If you are sheltering in place, maybe you’ve had a chance to take a good look at your houseplants! If your plants are looking happy, you’re probably providing the right amount of light, humidity, and fertilizer—if they’re not, consider doing a bit of research on the plants you’re growing to see if you have optimum growing conditions, using the sources in the “Choosing and caring for indoor plants” in the “For more information” section. If your plants are growing well, you may need to repot them to keep them thriving.
Are your plants rootbound? This is a good time to repot rootbound plants. Carefully tip your plants out of their pots—if roots are filling the pot and circling the bottom, it may be time to repot.
Does your plant need dividing or restarting?
You can—or even should—divide some plants rather than simply repot. African violets, for example, may develop multiple crowns and dividing will restore their symmetrical beauty! You may want to divide other houseplants just to share!
If your plant has become not only too big for its pot, but too big for your home, consider propagating a new, smaller version to keep, and give the parent plant away. You can also do this to start over if your plant is simply unattractive because it hasn’t had the best of care. See propagation resources in the “For more information” section.
This is also the time to make sure your plants are in the right size containers—plants bursting out of their pots may need a larger home, but if there are already more than a couple of inches of bare soil between the plant growth and the pot edge, you may have “overpotted” your plant and need to downsize! Again, the type of plant will determine if you need a new container. When choosing a new pot for a plant, also consider the depth of the pot. Some plants will appreciate deeper pots, while others will do fine in a shallow pot.
Not all potting soils are alike! Jim Downer of the University of California Cooperative Extension notes in a recent article http://gardenprofessors.com/potting-soil-poison/ that many planting medium ingredients may actually be hurting your plants! He explains how carefully reading the ingredient list can help you decide on a mix and when or if you will need to fertilize your plants.
If you have potting soil on hand, check the ingredients. If you need to buy a new mix, do your homework ahead of time, especially if you’ll be pre-ordering and driving by to pick it up rather than having a chance to look at the bag before buying.
Once you have a container and a medium:
• If you are using a clay pot, soak it first so the pot will not draw moisture from the potting soil.
• Analyze your plant’s roots—use your fingers to loosen densely matted or circling roots and remove any dead or damaged areas.
• If you wish, cover any hole (or holes) in the bottom of the pot with a piece of broken pottery or a piece of a coffee filter to prevent soil from leaking out. DO NOT put any “drainage” material, such as gravel, in the bottom of the pot—gravel can actually impede soil drainage!
• Place enough potting soil in the bottom of the pot so that your plant roots will have new room to grow.
• Set the plant in the pot and fill in around the sides and surface with new planting medium, tamping lightly and making sure you DO NOT build up new soil around the plant stems.
• Thoroughly water the newly potted plants.
• Do not leave plants in standing water.
• If your potting mix doesn’t contain fertilizer, plan to use a houseplant fertilizer and fertilize at the strength and frequency recommended on the label—too much fertilizer can impede growth, cause dried/burned leaf margins, loss of leaves, brown roots, or even kill your plant!
Article by Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers
For more information:
Choosing and caring for indoor plants:
Propagating new plants: