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Time To Tend To Houseplants

Time to Tend to Houseplants
By Paul James
It’s an exciting time for houseplants, because after being dormant for the past several months, growing ever so slowly -- if at all -- and likely struggling from a lack of humidity (and too much water, no doubt), as well as lower light levels, they’re ready to wake up from a long winter’s sleep and begin their active growth phase. But they can’t go it alone. They need your help, and what you do now will make all the difference in their health and happiness. And chances are, you’ll be happier too.

(For my take on what it’s actually like to be a houseplant, check out this blog
A Houseplant for Every Room
Before jumping into the nitty gritty of houseplant care, let me remind you that there’s a houseplant for every room, regardless of light level or humidity, even -- make that especially -- kitchens and bathrooms. What’s more, there’s a houseplant suited to every skill level, even -- again, make that especially -- people who’ve never grown a houseplant. And there’s no getting around the fact that adding a houseplant to any room in your home can be totally transformative.
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Repot or Not?
Of all the tasks to consider this time of year, repotting is the most important. It’s something I think should be done every spring. You don’t necessarily have to replant into a larger pot (but if you plan to, please read on), but you definitely need to replace the old potting mix because over time it loses valuable nutrients, its surface becomes crusty, and it may contain high levels of salts from fertilizers. To repot, follow these steps.
  1. Gently remove the plant from the pot.
  2. Tease the roots, cutting away any that are dark brown, and remove most of the old mix from around them.
  3. Discard the old mix and rinse the pot.
  4. Fill up to half (or more) of the pot with new mix, leaving enough room for the new plant’s rootball.
  5. Center the plant in the pot, and add enough mix to completely cover the roots and pack lightly, leaving an inch or so between the top of the pot edge and the top of the mix so water doesn’t run off.
  6. Fertilize and water well.
Or Let Us Pot it for You
Specialized potting mixes are available for African violets, cacti, orchids, and other plants that have special needs, but the majority of houseplants grow great in all-purpose mixes made by Espoma, FoxFarm, and others. But as you might imagine, we’re partial to our own custom formulation called Maria’s Potting Mix, which is what we use to pot practically everything. And btw, the terms potting soil and potting mix are often used interchangeably. Sorry for the confusion.
Shop Potting Soils/Mixes
Shop Maria’s Potting Mix
Houseplant Fertilizers
During the winter months, most houseplants don’t need to be fertilized. But as they begin their active growth phase, they do. And again, there are lots of fertilizers on the market for houseplants -- both granular and liquid -- and we’ve got ‘em.
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Keeping Leaves Clean
When dust accumulates on leaf surfaces, it affects a plant's ability to photosynthesize by plugging the pores through which it “breathes,” and that’s hardly a good thing. So-called “leaf shine” products are no longer recommended by most houseplant experts, because they can actually clog pores even more and attract dust. (And to my eyes, they make plants look fake.) So what’s the solution? A slightly damp microfiber cloth works wonders.
Pot Size
If a plant is clearly overgrowing its pot -- too top heavy, roots growing through drainage holes or circling at the top of the potting mix, or taking up water faster than usual but lacking vigor -- then by all means move it into a larger pot. But don’t go abruptly from an eight-inch pot to a 16-inch pot or you may lose the plant. For pots six- to 12-inches in diameter, step up two inches at a time. For pots larger than 12 inches, a four-inch jump is okay. Basically, plant roots prefer to snuggle with soil.
Drainage is a Must!
Without proper drainage, houseplants won’t survive for long in waterlogged soils because their roots can’t take up oxygen and they essentially suffocate. But don’t put gravel or rocks in the bottom of the pot. Doing so will not -- repeat, will not -- improve drainage. In fact, just the opposite will happen, leading to root rot. Cache pots are cool, but they have one major drawback -- no drainage hole. That’s why it’s best to limit their use to plants that don’t need frequent watering, such as cacti and succulents or perhaps even Sansevieria, although in time they may succumb to root rot.
Tasteful Toppings
Staring at a houseplant’s bare soil is, dare I say, dull? But it’s easy to dramatically enhance the look of all your houseplants with one of several toppings, be it colored sand or stones, gravel, bark, or magnificent moss. It’s basically a form of mulch, but we think of it as icing on the cake..
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Cacti and Succulents -- A Different Approach
Cacti and succulents don’t necessarily need to be repotted every year; just a simple topdressing with a succulent potting mix is usually all they need. But if you prefer to repot them, that’s fine. They don’t need much fertilizer either. Once a year -- this time of year -- may be all they need, but if you prefer, you can fertilize them at half strength in spring and again in summer.
Shop Cacti
Shop Succulents
Moving Houseplants Outdoors
Most houseplants love being moved outdoors, but you need to take a few precautions. Wait until overnight temperatures are above 50 degrees, and be prepared to move them back indoors if temps are forecasted to drop below that. Don’t set them in direct sunlight (if you do, their leaves will fry). Instead, place them in a spot that gets filtered light or on a covered patio where they’ll receive bright, but indirect light. And be prepared to water and fertilize more often, as growth outdoors can be more active.
Majesty palms are among the easiest of all palms to grow indoors, and ours are now available for only $30 (regularly $79.99).They need bright light and regular watering (never let the soil dry out!). Fertilize every six weeks during spring and summer.
Sure, you can stick a houseplant in any pot, but picking the perfect pot can make a world of difference in your home, and ours are on sale at up to 50% off.
Events at Southwood
Save The Date
Our annual fundraiser for the Oklahoma Food Bank, Plant-a-Row For The Hungry, will take place on Saturday, March 25th and Sunday, March 26th. More details to come, so stay tuned!
Let Us Pot it For You!
If you have any plants at home in need of repotting, let us help! Between March 16th and March 20th, if you purchase a pot from us for a plant you already have, we will repot it into its new pot for free! And if you purchase a houseplant AND a pot from us? We will always repot it for free. 

Garden Tip of the Week

Dirty windows can block up to 50% of the light from reaching the leaves of your houseplants, so clean them inside and out.

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