Now is the best time to perk up houseplants


PHILADELPHIA – If your African violets are looking a little peaked or the water runs right through your rubber plant, it’s probably time to repot.

According to experts at Premier Horticulture, if you didn’t repot your house plants this fall now is the time since most plants actually double in size every 6 to 12 months.

As they grow, the roots “squeeze” the soil and form a rootball. This rootball can’t hold the water and nutrients so the water just flows through to the saucer, or even worse, on to the floor. Eventually, the roots start searching outside the pot for nutrition.

“But don’t repot with garden dirt,” warns Charlotte Kidd, owner of In The Garden Design, Care, and Workshops in Philadelphia. “It’s full of weed seeds, bugs and disease.”

For repotting indoor plants, she recommends a light, soilless sphagnum peat moss mix combined with perlite, and vermiculite with starter nutrients, lime, and a wetting agent.

Repotting tips. Premier recommends the following tips for repotting:

* Turn the pot upside down, gently tap the bottom of the pot and slightly moisten the rootball.

* Select a new pot that’s 10 percent to 15 percent larger in height and width. If the pot’s too large, you may get root rot.

* Cover the drainage hole with a few rocks and about an inch of mix.

* Here’s the trick: Place the empty pot in the center of the new pot, matching up the rims. Fill around the old pot with mix.

Then remove it and place the plant in the “planting hole” you made with the old pot. It should be a perfect fit. Plus you minimize damage to roots, leaves and stems.

* Water thoroughly and add more potting soil as needed. Don’t pack or press down on the root system. Roots breathe so they thrive in loose soil with lots of air.

* Many professional mixes contain starter fertilizer. In about three weeks, water with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer such as 20-20-20 or 20-10-20, as noted on package directions.


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