By Toni Reale
With consistently warmer temperatures on their way to the Lowcountry, now is the time to prepare your indoor plants for spring. During the winter months,
indoor plants slip into a state of dormancy; their growth slows down significantly as does their need for water and nutrients.
But in the next month or so, indoor plants will wake from their slumber and be eager to regenerate and grow. Here are some useful tips to set up your indoor plants for success as they transition from one physiological state to another.
Ensure your plants are not in distress.
Your winter care regimes hopefully have kept your plants healthy and happy during dormancy. This is a great time to recheck each plant for any pests, quarantine if necessary and treat them. If pest control is overlooked, your plant will likely not survive and worse, may spread pests to your other plants.
Assess and restock your potting materials.
Soil is literally the foundation of a plant’s ecosystem. Take the time to research soil brands to ensure they source their materials sustainably, and then stock up locally. We recommend the North Carolina company, Good Dirt. Get a bag or two of lava rocks (depending on the number of plants that you have in your collection) for drainage and a bag of activated charcoal to help prevent mold and some insects. Add some new pots to your collection if any of your plants are ready for a larger pot or if you want to change up your collection’s look.
Pro tip: You can find great pots in local vintage stores such as The Station Park Circle, Old Hat Vintage or even Goodwill. Remember to clean them thoroughly before use.
Re-pot or pot-up? Most plants benefit from repotting about once a year and the best time to do this is in spring. Repotting means to refresh a plant’s soil and “potting-up” means putting the plant into a larger pot as it grows. Before embarking on any re-potting or potting-up endeavors, evaluate each plant and determine if your plant has outgrown its current container.
According to Good Earth Plants, a few sure signs that you need to move your plant into a larger pot include roots coming out of the bottom of your pot, visible soil shrinkage, mineral or salt build-up on the top of the soil or on the outside of the pot. You can inspect as you water them a couple of days before you repot as you’ll want your plants perky and hydrated before you work with them. If you believe your plant is ready for the big move, be sure to only go up a standard
pot size. For example, if your plants are in a 4-inch-diameter pot then move up to a 6-inch diameter pot. The Sill suggests if your new pot is too big, then too much soil paired with too much water will lead to root rot.
Get to the root of the matter.
Whether you’ve determined that your plant is perfectly happy in its current pot size or if it’s time to move up a size follow these steps:
- With care, remove the plant from its pot.
- Loosen up the roots by gently massaging them and letting old soil fall away.
- Cut any rotten-looking roots. If the roots are tight and balled up, you can trim them so that they fit into your current pot or expand in a new, larger pot. We recommend not trimming more than ⅓ of the root mass.
- Compost old soil from the pot and clean it out. If potting-up, be sure that the container is clean.
- If the pot you are using doesn’t have a drainage hole, add about 1” of lava rocks to the bottom to aid in drainage as overwatering is the number one cause of death for houseplants in our experience.
- Consider adding a thin layer of activated horticultural charcoal to stave off mold, fungus and odor on top of the gravel or lava rock layer.
- Add some soil to the pot leaving room to create a space for your plant.
- Carefully nestle your plant into the space you created. Add soil around and on top filling in any air pockets. Firm up the surface by gently pressing down with your fingertips. The top of your soil should be about an inch below the rim.
- Water your plant about half as much as you think you should and without soaking
As your plant adjusts to its new surroundings you may notice it decline a bit before it thrives. After a plant is repotted, it will need a little time for the roots to heal, according to Pistils Nursery. To care for your plant in this tender stage, place it in an environment that has a little less light than it typically requires. Additionally, hold off on watering for about five days (depending on plant type) to allow the plant to adjust.
Repotting is also the perfect time to propagate your plant. Some plants are easy to divide as you loosen the soil; others take a bit more care. Research the most successful ways to propagate each specific plant. Don’t get discouraged if your propagation doesn’t root. Each propagation is an experiment and never guaranteed to work.
Toni Reale is the owner of Roadside Blooms, a unique flower and plant shop in Park Circle in North Charleston. It specializes in weddings, events and everyday deliveries using nearly 100 percent American- and locally grown blooms. Online at www.roadsideblooms.com. 4610 Spruill Ave., Suite 102, North Charleston.