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How houseplant is stored again
Spring and garden calls, but there is a final task for the indoor gardener.
Re-popular houseplants must be re-stored every two years to remain strong and healthy.
Many of these plants grow naturally on the gloomy ground of the rain forest, and although they have adapted to a large number of root rivalries, the limits of a pot will eventually become very restrictive. Some common house plants want to be attached to a small flowerpot – clivas, scheffleras, lilies of peace and ficus – but they will need to be stored again over time.
In addition to dealing with root congestion, plants that are too long in a pot sit on compacted and exhausted soil and may have a build-up of harmful fertilizer salts.
[I was a serial houseplant killer until I stopped making these five mistakes.]
How do you know if a plant needs reproduction? Turn the pot upside down: The most obvious sign of a plant attached to the pot is that the roots grow through the drainage holes. Hold the lower stem of the plant firmly and pull out the container. If you see a pale thick pale root, it’s time to take action. If the pot doesn’t slip, it’s probably held by cramped roots. If the pot is plastic, you can cut the container – I use pruners, but watch out for your fingers. If it is clay, you may need to break it with a hammer.
Nathan Roehrich, Greenhouse Production Manager at Brookside Gardens, calls a cordyline from a six-inch to eight-inch container. (Montgomery Parks)
Another sign of the problem is that the plant always looks thirsty – despite hardworking irrigation – it fades. This is because the ratio of roots to soil increases too much. The same problem can also lead to a significant decrease in plant viability.
Irrigate the plant well the day before re-precipitation to reduce ordeal stress and make the roots more workable.
After removing the plant from the pot, you have to bring the roots to a more natural state. The degree of effort depends on overcrowding levels. I asked Nate Roehrich, the greenhouse production manager at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, how he did this. We went again to look for a plant that was begging for hiding and trying to find a painful cordid in a gallon container.
When we took the job, I realized that the roots were softer than me. This was because a week ago, I had to buy a big knife in the most cramped root system I’d ever seen – in the inner courtyard that I bought just a month ago. This leads to another point: Just because a houseplant is new to you does not mean you are hiding happily. Growing season late or in winter, houseplants spent months to grow thick roots. Buy them – especially if they are on sale – but be prepared to prepare them for the coming season.
The thinner the roots, the more gentle you should be. One way of working them loosely with minimum damage is to wash the old soil, preferably with ice, not with ice.
Thin but pointed roots, cut them with scissors. If they are thick and compressed, you can use a knife to draw the edges. For truly cramped roots such as my palms, you can use a sharp knife or pruning saw to lift the bottom inch or so, and then use a three-way soil cultivator to free the roots from each other and old soil.
Roehrich didn’t use anything other than his hands on cordyline. As a rule, it does not remove more than a quarter of the root mass during storage.
A root pruned plant can be brought back to the same pot, but it is better to give it a slightly larger nest – a pot with one or two inches more on top. The larger one carries the risk of root rot due to increased soil moisture. Some pots are placed in a decorative exterior or cache pot, and some have an integrated plate on the bottom, but in any case the new pot must be emptied.
There is a confusing range of soil and compost products for sale, but for most houseplants you want to store the soil (or the pot mix). This is typically a peat-based mixture illuminated with perlite. Some gardeners think the soil is still prone to the pond and they want to add additional perlite. Orchids and succulents need their own special blends.
Keep the plant at the same soil level as before – you are deeper and at risk of crown decay – but for efficient watering the soil line must be under the pot mouth.
When filling fresh soil with another, keep the plant at the right level with one hand. Roehrich then touches the pot several times to get rid of any air pocket. I love that the plant is watered and then reassembled as necessary to encourage the soil to sink.
After the last watering, allow the plant to rest – away from direct sunlight, even if it is a bright plant. Water again when the soil feels dry. Fertilization for a while; wait until you see a new growth that can last for two to four weeks.
Roehrich said that the plant will first put its energy into repairing its roots before turning the energy into initial growth.
After the plant is re-potted, shape the leaves by removing dead, diseased or damaged leaves.
The project creates a lot of confusion. If your luxurious, fully submerged flowerpot is being renovated, it can be served on a light day or indoors in a large plastic tub on the patio or balcony. A storage container will do the trick.
Revitalizing a plant in this way also has a way to restore the spirits of the indoor gardener.