New Year resolutions for your house plants
Ryan Summerlin December 16, 2012
The new year is approaching, and many people resolve to eat better in the new year and often contemplate a cleansing diet of some sort to rid their bodies of everyday pollution. Your house plants can benefit from the same treatment. Consider these important steps: flushing or changing the soil, root pruning or upsizing the pot and adding beneficial microbes to the soil.
Most house plant aficionados cut back on fertilization in the winter, making it a great time to flush salt and fertilizer residue from the root zone. There are a few soil flushes available to dissolve the salt, therefore “flushing” it from the container. If done correctly, this treatment will leave the roots clean and ready to absorb nutrients for growth in the coming year. This treatment also will remove excess salts/fertilizer from the potting medium. Mix the product according to directions, and apply until runoff is observed coming from the bottom of the container. You may want to do this over a sink or have a deep saucer to catch the runoff. Discard all of the runoff; do not allow the plant to sit in this effluent. Plan to do this at least twice a year when not changing the soil completely.
Enthusiastic gardeners with indoor plants with poor potting soil should consider repotting the plant with fresh, healthy soil! Choose the best potting soil you can afford. Clean the pot of fertilizer and hard water deposits and old soil. (The soil flush used in the first step can be used to remove the buildup.) Take time to gently wash the plant’s roots to free it of old debris. Large plants are the most difficult to repot. Damaging the plant and your back is a big concern; you may need help. In addition, a drop cloth in your work area will help protect carpets and hardwood floors. A newly repotted plant can return to vigor that may not have been seen in quite some time!
If you have noticed slow growth over the last few months, your house plant may have outgrown its pot. You can check this a few ways. If you cannot squeeze the pot, look underneath at the drain holes to see if roots are growing out. Also, gently tap the plant out of the pot and look directly at the roots. If the plant is root bound, the roots will be taking up the pot and surrounding itself.
You have two choices if your plant is root bound: Prune the roots or upsize to a new pot no more than 2 inches bigger. Root pruning can be a way to keep the plant small, like a bonsai or terrarium plant. Prune the roots by loosening the soil and cutting back roots and soil with a sharp scissors or knife. Tease out any tangles, and spread the roots to encourage the roots to grow into the soil, not circle around the root ball strangling the plant. Replant the root ball back into the clean pot.
To take this plant treatment to the next level, consider adding a product with mycorrhizae to the potting medium at this time. This will inoculate the soil and root zone with beneficial microorganisms, decrease stress from the process and increase vigor. These microorganisms displace disease-causing organisms and help make nutrients more available to the plant.
Any or all of these ideas can help your house plants as they rest through the winter and begin to come out of dormancy in the spring! For more detailed seasonal information, become a member of the Wildflower Farm. You’ll receive the members-only monthly newsletter and exclusive discounts.
Wildflower Farm is located in Edwards on U.S. Highway 6. Reach them at 970-926-5504 or firstname.lastname@example.org.