Houseplants can be repotted now with thoughtful preparation

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Q: My neighbor will soon be moving to join her daughter and cannot take her indoor plants with her. I have taken several and most need, in my opinion, a repotting. You usually suggest this as a “chore” in early spring, but some are quite sad. Will it be okay if I repot these gifts now? – LH, Albuquerque.

A: Since you recognized their needs, I would go ahead and do it. It shouldn’t hurt them as long as you think about the process. I mean aiming to have everything you will need ahead of time and completing your moves.

Remember that these houseplants, or “gifts”, are already spooked from your neighbor’s house to yours, so be gentle. Buy the amount of potting soil you will need and keep it indoors for a while to warm it up. Most garden centers and nurseries have transitioned for the change of seasons and generally keep their larger bags of potting soil outside, so it can get chilly.

If you were a houseplant, there would be nothing worse than having your “feet” stuck in a container of cold potting soil. So, have the floor days in advance.

Next, remember that repotting can be a dirty process. Provide enough space to work. I would lay down several layers of newspaper to make cleaning the work area easier. As soon as you have decanted a plant from its container, gently scoop out as much old soil as you can easily give away, then inspect the plant’s roots. If there are any that are spongy or even dead, cut them cleanly using a pair of sharp, clean scissors.

I would recommend wiping down the scissor blades with a towel soaked in rubbing alcohol to help prevent the spread of mold or disease after each cut. As you inspect the roots, take the time to look at the plants themselves. If you find dead or failing leaves, cut them off while you’re at it. Any hard-surfaced leafy plants would also benefit from wiping down with a damp washcloth (no alcohol).

Then I would wash and rinse the pots and saucers well. If you find pebbles or shards at the bottom of the containers, it is best to wash them as well. If you don’t need shards or pebbles, you can line the containers with paper coffee filters. They work great for keeping the soil in the pot, don’t break down quickly, if at all, and allow much-needed drainage with ease.

When repotting, aim to keep the plants at the same original soil depth. As you finish each plant, I suggest you place the pot in the sink with the plug on and slowly water the plant, letting it sit in that puddle for at least 20 minutes. Use lukewarm water. Remember that you are aiming to stop creating stress.

You will want to provide bright light, but not direct sunlight. As plants get used to their new surroundings, you’ll want to watch for signs of lack of light, too much light, needing more or less water, and making any necessary adjustments.

What you are doing is a good thing. Give your neighbor the peace of having found a home for their treasures and you by inviting more Oxygen Makers into your home.

Happy digging!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a Certified Nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or [email protected]

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