Plant philosophy
Five signs that your plant needs repotting
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Five signs that your plant needs repotting

You may ask yourself – how do people know? Do you repot all your plants in the spring, even if they don’t necessarily need it? Are you scared to repot them in winter or wonder if they are potted deep enough? Get some advice below. It will help you sleep better at night.

1. New arrivals

How and when to repot?

She is here! A new plant (ok, plants). You are happy, you bring her home and then…the horror. How to proceed? Leave it in the plastic pot or put it into this cute one, that you’ve bought along with it? Or put one in the other and hope for the best? What kind of soil? Etc.

begonia_new_arrival
New arrival – Begonia chlorosticta in a nursery pot

Ok, first – breathe. Second – you still have time. Third – that is why it is better to think before you…do anything. Read about your plant before you buy it. The minimum you need to know is the soil in which she likes to grow, because that will come in handy in a week or two.

Why in a week or two? Your plant needs to adjust to the new environment – your apartment and it is better, when not all of the parameters change at once. She will get a new light angle, probably different than in the greenhouse. Different air quality and circulation, different humidity. It is better to wait before you change the potting medium as well.

I usually wait about a week or two, observe, make sure pests do not suddenly make an appearance. Then I mix the soil and transfer to another medium and the new flowerpot. I never leave my plants in the factory medium – why? Check point four.

2. Roots crawling out of the pot

Cut or not?

When your plant is crawling out of the pot it is definitely time to put her in a bigger one. But how much bigger? It is recommended to choose one size larger pot than previously, because the plant will continue to grow properly only if it doesn’t have too much space. Too big a pot causes distress and often (really often) leads to root loss and death of the plant. I know that you want to give her a lot of space, so she grows to be a huge one, but it has to be done in stages. Your home plants like to have some boundaries. If your plant started dropping leaves, it is often a sign that it is in too big pot.

You can also feel the temptation to just cut protruding roots and leave the plant in an old pot. Pruning roots is only in three cases.

  1. It is a bonsai and you want to keep the plant in a strictly formed shape. Still, it is no random cutting with random scissors. Growing bonsai is an art that requires knowledge so that you don’t harm the tree as you cut it.
  2. If it is an orchid, you can prune the dead roots. They are dry and brownish. Never cut a vital orchid root. It can cause fungi infection and it serves no purpose.
  3. Some parts of the root system are rotten. Take a pair od clean, disinfected, sharp scissors, and cut 1-2 cm above the damaged root, there the clean tissue grows. Then put some active charcoal or cinnamon at the fresh wound – it will prevent further spread of the rot

3. Reading the leaves

Root rot and other problems

Winter or spring, no matter. When your plant has holes (and she is not a Monstera) or dark spots with yellow edges on its leaves, it means you have overwatered it at some point, and she might be suffering from a fungus infection. It is a strong indicator that the soil may need changing. It’s a bit like changing a diaper. The soil will probably be useless if you’ve overwatered – first you’ve turned it into mud and then – when you’ve realised that you have to rescue her – you’re likely to have made it extra dry. It is also a good moment to make sure that the roots are in good shape…

4. State of the soil

When does it lose the ability
to absorb nutrients?

It brings us to another indicator for soil change: the appearance of its top layer. Both when it becomes soggy, and when it forms a dry crust, it is likely unable to absorb water and nutrients necessary to nourish the roots. In this situation it is best to take out the plant, wash the pot, wash the roots if the soil is a mud, or flick the old soil off the roots if it is dry. Give your plant a fresh start.

5. Pests

Is it always necessary to change
and wash everything?

philodendron_xanadu
Xanadu needed a quick repot, because it arrived with thrips

Old soil may contain pest larvae, so it is essential to wash old pots before reusing them. We don’t want an afterlife dystopian scenario for your new plant. You don’t have to sterilise the pots, just give them a good soak and clean with a rough dish brush and some soap.

The other scenario is when you can’t get rid of the pests and repotting is necessary. Bugs often live in the ground, so by getting rid of them from the leaves you might have won a battle, but the war is not over. If the problem is dragging on and you are tired of the fight, don’t hesitate to wash your plant thoroughly and give her a new potting mix after cleaning the pot.

And remember, repotting in the spring is a good habit. You can check the condition of your plants after the winter. But it is also vital that you don’t wait with repotting, when the plant clearly needs it. It will be thankful and grow better.

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