Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rejuvenating Houseplants

As if you didn't have enough to do outdoors in the early spring, this also happens to be a perfect time to repot houseplants. Scrutinize your ferns, philodendrons, peace lilies, coleus, etc. If they look peaked or off color; if they wilt quickly after watering, or if their roots are peeking out the drainage hole, they may need repotting. If you'd like them to still fit into the same pot they're currently living in, here's a way to do it:

Gather supplies, including a supply of good-quality potting soil. (I like Miracle-gro, which already has fertilizer). Find the watering can. If working indoors, cover the work surface with plastic or toweling.

Select the new pot; fill it partway with moistened potting soil. Grab your overgrown plant and haul it out of its pot (if it's root bound, this is easy to do---just poke your finger in the hole at the bottom of the pot and push. There IS a hole in the bottom of the pot, isn't there?) Or gently grab the topgrowth and pull. Or wedge a narrow spatula or trowel in between the soil and the pot.
Now lay the potless plant sideways on the table. Take this opportunity to trim off dead dangling leaves & stems.

Here comes the interesting part: Pick up a heavy-duty serrated knife and slice off the bottom quartile of the root ball. I know, I know, this is serious stuff! But if Mother Nature's in active growing mode, as she is in early spring, the plant won't mind a'tall. Set the slice aside for the compost pile. Now plunk the rest of the plant into the fresh potting soil at the same level it was previously growing, and water. Give it a day or so of shade to recuperate from its minor outpatient surgery, then put it back where it lives. Voila! The grateful plant will stick its roots into fertile soil, and thrive.

Now wash your hands, shush the spouse who's complaining about the mess, and congratulate yourself on giving your houseplant a new lease on life.

P.S. This technique may also be used for patio pots come midsummer, when your lovelies are looking tired and have grown so much that you just can't keep up with the watering.
P.P.S For those of you interested in more gardening tips, please see my monthly e-newletter. The most recent issue was sent Tuesday, April 7th, from Morning Glory Gardens. If you're not a subscriber and would like to be, send me an e-mail at & I'll put you on the list!

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