This month at the shop, our Open House will be featuring unique houseplants. Instead of selling them in the ugly plastic pots the plants were in, I transplanted them all into lovely grey/stone colored pots. Part of what we do here is to provide our customers with an extra level of care and our products an extra level of class. With that in mind, I assembled all the gorgeous plants I purchased in St. Louis and the pots I picked up from an incredible ceramics wholesaler in Omaha and began transplanting them.
Once I got started, I realized that there are a few tidbits of information that I have acquired through my family tree of gardeners. I take these things for granted as if everyone goes about knowing how to transplant a plant. So, as I worked away at the shop, I thought maybe I would share a few helpful hints here. You might even like to dispute my methods through the comment section, which I will happily enjoy, as we all know there are many ways to “skin a cat” / pot a plant.
To begin, I select a pot that is approximately 1 inch larger in diameter than the plastic pot the plant comes in. I also make sure the pot is deep enough to accommodate the plant. It is important not to transplant your plants into pots too large. Better to gradually upsize as your plant grows. Be sure to select a pot that has a hole in the bottom so that proper drainage can occur.
Next, place a few large stones or broken pieces of an old terra cotta pot (yes I save my pots when they break, just for this purpose) on the bottom of the pot over the hole to prevent soil from falling out of the pot. Next, add in some potting soil. Depending on the type of plant, you may need to add a bit of peat moss or extra perlite to your basic potting soil. Consulting Google or your local nursery for advice may be a good idea. Generally a nice, airy potting soil will do unless you are planting a succulent or cactus, in which case you will need special cactus mix. Put in just enough soil so that your plant will sit just below the lip of the new pot. You don’t want it to be too high and close to the lip because when you go to water it, the water and soil will spill over the edge and make a HUGE mess. Ask me how I know! I discovered this at an early age, but it is worth mentioning.
Next, take your plant in the plastic pot, turn it upside down and remove the plastic pot. You will likely notice that it is rather “root bound” meaning there is a big tangle of roots all around the bottom and sides of the soil ball. If this is the case, you can gently use your fingers to massage out and loosen up a bit of the roots so that they will more easily root into the new soil. (This does not mean tearing the roots up, but just gently vibrating your fingers over the roots like you would tussle a child’s hair). Then set the plant into the new pot with the soil in the bottom. Now, carefully tuck soil all around the outside of the plant between the edge of the pot. Lightly tamp the soil down as you go to remove air bubbles around the roots. You don’t want to jam it down, but do use your fingers to press it firmly down around the plant.
Find a saucer for your pot. You may use one that comes with it, or you can always use a little plate, old tea cup saucer, or a plastic saucer purchased from a garden store. Set your plant on the saucer. If you have a fern, you may want to consider putting a half-inch of pebbles in the saucer and setting your pot on top of these rocks to help retain moisture in between waterings. Now it is time to give your plant a thorough watering.
Generally, my best suggestion to people is to pick a day of the week that you water your houseplants and stick to it. Yes, there are some exceptions to this. If you have succulents, they may need less frequent watering, as they like dryer soil. If you put your plants in a particularly sunny window that dries them out faster, they may need more frequent watering. Generally, however, one of the most common killers of houseplants is overwatering. DO NOT WATER YOUR PLANTS IF THE SOIL FEELS DAMP WHEN YOU TEST IT WITH YOUR FINGERS. Another obvious statement perhaps, but you would be amazed at how many people never even test the soil before watering. If you see your plants turning yellow, it is often (but not always) the result of overwatering.
In regards to fertilizing, houseplants do need to be fertilized occasionally. Look up your particular kind to learn about its fertilizing needs. Pay attention to fertilization amounts, as too much can burn up your good plants.
You may want to decorate the soil of your houseplants with shells, stones, or other little treasures. I started this as a kid and I still enjoy it. Be as creative as you like! It’s not just the pot that can help accent your plant.
Lastly, consider a good spot in your home for your plant. Generally, indirect light is recommended. They do need light to live; too hot a window, however, can dry out your plant too quickly and may bleach it out. Again, some general research into your type of plant is recommended to find it a happy place to live. Generally, our homes are too dry for houseplants so don’t think you have a “black thumb” if you kill a few. Just replace them and enjoy their natural, living beauty as long as possible. You can help by getting a humidifier or not placing them directly next to heat/air vents that may dry them out. Or you may take them onto your patios (as long as they are shaded and protected enough) during the summer so they may enjoy our nice humid weather and then bring them in again in the winter.
Don’t forget, houseplants act as air purifiers! So, not only do they add live beauty to your homes but they help clean your air. When our homes are all shut up tight with heat blasting or the air conditioner running (like this week with this heat wave!), plants help keep your households healthy. What more reasons do you need?!
And one more thing. I give you permission to throw out your plants when they don’t look good! Or give them to someone who might want to rehabilitate them. Dead looking plants in a home can be an eyesore, as well as stressful. Just simply get rid of it and be thankful for the time it enhanced your home. Buy another and move on. Too many people find unnecessary pressure in keeping plants alive. I have been working in nurseries since I was young, and I kill plenty of plants. Oh well! I learn where in the house certain ones prefer and I find success sometimes and failure others. Mostly, I’m just so happy when I have greenery and nature surrounding me. I don’t mind if it means occasional replacements! Happy planting!!!