Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Houseplants in Duress Turn Happy

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog,Northern New Jersey Landscape Designer, Houseplants in Duress

Hello, fellow lovers of all things green,

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog,Northern New Jersey Landscape Designer, Houseplants in DuressSome of my houseplants are desperate. The low humidity of the heated house has wreaked havoc. Plus, some of their pots are too tight, like my pants after the holidays. Thank goodness for stretchy jeans. Even if there were stretchy pots, the lack of nutrition and moisture from limited soil available to root-bound plants causes them stress. Then there’s root girdling, when roots wrap around each other, which must be as uncomfortable as too-tight jeans.

Signs of too-tight pots

If you see roots on the surface of your container or roots growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom, your plants need re-potting. Another sign is if your plants look bad. Even if your plant is wearing the right size pot, the soil grows tired and needs replenishing.

The best time to re-pot houseplants

Spring is the best time to re-pot indoor plants, just before they begin their peek growing cycle. Re-potting a plant causes stress, as does having to go up a size in jeans. Still, I wonder if the trauma of insufficient nutrients is worse than the stress of re-potting. In a nutshell, no. It’s best to re-pot when plants are actively growing. And best to stay in my too-tight jeans, which will inspire me to cut back on chocolate. Dang.

The interim intervention of houseplants in duress

As an interim intervention, I placed the plants that could fit in the kitchen sink and ran room-temperature water in the pots until the water ran through the bottom holes. Now, I use rainwater or melted snow for the nitrogen boost. (Check out Benefits of Watering with Rainwater). Be sure they completely stop draining before putting plants back on their saucers. Plants sitting in water or with too wet soil will cause root rot. Use the tub or shower for bigger plants. This is the second time since December I’ve performed this intervention. A monthly bath during the home heating season would have been kinder. It likely goes without saying to cut away the yellowing leaves and dead plant debris.


I hope the sink drink helps.

When to fertilize houseplants

Fertilizing indoor plants monthly is standard protocol, suspending feeding from November through February when plants are inactive. However, given the state of my root-bound babies, I’m resuming feeding now (early February) using fertilizer at half-strength as they’re beginning to wake up with the increasing light. I’ll provide comfort food every other week until it’s time to re-pot them come April. Then, at full strength, feeding once a month can return. But I MUST keep the consumption of chocolate in check. Dang.

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There’s more to the story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:

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Column updated 2/6/24

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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