In today’s Repotting Diaries, I’m tackling some of my awkward plants! You know the type — the ones that are a bit of a hassle to re-pot that you might have been putting off for a while, or those that haven’t been doing as well as they could — I’m sure we all have a few plants like that.
If this is the first post in this series that you’ve seen, these posts are intended to be short + ‘behind the scenes’ in style; showing a more everyday + relaxed view of what it is like to live with a lot of plants. In addition, if you have any of these plants it might help to see how I’ve repotted mine + things to look out for. Have a browse through the other posts in this series if you want to get in the mood for some plant care: there’s a tab at the top of the homepage called ‘repotting plants’.
Stromanthe thalia triostar
My lovely Stromanthe is a plant that I am quite attached to as I’ve grown it from a young plant… it’s been around at HPH for a while! So much so that I can sometimes forget about it, or say to myself ‘I must water/feed/repot that Stromanthe‘… then a week goes by before I actually pick up the watering can. I noticed earlier in the year that it was needing more frequent watering + there were some crispy edges appearing too. People often think that crispy edges are a result of dry air, which certainly can be the case — but in my experience it can also be a sign that the plant might fancy a little bit more room to grow. So if you have any plants like this that are otherwise healthy + not in a draught/near an open window or heater etc. + you don’t generally have any humidity problems, gently remove the pot + take a look at those roots to see if a repotting session might be in order. Have a look at my Stromanthe care guide for more.
As you can see here, it was warm enough to re-pot outside — hooray! Let me tell you, this a real luxury if you are used to strictly indoor gardening as I have been for the last few years. The pot was pretty root bound + there were lots of roots growing at the surface level too. As you’ll see in the close up photo below left, there were signs of new growth at the base, so I had to be extra careful with handling the plant during the repotting process. It’s normal for these plants to have parts that die back a little, so don’t worry too much if you have parts that are dried up, so long as there is new growth in the pot. Some of the central clump of my Stromanthe has done this + it’s actually helped to keep the foliage from getting too dense, so I don’t mind! These leaves are best with some air circulating around them as pests are often attracted to dense foliage, which the prayer plant family can sometimes have to contend with.
Poor Strelitzia has been struggling over winter + I feared I’d lost the plant for a while. A few years ago, I had another plant which had grown to perhaps a pot size or two larger than my current Bird of Paradise. It was positioned quite close to my single-glazed sash windows… (I loved those windows but boy were they cold + draughty…) + I think it got some cold damage as a result. It was the strangest thing, the plant looked ok, the roots looked ok but it just stopped growing, as if frozen in time. There was a new leaf on the way but it never unfurled + I kept the plant for a further 12 months + nothing. No growth at all.
This Strelitzia is one that I grew from a tiny plant that used to sit on my plant shelf + initially, was not much taller than a bottle of beer. But these plants can be fast growers in good conditions + over 2 years, it has grown into the size it is today. The reginae is a smaller + more compact plant that doesn’t reach the lofty heights of the Strelitzia nicolai, whose foliage is more like that of a banana-tree leaf. So if you love the look of a Bird of Paradise (BOP) but are worried about space, a reginae is always my preferred choice. The stems of this variety are are less like a nicolai, which also shares similarities with a Musa (banana plant) too… I’ve found that mealy bugs tend to love the crevices around the base of this plant! The reginae stems open up like a fan in a similar way to those starfish shaped snake plants + are less ‘trunk-like’ which means less places for bugs to hide.
Over the colder months though, my current plant was unfurling a new leaf (surprisingly, one of the only plants that looked like it was actively growing here in this arctic-like cottage!) + then it stopped. Same as before. So I was a bit concerned + tried to give it as much light + warmth as I could until we reached Spring. I took it out of the planter to check on the roots + there was no rot + the roots looked healthy — I just love how chunky Strelitzia roots are! I repotted + gave the plant a shower with the garden hose on a gentle setting + put it back close to the south-east window. Fast forward a few weeks later + I noticed that the leaf has started to open up at last! I did help it along a little, but only gently. As I write this, it’s almost fully unfurled which I’m so pleased about. After the previous escapades with this plant, I’m eagerly looking out for signs of a new leaf growing as it adjusts to its new planter. Fingers crossed!
