Taking care of potted plants can be tricky at time. Here are a few tips to make sure that your plants stay healthy and thrive!
How to Care for Potted Plants
1. Choose the pots. Check to make sure there is more than one hole in the bottom of your container to allow water to flow out freely. If not, your roots could drown, leading the plant to die prematurely. Lightweight containers, such as resin, fiberglass, and plastic, are easy to move around and can weather winter temperatures. Also, these materials aren’t porous, so they absorb less moisture than unglazed clay or wood, leaving more for the plant.
2. Choose the potting mix. Don’t just use soil from the yard or garden – it may be filled with weed seeds, insects, and fungal diseases. Instead, you should buy potting soil at your local garden center. It is a loose mixture of materials like peat moss, vermiculite, and, often, decomposed organic matter. To reduce plant maintenance, buy potting mix containing a time-release fertilizer and moisture-retaining polymer crystals. If that’s not available, buy a time-release fertilizer and a jar of water-retaining crystals and follow the package directions for adding it to the potting mix.
3. Choose the plants. Take into consideration the conditions of your space. Don’t try to grow a flower like a rose, which needs six hours of full sun, in a place that gets only an hour in the early morning. Do your homework to find out which plants will thrive in the available sun or shade. When choosing your plants, the simplest approach is to use one kind of plant per pot. If you choose to combine multiple types of plants, make sure they all like the same light and moisture conditions. A cactus and a pansy probably won’t get along in the same pot.
4. Prepare the pots. If your containers are large, place them where they’ll ultimately go before filling them. Put a basket-type coffee filter in the bottom of the empty pot to prevent the potting mix from washing out while still allowing water to escape. Before pouring in the soil, check its moisture content. Generally, you should add water a little at a time and knead the mixture with your hands. Wet the mix until it feels like a damp sponge and then fill the container with the soil. Put in enough potting mix so the base of the plant is about 1 inch from the top of the pot. Before planting, pat down the soil lightly with your fingers to get rid of any big air pockets, but don’t pack it down too hard.
5. Pot the plant. Remove the plant from its nursery container. Support the top of the “root ball” by placing a finger on each side of the stem, then tip the pot and let the plant fall into your hand. Remember to never pull a plant out by its stem. If it gets stuck, tap the sides of the pot to loosen it. Tease the ends of the roots free before planting. Set the plant on top of the mix. If you are potting more than one plant, leave at least an inch around each root ball so you can add mix in between them. Carefully fill in with small handfuls of soil and pat gently to eliminate air pockets. Don’t pile soil on top of the plant – just make sure the stem is completely above the surface. Leave about an inch between the soil surface and the rim of the pot and water the container. This will settle the roots into their new home. If the soil level drops below the top of the root ball, add more mix to bring it back up.
To make sure your plants are staying in tip top shape, use an insecticide or fungicide, like Pure 3-Way, when you experience any pesky bugs, mold or mildew.