Dirty Hands: Get your houseplants ready for the spring with these easy tips
March 18, 2013
We have spent the past few weeks talking about houseplants, specifically how to select plants based on your home’s specific growing conditions. The shorter days of winter send most houseplants into dormancy. They’re still very much alive, but growth slows and watering requirements are typically reduced. With longer days and spring around the corner, it is time to discuss getting your houseplants ready for the upcoming growing season.
Spring is a good time for a bath! Cleaning the leaves of your plants will help them absorb more sunlight and increase transpiration. On plants with smooth leaves, just wipe the tops and bottoms of the leaves with a damp cloth or a plant wash. A light coat of organic neem oil will add sheen as well as protect them from pests. On plants with fuzzy leaves, such as African Violet, use a soft, dry brush (a small paintbrush is ideal) to remove dust. Water is not recommended as it may discolor the leaves.
How’s the soil? If it is hard and crusty, use a small trowel or fork to loosen it, being careful not to injure roots. This will increase air flow to the roots and allow water and nutrients to soak in easier. You could also apply a systemic insecticide at this time. Systemic products dissolve into the soil and are absorbed by the roots into the plant to help prevent bug outbreaks.
Is it time for a new home? Late winter and early spring is the ideal time to repot most houseplants. Some clues that your plant may need repotting include roots surfacing at the top of the soil or popping out of the drainage holes, more frequent waterings or water running too quickly through the soil. To reassure yourself, pull the root ball out of the pot a couple of inches. If roots are tightly coiled and little potting medium remains, then your plant definitely needs a new pot. When selecting a new pot, it should not be more than 2-inches wider or deeper than the current pot. If the pot is too large, your plant may put all of its energy into filling the pot with roots delaying beautiful new growth.
Which potting soil is right for your plants? The potting soil you use does matter. There are many commercial potting soils on the market, choosing one can be intimidating. Unfortunately, most are devoid of microbial activity, which is essential for plant health. Simply put, microbes increase the surface area of the roots therefore improving the plants access to nutrition in the soil. One of the more common beneficial microbes available today is mycorrhizae. This “root fungus” is included in many specialty potting mixes. Read the labels. Use of the right product will result in healthier plants with a higher resistance to pests and pathogens. It will also reduce fertilization requirements as more nutrients will be absorbed naturally by the plant.
The Wildflower Farm carries several specialty potting mixes as well as products that can help you add beneficial bacteria to your container plantings either by adding the granules directly to the soil or by mixing the water-soluble version for a soil drench. Age Old Organics offers two granular forms of mycorrhizae supplements, and Happy Frog Soils have added mycorrhizae that is perfect for garden or container applications. All the varieties of Fox Farm liquid fertilizers contain mycorrhizae and can be used in houseplants, containers and gardens.
For more, connect with Colorado Alpines and Wildflower Farm on several social media channels. When connected, you’ll receive current news, seasonal tips and exclusive discounts. Colorado Alpines, providing full landscape services, and Wildflower Farm, the valley’s only year-round retail garden center, are both located in Edwards on U.S. Highway 6. Reach them at 970-926-5504 or email at email@example.com.