Dracaena trifasciata laurentii snake plant
Here’s a closer look at my largest snake plant that was well in need of a potting mix refresh — it had got really compacted over winter + I knew that some of the roots would be a little dried up. After nearly loosing one of my snake plants to root rot a few years ago, I will admit that I have a tendency to underwater these plants, particularly the larger pots around the house.
I could see that there was no sign of rot but the plant was definitely wanting more water, so after repotting this one, I have moved it to a position that means I’ll see it more often + can monitor it closely. If you also find you have a tendency to under-water, it’s less stressful for the plant if you slowly increase watering rather than completely flushing out your plant in one go. For some plants this is ok, but can often cause leaf yellowing + leaf drop if they get a soaking after being very dry. More on this in the next Repotting Diaries post…
I also took this as an opportunity to give the leaves a good clean — their compact growth habit can make it hard to wipe the plant down properly, but with the leaves separated like this, I could get rid of any dirt or dust that had built up.
Marble queen pothos
If you’ve been reading HPH for a while or are a long-time instagram follower, you might remember my huge marble queen pothos that had pride of place on top of my plant shelf in my old apartment. Let me see if I can find a photo…
Well, this plant below is my ‘back-up’ marble queen that I’ve grown from a small pot of cuttings. For my favourite plants, I always advise making a second plant up just in case. Propagating or dividing your plants is a great way to do this + in-turn, you’ll often learn a little bit more about them, particularly their growth habit + how they mature over time. Trailing plants like pothos + philodendrons can look great, but after a few years might need a bit of help to keep them looking their best. Regular pruning is a must if you want your plant to look full + propagating stems to add back into the top of the planter can help too.
My big plant has really struggled in the cottage as it’s nearly 3 metres long + the ceilings here are only 2 metres tall! That also made it…interesting… when my wardrobe was too tall to get in the cottage properly…which is partly why I’ve been living out of a suitcase for the last 14 months. Getting back to the pothos though, I’ve had to string it up via the beams to keep the long stems in decent light, but the time has come to prune it back + do some serious propagating. I’ll share the process when I do it over the coming months of course. Having a back up plant like this one though, has really helped to alleviate the worry that my big plant is struggling. So ensuring that my little ‘back up’ plant continues to grow well is extra important right now — some fresh potting mix + a one-size-bigger pot will help keep things growing healthily. I love it when pothos are this size as they are so adaptable — it was hanging in a corner but right now it’s trailing off my table until I switch the plant hanger out for a larger pot.
Scindapsus pictus ‘exotica’
My exotica was another one of those plants I’ve been meaning to re-pot for ages! It was still in its original nursery pot but because it was growing so well, I wanted to leave it alone for a few months + then it was winter + growth was slow. Over the last few weeks though, I’ve noticed signs of active growth again which prompted me to take a look at the roots, to see how the plant was doing under the surface. Sure enough, the roots were circling the planter in a very aesthetically pleasing way + I chose to go up one pot size — nothing too deep + something a little wider to make watering easier. I always like to loosen the roots well before placing in a new pot — I think it helps the plant adjust more readily to its new home. This Scindapsus is a slow grower but these large leaves are quite magnificent with their silvery splashes + it’s one of my current favourites!
Ficus lyrata ‘bambino’
Out of all the houseplants in this post, my Ficus lyrata bambino was the one I was most excited to re-pot. These plants can go dormant over winter so repotting at this point is a no-no. I had top-dressed the pot as an interim measure in November because the roots were starting to show at soil level, as the old potting mix had depleted + settled. I always like to wait until I see signs of growth before touching any of my Ficus plants because they can throw a strop if they get stressed or are unhappy. When I move I’m going to chop the top off this plant to encourage it to branch, but right now, I just want it to adjust to a new planter!
In the next repotting diaries I’m going to be tackling my Ficus elastica tineke gang, which could really use some care + attention. I’m considering potting some of these plants together as they are looking a bit lanky now.
If you’d like to see more on the potting mix I like to use with my houseplants, then here’s the link to my post on that. I like to carry out a repotting session with plants that like a similar mix, so that I can make up a big tub of it — it makes the process a lot quicker + there’s certainly less mess this way! I hope you enjoyed seeing what’s been on my potting bench + there will be some related posts over on instagram + pinterest over the next few weeks too. I hope it has inspired you to spend some time with your plants + check to see if any of them need repotting at this point in the growing season. With the warmer temperatures of the last week or two, it’s really starting to feel like things are getting growing!
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