:

Peat moss - The basic ingredient is usually peat moss when you examine most commercial potting mixes of today. Peat moss is comprised of bog plants that are partially decomposed and ground up into a coarse brown colored powder. Peat moss is good for adding a light, fluffy touch to the mix, which increases water retention. Certain plants thrive best in a potting soil that stays moist. Ferns, African violets, and begonias love a potting mix based on peat moss since it's so good at holding moisture in.

Bark – As you work with potting mixes, you’ll usually feel chunks of bark from trees or pieces of twigs in the mix. These bits and pieces assist in drainage and also prevents the potting mix from becoming too compact, which provides a means for air to circulate around the roots. Bark that has been composted is often used in potting mixes for orchids and bromeliads.

Sand – This is commonly added to mixes in order to assist and hasten drainage. Sand is coarse and therefore, cannot hold moisture very well so a sandy potting mix will quickly dry out. This is the ideal situation for succulents and cacti as these plants like to be watered in small gulps. Palms, which grow naturally in areas with sandy beaches, also prefer a sandy mixture. The only thing you need to be careful of is to use only washed or horticultural sand so that it doesn’t have any salt in it or any other impurities either.

Perlite – This looks like white little puffs. Perlite is tiny pieces of volcanic rock that have been expanded. It has thousands of tiny little air pockets that quickly absorbs and releases water. It acts as a regulator of water for the potting mix, which helps drainage. There are a lot of mixes that contain perlite, especially those formulated specifically for succulents and usually contain extra helpings.

Vermiculite – This comes from mineral deposits that occur naturally in the environment and look like tiny flakes of gold. Vermiculite assists the potting mix in maintaining aeration, but also easily absorbs several times its own weight in minerals and water, and gradually releases them.
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