When it pays to go to pot

Houseplants have a hard time, so don’t neglect them. David Overend recommends a bit of TLC.

MARCH; more light, more optimism. Spring really is almost here. Outside, there are bulbs by the million; inside, there are a lot of tired-looking pot plants, and before you step outdoors to get gardening, you should spare a thought for all those houseplants which have done their best to give you greenery and flowers throughout the long, dark months.

Repot, repot, repot.

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Why? Because unlike plants which live outdoors and can grow or sleep as the seasons come and go, all those inside, in the warmth and artificial light, have no idea of what day of the year it is. So they keep growing, they keep blooming – and their roots soak up the nutrients in their containers. Eventually, indoor plants need new food andmore room to actually grow.

Every time you repot your indoor garden, go up at least one pot size – those few extra millimetres allow roots to expand. Then, because most plants are happy to grow in a multi-purpose compost, buy a few bags of the stuff (what’s left over can be put to good use in the greenhouse) and get to work.

The hardest task is likely to be persuading the plant to come out of its container.

Many will have grown so well over the last 12 or 24 months that they will have become pot-bound – their roots have used up all the space available in their containers and have anchored the plants tightly.

If that’s the case, use an old bread knife to saw through the matted roots, sliding the blade down the insides of the pot until the occupant can be freed.

Then, it’s a case of prising apart the roots, perhaps pruning them by cutting them back, removing any dead or damaged top growth, crocking the bottom of the new, bigger pot (crocks can be virtually anything which prevent the drain-holes in the base of the pots from becoming clogged up with compost) and putting in new compost.

Pop the plant on top of the compost so that it is just below the rim of the pot and then fill in any spaces with more compost.

Firm this down, water (don’t drown) and put the rejuvenated plant back where it lives. If this happens to be a sunny window, give it a couple of days in a shadier spot first so that it can recover from its operation.