Good morning! It’s How-to Thursday. Earlier in the week, I showed you how to prune a Schefflera. Today, I’ll show you how to repot it into a bigger pot.
When should you repot a plant, and how do you know it’s necessary?
To Repot, or Not To Repot?
Well, for one thing, repotting is a lot less necessary than most people think. In my business, Good to Grow, taking care of plants around Albuquerque, people often describe a problem they’ve been having with a houseplant, then tell me their solution was to repot it. Usually, the real problem was a water or light issue.
Repotting a plant serves a few different purposes. One, if you put a houseplant into a bigger pot, it should grow into a bigger houseplant. Also, plants eat their dirt, so repotting is a way to replenish the soil.
What if you have a plant, like my Samantha, that you don’t want to get bigger? She’s already at the ceiling. Plus I can barely lift her pot as it is.
And what about plants like Jades, who bloom when they are rootbound?
The truth is, you’re the best judge of what a houseplant needs. Afterall, you’re its caretaker – it’s 100% dependent on your care. If you don’t want the plant to get bigger, don’t repot it.
Also, in my experience, if a houseplant is showing signs of stress – dropping leaves, leaves changing colors, spindly stems – the last thing you should do is upset it more by repotting it. Repotting is going to be the most stressful event in a houseplant’s lifespan. Think about it – usually she just sits there. Treat it gently, and only repot when you really think it’s necessary.
Good to Grow’s Green Rule of Thumb: Make a diagnosis for the problem before you act on a solution.
Works in regular life, too.
As to the question of when to repot, I like to check with Dr. D. G. Hessayon. In reference to a Schefflera, he says to repot it every two years in the spring. Hmmm. I do respect his opinion, but waiting until spring doesn’t really work for me.
He would admit it’s not an exact science. It’s more about the relationship between you and the plant.
Since I neglected two Scheffleras when they were in the car dealership, I’m determined to make up for it now. It’s November, but they’re going to get repotted, then they’re going to live in the plant hospital until they feel better.
So Schefflera One, let’s call him Louie, is up first. Now, I want to give him a bigger pot, because he’s stuffed into a tiny 10 inch pot.
Unbelievably to me, I have no 14 inch growers pots around the house. I have what seems like thousands of 6 inch pots, but not a single 14 inch. That poses a problem, because it means I don’t have a decent pot big enough for Louie.
What I do have is an abundance of cheap plastic “decorative” containers, also recovered from the car dealership. I can direct plant into one of those, but because it has no holes on the bottom, I use styrofoam for drainage at the bottom of the pot.
Styrofoam is a good way to recycle, because the plants sure don’t seem to care. If you are repotting into a pot with no holes, think lightweight for drainage!
Whether it’s a Schefflera or another common houseplant, repotting basically works the same way. First, remove the grower’s pot, or whatever container it’s in. In this case, I had to cut the pot off because the roots were coming through the bottom.
Now you want to loosen the roots and the soil. This is sometimes not easy, I worked up a sweat with this one.
I go through a lot of nail polish, but it does a nice job of hiding the dirt until I can give my hands a good scrub.
I used my thumb to loosen the lower roots, saying “tickle, tickle, tickle,” as I went along, knowing this was highly traumatic for Louie. The roots were wrapped round and round – I have no idea how long he’s been in that pot, but it’s been awhile.
It’s ok to prune the roots, especially the long scraggly ones. Trim things up, and then the plant is ready for its new pot.
Pour soil into the pot – in Louie’s case, I filled it halfway – then gently place the plant and roots on top of the soil. Then add more soil, pressing down to firm the plant into place.
There. That’s really all there is to it. I’ll make sure he gets a good drink of Superthrive-infused water, and I’ll let him sit outside in the shade for the rest of the day.
Now Schefflera Two, let’s call her Lucy, has a different issue. She’s already in a 14 inch pot, but her roots are growing out the bottom. I don’t want to upgrade her to a 16 inch pot, she’ll be too heavy.
So the plan is to take her out of her pot, clean up the roots and soil, then put her back into the same pot, now also cleaned.
That’s a lot of roots! I trimmed them up some more, then followed the same steps – more soil, push her firmly into place, give her a little water – and voila’.
Houseplants are amazingly resilient. There may be horticulturists out there who are appalled by my simplistic methods. I’m not trying to offend anyone, I’m just trying to prove that caring for houseplants doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be.
I’ll show you the progress of these two Scheffleras as they heal in the plant hospital. Once they’re well enough, they may go to live at an office somewhere in Albuquerque. It could be yours!
Tomorrow is our next edition of Ask the Experts – be sure to check back, it promises to be great fun.