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Back to My Roots

The run-down on potting your plants

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Back to My Roots

Courtesy of Iseabel Nance

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When I began getting into plants, the only thing I was concerned about was getting them into cute pots. I didn’t know much about soil or how different pots can affect the needs of the plants, and I really didn’t know anything about repotting plants. I was mostly winging it. 

I remember purchasing a plant and them immediately running to Ravenna Gardens to pick out a cute but affordable pot. This is a rookie mistake. 

Plants need an acclimation period before repotting so they can adjust to your space, especially if it’s a more finicky plant such as fiddle leaf figs, ferns, or even some succulents. They need to adjust from their previous conditions in a greenhouse or a plant shop to your lighting, humidity, temperature, and watering habits. This shift can be difficult, and that’s why you may see an immediate decline when you purchase a new plant. 

The pairing between the pot you choose and the type of plant you want to use it for is important. My number one recommendation is to always get a pot with at least one drainage hole. This is essential in making sure your plants don’t get over and under watered.  

Ceramic and plastic pots are good for plants that like to stay moist, like cathaleas, ferns, and polka dot plants, because the pot doesn’t wick away moisture. 

Clay and terracotta pots are really great for plants that like to dry out in between watering because the pot helps to draw moisture. These pots are used for succulents because they help protect against overwatering. 

If you find a plastic pot you really like but it doesn’t have drainage holes, you can make some yourself. I did this with a 4-inch pot from Target by twisting scissors around the area where I wanted the hole to be. I’ve also seen this done with drills and X-Acto knives. 

I urge you to consider leaving your plants in their nursery pots for as long as possible as there’s no harm in doing so. There are some exceptions, like if the plant is really overwatered and could potentially be developing root rot, or if there are pests like fungus gnats in the soil that won’t go away. 

If you really can’t stand the look of the nursery pot, consider placing the plant and the nursing pot into a decorative cachepot until it’s time to repot. 

I also recommend looking at biodegradable and compostable pot options. Ravenna Gardens has a large selection in varying colors and sizes. Johnny’s Selected Seeds also has a large selection that can be purchased online, and so does Amazon, though I encourage you to look local.

Feel free to get creative with your pots. I’ve seen people use compostable coffee cups or smoothie cups from around campus as pots, or gelato containers from The Nook and the District Market. Reusing items you’re already buying is a great way to save money on pots while also being environmentally friendly.

Soil is another thing to consider when repotting plants. There are an infinite number of potting mixes available for all different kinds of plants depending on your habits. To make it easy on myself, I tend to use premade potting mixes from Miracle-Gro because it’s the most available to me. I use the cactus, palm & citrus potting mix and premium potting mix, both available from Target. For most of my plants, I mix the two to ensure that my soil doesn’t drain too well since I tend to be an underwaterer. 

I’ve also tried the potting mix from The Indoor Sun Shoppe but found it was a little too well-draining for my liking. I might try their soil at a later date if I mix it with something that helps to retain moisture. Plant Shop Seattle also sells potting mixes for tropicals and cactuses but I haven’t tried them yet.

Back to My Roots

Courtesy of Iseabel Nance

I repot my plants when they become root bound, which means that the roots are beginning to get too big for the pot. The roots will begin to wrap around the base of the pot or even come out from the bottom trying to find more room to grow. If your plant's health starts to decline out of nowhere with symptoms of underwatering, check the roots. If the plant is root bound it will dry up more quickly because of the lack of soil. 

Additionally, if your plant is in a flexible pot, the roots can cause the pot to misshapen. You’ll need to check the roots to confirm that the plant is becoming root bound by carefully pulling the plant out of its pot. When the plant appears to need repotting, I usually go up one size, so by two inches. 

When repotting plants there are a lot of things to consider, but at the end of the day, do what makes you and your plant happy. I don’t follow my own plant advice all the time, because it’s not always convenient, but thankfully I haven’t had too much trouble. If it works for you, it works for you. There are no set rules to owning plants. 

Reach writer Iseabel Nance at arts@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @iseabel

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