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New Help For Houseplants
by John Harmon
March 9, 2003

I’ve had a number of requests for information about what to do with dormant houseplants to help them along after a long dark northern winter. One of the things you can do to get your plants ready for the spring increase in light levels is to re-pot them. Besides the normal things you can do in the spring there's a new product that will help your houseplants even more if you add it when you re-pot. Before you repot your houseplants check the variety to be sure it’s not a plant that likes being pot-bound. Some houseplants will not flower if they’re in too big a pot. They will spend all their energy growing new leaves and expanding their root system. One plant that comes to mind is the Ornamental Pepper. One of my books recommends a pot no larger than five inches for this plant. I’m not sure this is a hard and fast rule but the plant will not flower or produce fruit unless it’s pot-bound. Don’t repot sick plants. They already have enough problems. Wait till the problem has been overcome and the plant is healthy.

Once you have determined that your plant isn’t one that needs to be pot bound choose a soil mix that’s right for the type of plant. Most plant stores these days carry a variety of potting mixes for specific types of plants. You can also use a general purpose potting soil as a base and adjust it yourself. I like to use soiless mixes for houseplants because it helps to avoid those annoying fungus gnats and I can control the food mixture to suit each type of plant. Compost and manure as well as soil from outdoors can contain fungus gnat eggs or other pests unless it’s been sterilized properly. I’ve purchased both that claimed they were sterile and then had to fight an infestation of some kind anyway.

Choose a pot that’s at least two sizes bigger than the one your plant was in. Turn the pot upside down while supporting the plant with your fingers and tap the rim of the pot on any hard surface to loosen the root ball. Some potted plants like Lilies will benefit from trimming off a third to half of the root ball before re-potting. Check the variety first. Inspect the root-ball for pests or signs of rotting material. Pick out the old stones or pieces of crockery. Shake as much of the old soil away as possible and remove any damaged roots.

Make sure your new pot is clean. I wash mine with a solution made by adding two tablespoons of ordinary household bleach to a gallon of water. Rinse well with clear water. Line the bottom of the pot with stones or broken pieces of crockery to provide drainage. Add enough fresh soil mix with the correct amount of MYKE® (info on MYKE® below) to support the root-ball and lower the plant into its new pot. Pack new soil gently around the root ball and fill to within a half-inch of the rim. Water the plant in with tepid water. This will help to work the new soil in around the roots and give them good contact. After the pot has drained the soil will have settled and more can be added to top it up. Water it in a second time and let it drain. If you are using a soiless mix resume fertilizing with your choice of plant food.

If you have very large plants in tubs that are two big to remove you can top dress. Scrape away or dig out as much of the soil from the top of the tub as you can while being careful not to break any roots. The more old soil you manage to remove the better. Fill the tub with new soil, add the right amount of MYKE® and water it in. When it’s settled top it up with more soil mix and water again. Check the variety of the plant to determine the correct depth to bury the stem. Some plants can have their stems buried and will send out new roots from the portion buried. Other plants will not tolerate being buried deeper. If you're in doubt fill only to the old soil level.

One of the new things you can do to give your houseplants a boost and a great start this spring is to put some MYKE® in when you re-pot. MYKE® contains Mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi have occurred naturally in the soil for 400 million years. They form a close symbiotic relationship with plant roots. They are called mycorrhizae (from the Greek "mukés", meaning fungus, and "rhiza," meaning roots).

The fungi create a beneficial association with plant roots. Growing with the roots of plants, the mycorrhizal fungus creates a network in the soil increasing the absorption capacity for water and nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and zinc. This enables better plant growth and development as well as longer life for the plant. I tried MYKE® last year and even though I didn't have the new one specifically formulated for houseplants it did a great job. I used MYKE®GARDEN with plants I was transplanting last spring and this stuff works! The plants I used MYKE® on were twice as big and flowered better than those without. The multibloom geraniums also flowered earlier and lasted longer.

MYKE® INDOOR PLANT is new and contains mycorrhizal fungi on a natural coarse granulated carrier (perlite and peat). This product contains no chemical additives. You only use a small amount for each pot. For instance a six-inch pot requires only three tablespoons of MYKE® when re-potting or planting. For more information on MYKE® check out

Once your plants are re-potted and primed with MYKE® they will be ready to take advantage of the rising light levels and really take off.

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