Spring is here and some of your plants will be looking forward to changing pots. Or you might have recently purchased plants for the express purpose of transplanting them directly into your garden’s flowerbed. In that case, before you can put them in the ground, you will first need to extract them carefully from the pots in which they were grown. Follow our article, step by step, to find out the best way to repot or transplant your plants!
Soil and drainage material
Every plant needs suitable soil. Some people make the big mistake of using soil that is not suitable for the plant variety.
Ericaceous plants, such as azaleas, rhododendrons, heather and camellias, like soil that has a pH below 7. You will find this kind of soil sold under the name “ericaceous compost” or “soil for acid-loving plants”. Cacti and succulents prefer soil that is porous and less compact. Soil that facilitates drainage prevents the stagnation of water and thus eliminates the risk of your plants developing root rot.
Universal compost, as its name suggests, is suitable for a wide variety of plants. At the same time, there are some differences between the various brands. Some types are made up of small beads that look like polystyrene, while others are comprised of slow-release fertiliser granules, which are small and mostly yellow.
Which soil you choose should depend on where the plant will be grown and the type of watering it requires. For example, we recommend a substrate that retains water if you’re using a small pot which will be exposed to the sun throughout the day. Otherwise, the plant will run out of water and begin to suffer from water stress.
For your houseplants, on the other hand, you should use a substrate that offers good drainage. You can make it more effective by adding pebbles.
Carefully remove the root ball by holding the plant between your fingers, making sure that the soil doesn’t break up. Use your hands during this process.
To help plants grow even better, you can also improve the soil in your garden. The texture of clay soils can be loosened up simply by adding sand and organic matter such as manure. In contrast, you can help make sandy soils more compact by adding some organic material. Natural fertilisers or peat will do the trick.
When it comes to drainage material, we recommend using clay or lava pebbles. Be sure to place them in a thin layer at the bottom of the pot or directly in a hole dug in the ground. This is the perfect solution for certain varieties, such as bulb plants, since it prevents the water from stagnating and eliminates the risk of root rot.
You’ll need a pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands. You’ll also need a small and/or medium size spade, depending on whether you intend to transplant your plants into a pot or in the open ground. Finally, you’ll need a pail or a bucket and a watering can. For planting bulbs, we recommend making the job easier with a bulb planter. The specific shape of this tool is used to dig perfectly round holes.
Transplanting your plants
First, look at the roots of your plant. Sometimes it is necessary to loosen them up a bit. For the Tradescantia zebrina shown here, you won’t need to follow this step. It came from a cutting we put in the soil after it came off the mother plant while being handled.
Extract the plant to be moved
- We recommend watering or soaking the plant in a pail or bucket filled with water. This makes it easier to remove the root ball from the pot and prevents the soil from breaking up.
- If the roots are coming out through the drainage holes in the pot, you can trim any protruding roots with a pair of scissors. If they are very thin, they will grow back without any problems.
- To remove the root ball, you must gently turn the pot upside down and squeeze on it. Always use one hand to support the base of the plant. With your other hand, press the plastic pot to turn the plant out, as though it were a flan or caramel custard.
- For ceramic pots, you may need to tap the bottom of the pot. Tilt it on the ground or pull lightly on the base of the plant, if the latter is large. This is a step that requires a very delicate touch. Indeed, some of the roots will inevitably break.
Preparing to transplant your plants
- Try to leave the plant in its pot until you transplant it into the hole you have prepared. To form a hole, use a shovel or garden trowel. Make sure that it is bigger than the root ball. In fact, the plant will appreciate a large hole that is filled with a spongy substrate to promote rapid root growth.
- At this point, you must extract the plant from its pot. This will allow you to take a close look at the roots. If the plant has been in the same pot for a long time, it will probably have created a cluster of spiral roots to fit the shape of the pot. If this is the case, you should tease out the rootbound cluster by moving them very carefully and trying to open them up. This step makes some people nervous for fear of harming the plant. Don’t worry; your plant will appreciate this extra care! You can also use this step to remove part of the old soil. You can then place the root ball in the soil you have already prepared. Now your plant has extra space to stretch out and grow! Make sure that the ground or pot soil is properly loosened and ventilated.
- At this stage, you must exert a slight amount of pressure on the roots so that they are well integrated into the ground. Any air bubbles or hollow spaces at the roots can hinder their growth.
Add the substrate, or soil, carefully and use your fingers to make sure the roots are surrounded by soil. This step must be performed with both a firm and gentle touch. Do not compact the soil, as that will prevent the roots from breathing.
- After you’ve moved the plant, you must also avoid covering up the top layer of soil – from the original pot – with new soil. The base of the stem should always be at the same level as the soil you’re adding. It must not fall below that level. While there are some exceptions, this step prevents the risk of root rot.
- Next, water the plant thoroughly and generously so that the root ball is properly integrated into the surrounding soil.
Squeeze lightly around the plant so that the soil settles. Water thoroughly after each transplant.
Last but not least, here’s a tip that is sure to succeed. Before transplanting, we recommend checking for two things:
- Look for roots coming out of the drainage holes at the bottom of your pot. Your pot may have become too small and the plant may be feeling cramped. You don’t need to get a pot that is significantly bigger. Instead, just go up one size from the pot you already have.
- Check the state of the roots. After generously watering the plant, carefully remove the root ball so you can see how its roots have grown. You might notice there are less than you’d imagined. In this case, we recommend leaving the plant in the same pot.
How about you? Have you got any transplanting tips to share with the community? We’d love to have your comments on our blog and on social media.
If you liked reading this article, we invite you to read our Essential Gardens Jobs for April.
Looking for materials for your transplanting your plants? Visit manomano.co.uk to view our full selection of home gardening products.