Caring for your potted friends
As a follow up to last months articles on the Potter's Wheel, this month we look at maintaining your chosen plant life. Plants can be fussy, but spend just a little bit of time with your foliaged friends, check in every now and then with them, and everything will be leafy!
At The Balcony Garden we always recommend planting your new plant into 'good quality potting mix'. The quality of the mix is determined by how well it will drain (also how well it will hold water), and other things like the acidity. Usually a premium potting mix will generally do a fantastic job, but always check to see if there are any genus-specific potting mixes (i.e. tailored to your chosen plant) that will help your plant thrive.
If you choose a potting mix with an added fertiliser, this will generally last between 1 - 3 months, depending on the type of plant you are potting up. After this you will need to add a fertiliser to keep the plant happy. Nutrient can be rapidly lost due to the plant absorbing the good stuff or it being flushed out of the soil volume with watering. This means it is vitally important to keep the nutrients up to the plant. The amount of fertiliser that you need to use varies wildly depending on the plant potted, and referring to the nursery where you purchased the specimen is a wise move. As a rough guide most 'indoor plants' are very hardy and so will only need a small amount of fertiliser, if at all.
Water Crystals and Wetting Agents The amount of water the plant receives obviously depends mostly on how often you water it, but there are some ways in which you can spin the tables to give yourself a watering holiday! Some genus specific potting mixes will come pre-mixed with things like water crystals and wetting agents. Water crystals assist in retaining water longer than the mix will otherwise, mainly within gel crystals that will swell up when they come in contact with water and then slowly releasing it. These can be very helpful for fruit or citrus trees, which really like constant water (even when you forget!). If you do let your plants go too long between drinks, the soil may become 'hydrophobic'. This is due to oils building up on the soil particles and preventing the water from soaking in. In these cases, you will need to break the oils up using a product termed a wetting agent. Wetting agents break down the surface tension built up on soil particles, you know you will need to apply a wetting agent when water beads up when poured over soil and the soil still looks dry even after watering.
Other Soil additives
There are other soil additives that you can add to the planting mixture to improve its structure. Things like Gypsum (clay breaker), compost, manure and different loams all help to improve life for your plants. But as long as you started with a good quality potting mix, you shouldn’t have a need for these extras in the potted realm. An organic liquid treatment such as a Sea-sol promotes a healthy soil bio system and also strengthens your plant. It is technically not a fertiliser but more of a health tonic. You can't do any harm with these treatments (if you follow the dosage guides), so if you think your plant could do with a little detox, go ahead a give them a dose. These can be helpful from time to time to re-establish a balance in your potting mix.
The Final Word
As anything, consistent care of your potted plants will ensure they continue to be healthy. Once you have mastered the care of your potted beauties and they have been thriving for a while, you may need to think about re-potting into a larger vessel. That's something we will look at next month on The Potter's Wheel. Head over to the advice section on our website for more details. Above images by Hannah Blackmore