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It’s so hard to keep a plant alive once it’s in a pot. Plants didn’t start out in pots, that’s for sure.  Not understanding the limitations of pot planting can lead to some very frustrating growing experiences. But you can take some precautions –

• Watch your choice of pot – they aren’t all created equal. The best are not smooth sided, but instead have breaks in the plastic that obstruct the roots and help keep them from circling.

• Remember that every time you water your potted plant, you are, in effect, flushing the fertilizers out. Be sure to fertilize regularly to help with this.

• Don’t over water. Your plants want air in their soil. You might even poke some holes in the pot soil. Push right down to the bottom with a narrow stick.

• Keep the pot weeded and moss free. These unwanted plants can be quite greedy. But, look over that moss carefully before you remove it – you might want to leave it there to provide a pleasing effect.

• Once your plant has filled its pot with roots, you must re-pot the poor thing – either cut back some roots and replant in the original pot (with some extra soil) or just pot up into a larger pot. If you don’t, your plant’s vigor will gradually decrease.

• In a matter of minutes, your typical plastic pot can literally fry your plant’s roots if the plastic is exposed to some good hot spring sun. To see for yourself, pop out a plant from some pot that has had both a shady side and a hot side – note there is less root growth on the “hot” side. Clay pots handle this better, but the clay is porous and dries out quickly.

• You might consider a fabric pot (like the SmartPot you see around in retail stores) – fabric pots air-prune the plant roots and increase root formation.

This lemon tree, along with many others, was recently relocated from my parents old house to their new one.  They are doing Just Fine.
This lemon tree, along with many others, was recently relocated from my parents old house to their new one. They are doing Just Fine.

Once you have your potted plant alive and healthy, think about what you might do with it. You could, you know, plant your new plant in the ground. Potted plants are always ready, anytime of the year, to be planted in your landscape. But, potted plants let you be much more creative. You can choose a more intimate location such as the deck next to your hot tub or a “surprise” location such as my sunken greenhouse at home – there I have several citrus trees and jasmine plants. Throughout the spring, they fill the space with their wonderful scent. I plan to take these with me when I move to my new place – another advantage of potted plants. For the urban dweller, potted plants offer the potential to make a garden of every balcony in the city.

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Author: Steve (Dad)

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