Growing Green

Green is starting to return to the Northern world! The flowers are starting to bloom and people are going out to their gardens.

For those of you who want to have lush green all over, especially inside and on your patio or porch, tis potting time!

This often means a trip to the local store, be it some supermarket, department store, discount store or specialty shop that caters to home and garden to pick up some plants.

Those of you who want low upkeep should look at plants that need next to no care, such as the Wandering Jew. This is a lush and hearty plant that only needs a little sunlight and watering once every day or two. I used to keep on that was originally half dead on my desk a few feet from an East facing window. After re-potting it and giving it some iron treatment this plant just grew and grew and grew! It eventually took over half the desk and all I did was water it!

Mine was a medium leaf variegated (that means it was green and yellow in color).

Most people, however, like exotic plants such as Boston Ferns and these can be finicky! A Boston Fern is designed for a hot house, plain and simple, but you can keep it inside your home by a window that gets some light. It needs to be misted regularly, watered regularly and occasionally taken outside into onto the porch for a bit of fresh air and indirect sunshine.

In either case one of the first things you will probably need to do is re-plant your newly acquired growing green, as the plant it comes in is probably sorely inadequate!

The size of pot, by the way, often dictates the price of the plant. Plants in little 2” pots can cost as little as $1 or $2. Pots in 3 or 4” pots rate a price tag of $4 or more. Plants in 6” pots can easily cost $12!

You can either buy brand new pots at the store, often at very expensive rates, or you can visit a local hot house where you can not only buy a ton of used pots at very cheap prices (I got dozens of 2” pots for only a few dollars and those cost 50 to 75 cents each new at retail stores) but you can even buy many plants at wholesale prices (you will have to pay sales tax unless you have a resale permit)!

If you’re serous about plants and have many around your house you should probably invest in some Chelated Iron, Vitamin B and Miracle Grow. If you work with cuttings or do lots of transplants you might also want to pick up some RoTone!

The best commercial soil we ever found was called “Supersoil” and it comes from a company that makes commercial orchids up in Northern California (they also make the Black Magic products, which we didn’t like as much as the Supersoil). It comes in two sizes, small and large bags. Small bag is for only a plant or two, while a large bag is excellent to add to your garden or pot a dozen or so plants. We used to get it by the truckload directly from Supersoil on a palette.

Supersoil is almost a perfect soil as is, but we used to add a bit of perlite (crushed styro foam also works), some rocks and a little sand (cat sand box sand works fine for this). If you don’t do a lot of potting, then the Supersoil alone works just fine out of the bag!

To make a mixture soil, you need about one part sand to five parts soil and maybe one part perlite (and you can finely crush up some styro foam that comes with your electronic gismos into little balls). Mix this all together and the soil should still look quite black. If it looks too sandy add a tad more soil to the mix.

The idea behind the sand and perlite (which is nominally in both Supersoil and Black Magic) is that it helps keep and airspace inside the pot between the roots and the soil.

To re-pot a plant you need to devise a work area outside. Get some plastic to cover the area. A large law and leaf bag should work nicely. If you have a wooden frame to enclose with the bag that is even better! Kitty box size is all you need. Spread out some soil into that plastic area and have you new pots nearby. Take your little store bought plants, turn them upside down over that plastic covered work area and tape the current pot with a hand garden spade, a big screwdriver or even a nice size pipe wrench. Just tap it once or twice and hold your hand under the plant because it will more than likely fall. If it doesn’t gently pull, tapping the side of the pot more if necessary.

Once the plant comes up turn it right side up and put it down in the soil covering your work area. Bring over your new pot, put a few pebbles or stones in the bottom and scoop in some soil to cover the bottom area.

While RoTone works best for rooting trimmings, it can also help existing roots take to new soil and for go a little transplant shock. All you need do before putting the little plant into the new pot is lightly dip the bottom into the container of RoTone so you get just a dusting on the bottom roots. If you want, take out a little pinch of RoTone and put it on a sheet of paper, spread it around (a little goes a long way with this stuff) and then touch the bottom soil area of the plant so that it picks up just a tad of RoTone. You don’t have to coat it. This is not a fish fry! RoTone is also an option and an expensive one! A little container is like $5!

You want your little plant (now removed from the original pot) to fit so that the top soil area is about ¼” to ½” below the rim of the new pot. Place the little plant inside the pot and see how much room you have from the soil at the bottom. Add more soil to reach this goal. Place the little plant square in the middle and start filling the soil around the perimeter until you get it just below the rim.

Gently pack the soil down a bit, don’t force it just pat it down. Now, place your plant in the house or under some shade on your porch, water it a little and then wait for it to recover from transplant shock.

Transplant shock is a common occurrence. Your plant will wilt and look like it’s going to die. Just keep it in the shade most of the time, yet out in the sunlight or near a window with light, water it every day or two, talk to it if you’d like (they do respond to the carbon dioxide of your breath) and hope it survives the one or two week shock period.

After a month or so, give it a one time dose of Chelated Iron. This is something you should do to all your plants at least twice a year. Once in spring and once near fall. Two or three weeks later give it some Vitamin B. At least once a year between the Iron and B treatments you can also give it a dose of Miracle Grow, which as some Iron and B in it. For those with few plants the Miracle Grow alone will help keep the plant thriving for years. Just give it one or two treatments a year.

Follow the directions. Put some of the powder (be it Iron, B or Grow) into a big vessel of water and just give it a normal wetting. The rest of the time plain water will suffice.

How much water? Some plants need watering twice a day, while others can go for two days without water. Never let a plant sit longer than two days without a misting or water.

Most plants that don’t have “furry” leaves (such as an African Violet) can be misted. Just get a clean squirt bottle at the store that has a spray setting as well as a stream setting. Put in some plain water, hold it about a foot away and just pull the trigger a few times while moving your hand to hit most of the plant.

You should mist at least once a week, although I never misted my desk plant and it thrived!

-- Also contributing to this was Diane Baker


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