House Plants: Transplanting & Care

Your house plants need to be transplanted, and cared for? his article will tell you how.

Nothing creates a warm feeling in a home better than well-placed house plants. Strategically located in various sunny windows or on attractive hangers, plants can help to clear your home of airborne toxins or provide herbs and spices for cooking. But how do you keep your potted plants

comfortable and growing full and healthy?

Start with planting them correctly, and move on to feeding them well. Neither has to cost much money; in fact, you can fertilize your plants with items you already have in your house. But first, putting them into the right pots is key. For most flourishing houseplants, clay pots (those burnished red colored pots you can buy in any house and garden store) are best. They are porous enough to breathe, and yet they are heavy enough to hold large plants and keep them sturdy. Clay pots have a tendency to dry out quickly, though, so you must keep your eye on the amount of moisture the plant needs.

To transplant a plant to a clay pot, first put a layer of pebbles or pieces of broken clay pottery into the bottom of the container. This aids in drainage and helps to prevent root rot which can occur from over-watering. Fill the pot about half-full of planting medium (potting soil). Hold the root of the transplant in the center of the pot and fill around it with more planting medium. Tamp the soil down lightly, leaving some room at the top of the layer of soil to feed and water the plant.

To plant a seedling or a cutting which has grown its roots in water, choose a plastic pot well-sized for the plant. Plastic holds the moisture better which is essential to maintain the growth of a cutting or seedling. To plant seeds, any small size will do. For a cutting, a good rule of thumb is to measure the across the top of the pot and then measure the size of your seedling from the visible growing section to the top. The pot size should be no bigger than about one and one half times the length of the cutting. Err on the side of choosing a small pot rather than a too-large one. If the pot is too big for a houseplant, the plant runs the risk of drowning when watered. And many plants like to have their "feet" cramped--it makes them put out lusher foliage.

Potting soil is a main consideration of any house gardener. Many gardeners like to make their own potting soil. If you choose to do so, be sure to add perlite, peat moss and nutrients vital to your particular plant variety.

Commercial soils exist, some particularly designed for certain plants, such as African Violets. I prefer to buy potting soil. That way, I know it contains the things necessary to good aeration and drainage, and I know it has been either baked or treated to rid it of bacterial pests.

Once you've potted your plant, you need to take care of it to keep it thriving. To do this, research the variety and place it in a spot conducive to its growing likes. Potted plants purchased at a garden center usually come with a tab inserted in the side of the container telling you what you need to do for the plant to help it thrive. Some plants enjoy sunny windows. Some wilt there, preferring semi-shaded locations. Do yourself and your plants a favor. Follow the tips

given. Water your plants only when the soil feels dry to the touch. Over-watering kills.

Feed your houseplants. If you use commercial fertilizer, read the package and follow the directions. Find the commercial plant food that your particular plant likes to "eat". Again, many varieties exist. Read the labels.

Or, to save money, use natural fertilizer. Some favorites include black coffee or tea--cooled to room temperature, egg shells dried in the oven and crushed in your blender, the cooled water left over after you've cooked and drained your fresh vegetables (make sure not to salt the water first), or dried used coffee grounds, which adds acid to the soil. Treating your houseplants well takes a bit of time and care. But, making them happy will give you years of lovely, healthy foliage right inside your home. And that's an attractive, soothing goal anyone can achieve.

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