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Home > Types of Plants > House Plants > Potting for Housing Plants
Potting for Housing Plants
azalea potsSuitable potting is largely a matter of knowing how. Fern or azalea pots are made for plants with relatively shallow roots and are three-quarters as deep as the regular size, while a special shallow pot called a "pan" is made in various widths for potting bulbs. Some pots are also made with special bottom aeration for azaleas, cyclamen, etc.

A very common error is made in potting by the beginner. Ordinarily one would think that the larger the amount of soil the better for the plant. This is not the case. Flowering plants to give the best bloom must become "pot bound;" that is, their roots must pretty well fill the soil mass in the pot. But then, they must receive plenty of food.

Contrary to previous belief, experiments have proven that glazed decorative pots are satisfactory receptacles. If watering is carefully done, some plants, such as succulents and moisture-loving kinds, even do well in pots without bottom drainage holes. It will be readily seen that clean pots are essential. All clay, scum or dried slimy substances which would tend to stop the ready passage of air and water must be removed by washing and scrubbing with sand, if necessary. New pots seem to get an alkali in the process of manufacture which injures the plant roots. For this reason we should soak them for a week or more or boil them before using.

More attention should be paid to the condition of the soil than to its richness. Soil which has sufficient drainage and enough humus to hold moisture can easily be supplied with food by top dressing. This means applications of fertilizer in liquid or solid form from above. Good garden soil is not fine enough for pot culture so we take two parts of soil well worked and friable and add to it one part of sand and another of finely ground peat moss, peat humus or sifted leafmold. Florists use some dried cow manure collected from a pasture in summer which is excellent but not essential. These ingredients sifted through a rather fine screen should be mixed with fine bone meal.

It is best for the gardener who expects to do any great amount of gardening to have a potting bench. Having things handy makes tasks light. The equipment consists of a strong table, some barrels to hold sifted soil, sand and peat moss; some 50 lb. lard tins with covers (these can be purchased from a meat shop for a few cents each) to hold dried cow manure, sheep manure, bone meal, etc. The bench can be an old kitchen table with the legs lengthened six or seven inches to make stooping unnecessary and a few boards nailed to the back and sides at the top to keep the soil from spilling off. A table 3x3 feet can easily be made of scrap lumber. Thirty-six or -seven inches is a good height for most people.

Where there is no garden house, it is well to appropriate a space 6x8 feet in the corner of the garage or cellar for this purpose. This confines the mess and the gardener has a chance to vary his outdoor tasks on brisk chilly days when prolonged outdoor occupation is uncomfortable. The potting itself is simple. First, we place over the drainage hole two or three pieces of broken pots.

This is important; break up a few pots if necessary or get some at a florist`s. Over this it is wise to place a three-quarter inch layer of one-half inch cinders or pea sized charcoal, topped by a thin layer of leaves or peat moss (not over one-quarter inch thick). Now put in the growing soil loosely. Do not push it down. Jar the bottom sharply against the table to settle it. When it is full enough, place the plant in position, spreading the roots over the soil toward the pot sides. More soil is now added until the pot is about full. Firm well with the fingers about the plant roots. Now water and allow the soil to settle. When fully compacted by watering, the soil should be from one-half to an inch below the top of the pot according to its size. This will facilitate future watering. Keep in a shady place a few days until new root growth starts.

When we talk of potting we mostly mean repotting or shifting from one container to an- other. Most repotting is to obtain proper rooting. To see when this is necessary, we first water well, then remove the soil from the pot by inverting it and striking upon a table while holding the soil and plant with the other hand. Our illustration shows conditions which call for different sized pots. Sometimes a pot becomes so root-bound that the pot must be broken to get it out. This is better than injuring the roots by cutting. Do not be in a hurry to repot. Geraniums and many other plants bloom best when slightly pot-bound. Pandanus is still well potted when it thrusts its roots to the top of the pot.

House plantsThere is no hard and fast rule as to when to repot. The seedling may require several changes each season while larger plants (Chinese rubber plants, etc.) need it only once every two years. Most plants need repotting in the spring and a yearly examination of the roots is wise. After the long winter indoors the favorable conditions of summer enable them to recover from the shock better than at other times.

Do not hesitate, however, to repot when the plant needs it. A three-day period in the shade usually gives the healthy plant a chance to recuperate. Sometimes the need for change is shown by a slight yellowing of the foliage and a forcing of the roots through the drainage hole. Such roots should be combed with a strong fork and broken ends cut off clean.

If upon examination the ball shows no roots at all but only a sticky mass of mud, the soil should be removed, even washed off the roots, and the plant repotted in good, clean soil. This condition is a general indication of consistent over watering and the need of a smaller pot.

If the ball reveals a mass of fine roots around the edge and they seem to be getting out of bounds, a larger pot is indicated. For fast, hearty growers, a pot two inches bigger may be required; for the slower growing, one inch larger will be sufficient.
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