As we wait for high gardening season to kick in, work on houseplants


Can’t work outdoors? Divide or transplant houseplants. They’ll love it. (C) Photo Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

As we wait for spring temperatures to rise and the soil to warm, there are a few garden-ey things we can do before we dig in outdoors.

Indoors, take a look at your houseplants. With more light, houseplants begin their growth spurts. Give them a shower to wash off winter dust, and give the pot a good soaking. Allow water to run from the bottom. If water gushes out, set the pot in a pool of water for slower absorption.

Resume your fertilizing schedule as houseplants begin new growth. If roots creep from drainage holes or the soil no longer retains moisture, it might be time to transplant to a larger pot, or divide the houseplant. Here are some tips.

Transplanting houseplants

  • The new pot should only be about 2 inches wider at the top than the existing on, and 2 inches deeper.
  • Always use a high quality potting mix. It is lightweight and formulated to aid drainage and root development.
  • Add potting mix to the bottom of the new pot. If you want to put a stone or other object over the drainage holes to keep potting mix from running out, that’s fine. New research says not to line the bottom of pots with rocks.
  • Lift the houseplant from the original pot and place in the new one.
  • Use potting mix to fill in around the root ball and to top off.
  • Water well. Add more potting mix if it sinks after watering.

Dividing houseplants

  • Evaluate what size pot you’ll need for the divisions and have them on hand.
  • Pull the houseplant from the pot and examine it for natural places where the root ball and be split.
  • Sometimes the houseplant can be wiggled into different divisions and sometimes it may need a sharp blade. A bread knife is the perfect tool.
  • Add potting mix to the bottom of the division’s appropriately sized pot.
  • Try to retain soil around each division’s roots. If it falls away, arrange root on a slight mound of potting mix in the new pot.
  • Move each division to the pot and fill in with potting mix

Share divisions with friends or family members. One of my most cherished houseplants came as a division from a friend who passed away 25 years ago.

Outdoor plantings

Remember not to work the soil when it’s too wet because that destroys its structure or tilth, which we all work so hard to improve. Make a ball of the soil and squeeze it. If it crumbles, it’s ok to dig. If the soil stays as a ball, wait.

Without digging, we can sow seeds for cool-season vegetables and flowers, including peas, lettuces, spinach, radish and carrots. For flowering annuals, sow seeds for nasturtiums and sweet peas. This is a good time to plant potatoes, too.

Can’t work outdoors? Divide or transplant houseplants. They’ll love it. (C) Photo Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp



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