Creativity and sensitivity lead to growth. And that goes as much for the health and wellbeing of potted plants as it does for human development. Marry the right pot with the best plant and the most ideal position and the results will be blooming gorgeous

When plants in pots come to mind there is often a vision of a single plant in a single red plastic pot with a red plastic saucer, unadorned and plain. There is nothing wrong in that, but it does at times seem to be a kind of punishment for the plant. Following that, I could ask myself what penance lies behind rows of red plastic pots each with a single different unloved occupant? They stand motionless and helpless, short or tall, leafy or bare, in a row of plastic pots, each unable even to move or communicate with their neighbour. Amazingly, despite their restrictions, if they are given water, some light and some attention they continue to struggle. All plants want to live. However, I often wonder if they are even noticed and appreciated by their owner or simply regarded as a daily self-imposed item of maintenance.

The attitudes of the owners, real or imagined, would of course all change if we looked at plants in pots as living things that need affection as well as physical wellbeing. If that happened, plants would take on personalities and characteristics. We would do what is best for our pot plants. Our first step would be to find the botanical name of our plant. Then Google the name and find out what the best conditions would be for our plant to live a healthy and happy life and consider where she would be best able to grow.

Obviously, positioning our plant in an apartment could be more limiting than a garden or a quintal, but there will always be a corner or a spot which gets the most sun or has the deepest shade. It will also tell us what size pot she will need.

With that sorted ,I think we should turn our attention to the soil for our plant. Remembering that we are what we eat, likewise the roots of each plant should have good soil and suitable nutrients to feed on. I use my own compost for my pots and in a very light and large plastic container I normally put one measure of bought coarse river sand to five measures of compost. The river sand, which assists in drainage, can be bought at most hardware shops and if you don’t have your own compost then use the contents from a bag of commercial potting soil. To mix the ingredients I use my hands to combine them both.

Before filling a pot, and in order to promote good drainage, I use a single clay crock or two to cover the holes at the bottom of the pot. If I buy pots without holes I drill a couple of holes in the sides of the pot rather than in the bottom to discourage worms from entering. This consideration obviously falls away if you live in an apartment. I then fill the pot in the container with soil, gradually pressing it down with my fingers as I do so, and once this is done give it a good watering.

Now for the fun part, gently detach your plant from her temporary pot over the same large container as we used earlier to catch the excess soil, and then remove sufficient soil from her new home to accommodate her roots. Position her, return the damp soil caught in the container and firm it around her delicate waist.

She is now in a position to give your home some of her wonderful energy.

When positioning the plant find her best side so she looks at her most attractive, and remove any damaged or dead leaves or flowers.

You will have to water your new charge, but having googled to find out all about it you will know how often to do this. Remember that plastic is better at keeping the soil moist than clay. Make sure that when you either water your plant in the pot or fill the saucer below her, that this should not be a splash-and-run affair.

It’s a time in that day that provides you with the opportunity to see how she is doing. If she has leaves, you might give her a daily swivel of ninety degrees so that she does not lean to one side only but grows straight up. Use the time, too, to examine her to see whether she has any unwanted visitors such as greenfly or cochineal. If you have given her a good start to life she will probably be insect free for a few months.

Now take a step back and think about how better you could present your plant. Would a handful of small pebbles or crushed stones covering the surface of the soil make the plant in her pot more attractive? Should the pebbles be brown or white? Would a single large stone or small rock at her base give the pot a more dramatic appearance?

Go togethers
Another thought – your plant might like more potted company. With the help of your gardening pals, local nursery or plant supplier, obtain or buy a plant or two that enjoys the same conditions as your original one. Look for plants whose foliage complements each other. Buy pots that are either the same size or maybe select ones that are smaller or wider and put them next each other to snuggle up to one another and form a small conversational group.

I tend to be influenced by Japanese gardens so many of my pots are individual or in uneven groups of three or five.

Let your plant teach you a few things about herself. If she is not growing strongly it maybe that there is too much sun. Look for bleaching of her leaves or stem.

Or perhaps she is in a draught. Many plants do not like draughts of air. Move your girl around until she shows you she is more comfortable and is thriving. Are you giving her too much water or too little? If you are in doubt, use your forefinger to test the moisture of the soil. Rule of thumb – it is better to err on the side of dry than of soggy. More plants die from over watering than the converse.

Your plant may need some feeding when she is growing. If you want to encourage leaves get her a feed that has nitrogen (N) in it. For more flowers, look for a feed that has a high percentage of potassium(K). All fertilisers give their composition on the product label.

Occasionally, give your plant a shower to keep her leaves bright and clean and healthy. If you find greenfly or white fly wash them off with a fairly strong jet of water putting your hand behind the infested shoot to protect it from bruising or snapping off. If you find soft bodied insects such as cochineal, use a hard bristled paint brush to dab them with pharmaceutical alcohol.

Of course, sadly our plant may die – all plants , like us, have a span of life but if we have done our best we should not feel as if we are to blame and we should look forward to getting an early replacement. After all, there is nothing more satisfying when returning home to find a potted friend or friends quietly illuminating our home and patiently waiting for our return.

Words: Burford Hurry

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