Growing houseplants and herbs is a simple way to add beauty to the home and flavor to meals. Houseplants clean indoor air and add a touch of nature to the home or office. Herbs can be very expensive to buy and fresh herbs are often unavailable during certain months of the year. Houseplants and herbs are easy plants to grow with some simple maintenance, such as repotting. Repotting allows you to inspect the root system, refresh the soil, and clean the pots thoroughly.
Prepare for repotting
Healthy plants are far more likely to avoid shock from repotting than plants that are already stressed. To ensure the success of your repotting project, be sure to water any plants that are to be repotted thoroughly a day or two before repotting. You will also want to wash the new pots. Salts, petroleum products, and chemicals on new pots can kill freshly repotted plants. When selecting new containers for herbs, it is a good idea to use pots that are no more than 2" larger than the current one. If there is more space than that, your herbs will focus on root growth, rather than providing you with their delicious leaves, until the container is fully explored. You will also want to buy nutrient rich potting soil. To prepare the pots, fill the them halfway full with soil, tamping the soil into a cup-shaped space in the middle that is big enough to cradle the herb's current root system. Good drainage is critical for most herbs and houseplants, so make sure there is a drainage hole.
How to repot container plants
Repotting goes more smoothly if you have everything you might need already at hand. Sheets of newspaper can help keep the area clean. Scissors and pruning shears are handy tools for trimming dead roots, twigs, and leaves. It is a good idea to have your bag of potting soil already opened and conveniently at hand. Depending upon the size of the current container, it is easiest to dislodge the plant by placing your hand over the top of the dirt, with the plant stems between your fingers, and flip it upside down. To dislodge plants from larger containers, roll it on its side and gently rock it back and forth to loosen the root ball. If you are working with a really large container, you may want to lay a tarp on the lawn. If the roots have wedged the plant into the pot, you may need to use a soil knife or other serrated blade to cut around the edge.
It is important that as much of the dirt around the roots remains where it is to prevent shock. At the same time, this is an opportunity to inspect the root system. As plants grow, their roots continue to grow and spread. Eventually, a plant can become root bound. This occurs when the roots have filled all the available space in a container. If your plants are root bound, you can trim away some of the roots that are wrapping around the root ball before placing the plant in its new container. Next, place the root ball in the new pot and add potting soil around the sides, pressing down gently. Air pockets in the soil can dry out roots and cause wilt. Finally, water your newly repotted plants. As the soil settles, you may need to add more potting soil. It is a good idea to leave the soil ½" lower than the edge of the pot to facilitate future waterings.
Repotting can stress your herbs. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep plants out of direct sunlight for a few days after repotting and water frequently but not excessively. Your repotted houseplants and herbs will now thrive in their new home and you will be able to enjoy their fragrant beauty and delicious additions to meals for years to come!
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