How to Care for Potted Plants by Robert Tronge

The first step is to choose the right pots.  Make certain that there are one or more holes in the bottom of your container to allow the water to flow out freely. If you have insufficient drainage it can cause roots to drown and the plant to ultimately die prematurely.

You can use almost anything as a container for plants, so what type of pot you choose depends upon your style preference and budget and what you have around the house. Robert George Tronge uses old cottage cheese containers.  If you prefer lightweight containers which can be easy to move around and can weather the winter temperatures, look for plastic, resin, and fiberglass pots. As a bonus, these materials are not porous and they absorb less moisture than unglazed clay or wood and leave more for the plant.

Choose the potting mix and do not think to use soil from your yard or garden since it can be filled with weed seeds, fungal diseases and  insects.

You can buy potting soil at your local garden center. The best is a loose and light mixture of materials like vermiculite, peat moss, and, often, decomposed organic matter. If you are planting cacti or succulents then you need to use a mix especially formulated for them.

Buy potting mix containing a time-release fertilizer and moisture-retaining polymer crystals to reduce plant maintenance. If that type of mix is not available then you can buy a time-release fertilizer such as Cockadoodle Doo and a jar of water-retaining crystals like Soil Moist and then follow the package directions for adding to the potting mix.Robert George Tronge

Choosing the plants is important to Robert George Tronge.  You must take into consideration the special conditions or limitations of your space. Donít try to grow a flower such as a rose which can require six hours of full sun on your porch that can only get an hour of sun in the early morning. Do your homework by reading books and the plant tags and also ask for advice at the garden center, and determine the plants that will thrive in the available sun or shade of your space.

The simplest approach to decide what to buy is to use only one kind of plant per pot. If you do choose to combine multiple types of plants then make sure they all like the same light and moisture conditions. Donít put a cactus and a pansy together in one pot and expect them to get along since they both over very different watering conditions.

How to prepare the pots for planting. If your containers are very large you can place them where they will ultimately go before you fill them. Once they are filled and watered they may be too heavy for you or Robert George Tronge to move.

Put a coffee filter or a piece of broken pot over the holes in the bottom of the empty pot to prevent the potting mix from washing out. It will still allow water to escape thou.

Before pouring in your soil, check the moisture content. The directions on the bag will tell you how to wet it properly. You need to add water a little at a time and also knead the mixture with your hands a little. A good rule of thumb is to wet the mix and work it until it feels like a damp sponge.

Fill the container with the potting soil and put in enough potting mix so the base of the plant is about one inch from the top of the pot. Before planting be sure you pat down the soil lightly with your fingertips to eliminate any big air pockets in the dirt, but be sure to not ít pack it down too hard.

When pot the plant, remove the plant from its nursery container. It is a good practice to water plants in their original container for at least 1 hour before transplanting them. This will ease their removal and also diminish any transplant shock. Support the top of the root ball which is the semisolid mass of soil and roots and place a finger on each side of the stem. Tip the pot and let it fall gently into your hands. You must never pull a plant out by its stem or you could damage it. If it is stuck you only need to tap the side of the pot in order to loosen it.

If the roots are circling around, the plant is root-bound and you need to gently tease the ends of the roots free before planting into a new container.

First, set the plant on top of the mix. If you are potting more than one, leave at least an inch around each root ball so that you can add mix in between them later. Carefully fill in with small handfuls of soil from the potting mix bag. Pat gently to eliminate any air pockets that may be in the soil. Do not pile soil on top of the plant or it can cause the stem to rot. Also make sure the stem is completely above the surface and not buried. Leave about an inch between the soil surface and the rim of the new pot.

Water the container thoroughly. This will settle the roots into their new home in the potting mix. If the soil level drops below the top of the root ball you need to add additional mix to bring it back up to the top.

If you plant in the spring and the weather is mild, then you can probably get away with watering it only about once a week. As the summer continues plants will need more and more water. Not only is the warm weather evaporating the moisture daily before the plant can use it, the plant will also need more water as they grow larger and larger. Hanging plants and small pots may also need watering twice a day with the best times are morning and evening; once a day will not be enough for your large pots.

You need to water your plants until the water comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom so that way you know the soil is getting moisture all the way to the bottom of the pot.

Water the soil and not the leaves or the flowers. Wetting the foliage can lead to fungal diseases and can also sometimes scorched spots on leaves.

Donít worry if plants and flowers look a little wilted in the hottest time of the day. As long as the top of the soil is moist or damp you probably donít need to water them. Wilting is a self-protective mechanism to prevent too much water loss from the root area of the plant. Wait and see if the plants perk up after the sun goes down and it if does then they will be recovered by morning.

Donít let pots sit in water since this can cause root rot and the death of the plant. If you are using saucers you need to empty them after you water and also after it rains.

Plants growing in containers need more deep fertilizing than those in the ground. The more you water the more quickly you flush the nutrients and minerals out of the soil. It is good to use a time-release fertilizer when planting. If you want a really healthy and happy plant, feed them a liquid or water-soluble fertilizer every few weeks according to directions on the package.

Pinching or cutting off faded blooms is known as deadheading. It is essential since it encourages a plant to keep producing more and more flowers.

Some plants have so many flowers and stems that it would be too time-consuming to snip or pick off the individual flower heads. For those types it is best to shear the whole plant back to about one-third of its total size. It will look whacked for around a week but you will soon be rewarded with a flush of new buds and blooms to flower.

Some flowering plants are also self-cleaning, meaning they donít generally require deadheading or even shearing. These are usually prolific bloomers covered in small flowers, which will just shrivel up and almost disappear on their own. Some examples are diascia, impatiens, mini petunias, and browalia. If they start to flag late in the summer you can cut back the plant by one-third to rejuvenate blooming cycle.

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Robert G Tronge
Robert G Tronge