Late winter and early spring are a perfect time to refresh your houseplants! I like to accomplish this task before starting on the outside gardening cycle.
Take a good, hard look at yours right now. While we’re still stuck indoors for the most part, provide them with some extra “tender loving care”.
Soon we’ll devote our attention to making our gardens come alive, so give your indoor plants a little spruce up before you get sidetracked.
Refresh Your Houseplants in 5 Easy Steps:
1.) Check the Pot Size:
Is the plant rootbound? Overgrowing its container? Look to see if the roots are pushing out of the top of the soil and/or coming out of the drainage holes. If so, it’s time for a new pot.
But don’t go crazy here – too big isn’t good for the plant. The new container shouldn’t be more than 1 or 2 inches larger than the original one. A too large pot can pose a problem by trapping excess water … leading to root rot. Always use a top-quality potting soil appropriate for the type of plant.
When repotting a houseplant to a new, larger pot, remove the plant from its current pot and inspect the roots. I like to do this on a sheet of plastic – an old shower curtain liner or lawn & leaf bag work great and easy to clean up. Don’t hurt your back. I find it’s most comfortable to do this task on top of my washer and dryer. An ironing board works in a cinch too for smaller plants.
Add fresh potting mix to the new pot and position the plant so that it is no deeper than it was growing in the old pot. Continue adding fresh potting mix to within an inch of the pot’s rim. The space between the potting mix and top of the pot prevents water and potting mix from running off the pot’s rim and causing a mess.
2.) Bath Please: (rubber ducky optional)
Give your plants a good rinse with water. As long as they don’t have fuzzy leaves like African violets, most houseplants will appreciate the occasional shower. This removes dust from the foliage, allowing the plant to better use the little light available to it – especially during winter’s darker, shorter days.
I just put large plants in the shower and smaller plants in the laundry room utility sink. Wash the leaves (don’t forget the undersides) with a gentle spray. Added bonus – you just may knock off some overwintering insects.
When the bath is complete, be sure to dry the leaves very gently. This will help them shine, take care of any stubborn dust, and prevent water spots on the foliage.
3.) Time for a Haircut:
Trim off any damaged parts. If leaves are yellowing or browning, trim them off. They’re dying and will only sap energy from the plant.
If your ivy or philodendron or other trailing plants are getting really long – give them a haircut to make them look better and less leggy. This will help them grow fuller in the middle and better balanced.
4.) Revive the Soil:
If you don’t need to do a full repot, take a gander at the current soil situation. Is it compacted or simply a little diminished? Then use a fork to lightly lift off the top layer…about an inch worth. Fill up the pot with some fresh potting soil to within an inch of the rim so it doesn’t overflow when you water.
5.) Resist the Urge to Fertilize Now:
Hold off on fertilizing. During winter’s short days, most plants aren’t actively growing. I wait until the end of March or beginning of April to start fertilizing again.
Make sure to use a product made specifically for houseplants. (I use Miracle Gro Liquid Houseplant Food on most of my plants and Schultz Cactus Plus on the succulents). Carefully follow all package directions. Better to err on the side of underfertilizing rather than overfertilizing.
Now that your houseplants are happy once again, why not clean up their pots? The clay pots can get pretty nasty looking with mineral deposits and the like on the surface, and most other pot types will benefit from a wipe down with a wet cloth.
You can eliminate unsightly mineral deposits by scrubbing with a toothbrush or an abrasive sponge dipped in undiluted white vinegar. Rinse or wipe clean.
When you’re finished with the sprucing, step back and admire your handiwork! This makeover is sure to keep your houseplants looking better and living longer. To ensure the survival of your houseplants and help them thrive, refresh them at least once a year.
Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.
~ Erma Bombeck