Old Plant, New Plant: potting on a Ficus

Happy New Year to you all! I have been stuck in bed for the past few days with sickness but I’m up and about today, I am still not 100% but I didn’t want to sit around any longer.

During my time off, (and time ill in bed!) I have still been pondering and planning on what jobs to do garden wise as Winter carries on with her frosty mornings and equally frosty winds. I realised yesterday that it is actually a perfect time to look indoors at some of my indoor houseplants when little else is growing outside.

There has been one over looked plant that I have known for some time needs some TLC… This Ficus that I have had for about two or three years now:


I knew it needed potted on and have known for some time now but have been putting it off. I took it into the greenhouse to make potting on easier than mucking up the house indoors. When I took it from its too-small pot I was not surprised to find this:


Oh dear… So this is what a pot bound plant looks like and demonstrates the necessity to keep on top of maintaining your plants! I couldn’t have left this plant for much longer until it began suffering, so I got to it just in time. I actually ended up having to cut the pot up the side with a knife to get the plant out of the pot. Oops… Garden gods forgive me!

Anyway, this was the root ball in all its glory once I removed it:


So you can see that given all my neglect, the root system looks healthy. There are no signs of mushiness (indicating rot which can be caused by over watering) or disease (which can be caused by stress which can be caused by the wrong  light or air conditions and under watering). This plant is happy in its current environment, all it needs is more space to grow into.

So to pot this ficus on, I simply chose a slightly larger pot that I had kept from another plant I had planted in the garden, filled it about one inch in the bottom with a mixture of perlite and general purpose compost in the bottom. Then, whilst holding the plant by its main stem, I teased out its root system gently to encourage it to grow outwards. The reason for doing this is that the roots of pot bound plants can grow round and round in a circle in the pot before finally suffocating itself, which is why potting on is so important (as well as for getting a good look at the root system to check all is looking healthy).

Once I had teased the roots out, I placed the plant in its new pot and then I filled gently around the side, filling around the edge of the pot with the compost and perlite mixture and ensuring there were no air pockets. After watering, it may sometimes be necessary to add more compost into the pot once the compost settles.

Now some of you may wonder why I used perlite instead of 100% compost. Well the reason is simple: to give this particular plant aeration and drainage, as its roots do not like to sit in waterlogged or damp soil for long periods of time. Compost by nature is light and fluffy anyway, but by adding perlite into the mixture, it adds gaps into the compost structure which increases air flow and this enables water to drain more freely. I will be doing a blog post about adding things into compost like perlite and vermiculite in the future, including why it is done and which one to choose for each plant in more detail so stay tuned.

Without a further ado, this is how the plant looked once I had potted it on in its new pot:


After potting on, I gave the plant a once over to check for any other signs of stress or incorrect watering and all looked healthy but I did notice that its leaves needed dusting. Okay I know, you may be thinking, so do you have to have to dust every leaf?! The answer is… yes! But this doesn’t have to be done often and it not only makes the plant look more attractive, but is also crucial in order for the plant to correctly absorb the sun rays and undertake photosynthesis. The dust blocks lights from the cells of the leaves so it reduces the amount of light the plant can absorb and also, it just looks neglectful.

Here you can see a before (left photo) and after (right photo) shot of the leaves. It is quite subtle as the leaves were only finely covered in dust, but it does make a difference:

You can see on the before photo (left side) where I had already removed part of the dust with my finger tip and how the leaf is glossier underneath. I would recommend you clean the leaves of indoor plant leaves with a simple clean cloth and clean tepid water by brushing gently over the leaves with the cloth whilst supporting the leaf in your other hand. With a plant like this it does take some time, but I find it rather meditative to take the time to care for plants in this way. I always believe that when you take the time to look after plants, they reward you back with beautiful blooms and/or growth so it goes both ways.

If this has not been enough to inspire you to look after/renovate your current house plants or buy a new house plant for your home, here are a few more fantastic reasons to add houseplants to your home:

  • The fragrance from flowering plants is free (no air plug-in required)
  • House plants do not release chemicals that pollute the air you breathe
  • House plants actually clean the air in your home that you breathe! Which you can read about here and here
  • They look more attractive than artificial plants or flowers
  • There are so many to chose from, you just need to chose the right one for your space

Leading on from  my final point, some of you may be wondering from this blog post how do you chose the right plant for your home? You can read some of my advice in my blog post all about the beginner’s guide to choosing the right plant for your home, where I break down step by step how to find the perfect plant for your home.

Well, that’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this post and learned a few things about caring for house plants! Perhaps some of you have a neglected plant in your home sitting around that you could give a new lease of life by replacing its compost or giving its leaves a bit of a shine. Or maybe some of you are on the look out for a new house plant. House plants really come into their own at this time of year when little else is blooming or growing outside and have so many other benefits. Once you start with one house plant it can be difficult not to acquire more over time!

Let me know what you all think about this blog post and feel free to ask any more questions. As always, stay tuned for more blog posts coming shortly! Please also follow my blog so you get the newest updates regularly on my blog!


Written by Bethany Wright at The English Meadow



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