With Spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, houseplants are out of dormancy and are showing signs of new growth. There are a few easy-to-do jobs that you can complete over the Easter break which will prepare your houseplants for a strong and healthy summer; so you don’t have to worry about them not looking their best for the rest of the year.
Re-potting is the best way to give tired looking plants a new lease of life. Re-potting into a new, larger container with fresh soil can often give a houseplant the nutrients and space it needs to really kick on into a growth spurt. The roots in a pot-bound plant have grown to the full capacity of the container, resulting in a nutrient deficiency in the pot, a lack of potting mix to hold moisture effectively and ultimately, a stunted and unhappy plant. However, not every plant needs to be re-potted every year, if your plant still looks in great shape then it wouldn’t make sense to disturb the roots. In fact, in some cases re-potting a healthy plant into a larger pot may actually do more damage than good, leaving it unable to soak up the moisture it needs after watering. A too large container can invite issues such as root rot and plant pests to take up residence. Also, some houseplant species prefer to be pot-bound. Flowering plants such as the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) and Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) expend more of their energy producing stunning flowers when pot-bound, rather than concentrating on root growth. Re-potting very sick or unhealthy plants probably isn’t a good idea either, with any diseases or pest infestations unlikely to be fixed by re-potting and the process being even more damaging to already poorly plants. Nevertheless, if any of your plants are looking limp, you can see visible roots on top of the soil running to the edge of the container, there are roots coming out of the bottom of the container, or your plant struggles to retain any moisture as the water runs straight through it when you give it a drink – then these might be great choices for a spring replant.
A straightforward process, the hardest challenge may be extracting your plant from its current container, which can take time and patience. You’ll need a good trowel, some scissors/secateurs and a sharp knife or small saw for the job. Take precautions and always wear gloves, while making sure you have a nice open space with floor protection as it may get messy. This can be done outside, but make sure it’s a nice warm day so the roots of your plants aren’t shocked by cold weather. Of course, make sure you have your new pot to hand, usually a larger pot than your existing one, but it is possible to plant in the same sized pot by cutting away some of the old roots and adding new soil. All-purpose potting mix will do for most houseplants, but some plants may require specialist aggregates.
Begin by trying to prise your plant from its pot. Plants in plastic pots usually come loose with a squeeze, but many older, pot-bound plants will be in containers made of sturdier stuff. Use secateurs to cut away any roots that have grown through the bottom of the pot’s drainage holes and a saw or sharp knife to cut around the edges of the container. If you have help, tipping the plant while gently pulling it out (without damaging it) may help. Lightly watering the plant may also help it slide out. This stage is usually one of patience and persistence. Of course, if your pot is expendable, or if the pot is so malformed that you can see the plant won’t be budging, then the easiest and quickest route will be to smash the pot off with a hammer. Once your plant is free of its pot, set about cutting away any damaged or blackened roots. If roots are very tightly wound, you may want to gently ‘tease’ the roots by pulling them apart and loosening them up. Finally, re-plant in the new container with the potting mix, ensuring the drainage is good. Move your plant to back to its home and give it a water to soak it into the new pot.
Don’t forget your houseplants during your spring clean. Whenever your plants get a bit dusty, it’s good practice to give them a quick wipe down to protect them from pests and infections, not to mention they will be shining and looking great afterwards too. For maximum results with minimum damage, we’d recommend steering clear of many of the commercial plant shine sprays on the market, which can expose leaves to harmful chemicals and stop them functioning properly. We’d recommend a very weak solution liquid dish detergent and lukewarm water, mixed together in a spray bottle, as the quickest and most effective way to clean your plants. If the water is too hot or too cold, it could be damaging to the plant’s leaves. Simply, lightly spray the plant all over and use a microfibre or J-Cloth to gently wipe the leaves free of any dust deposits. It will take longer, but wiping your plants clean will ensure that they’re not left with streaks on the leaves following the spray, leaving them shining and healthy.
With the growing season in full flight, all your houseplants will benefit from additional nutrients to give them a healthy boost. Plants in containers need regular feed to top up the nutrient levels in the soil, so apply these rules to your pots in the garden too. Plants in the ground often won’t require feeding, as they have a regular supply of nutrients from the ground around them, although veg and fruit may benefit from fertilization. We recommend an all-purpose fertilizer which is mixed into your watering can, such as Miracle Gro All Purpose Concentrated Liquid. You may want to continue this liquid feed once every 3 or 4 drinks going forward, throughout spring and summer. Alternatively, continuous release granules require less applications (feeding plants for up to 6 months), so if you’re a less hands-on gardener, a product such as Miracle Gro All Purpose Continuous Release Granules may be more your cup of tea. Whichever you choose, regular feeding and cleaning, along with any a necessary re-potting, will refresh your houseplants and prepare them to look at their best all summer.