Now that I have your attention, let's get down to what this week's blog is really about. It's about the pots, or containers that we grow plants in. Containers are things that hold soil and soil is home for roots. How that home is managed is how well or how poorly your plant is going to grow.
Containers are available in all kinds of sizes, colors, shapes and materials. Some are even things we recycle and make work as plant growing containers.
On of the most important parts of a container is the drainage holes. The holes allow for excess water to drain from the soil. This frees up space in the soil for air and this air/water balance is critical for good root and plant growth. Too much water equals less air resulting in poor root growth, root loss, plant decline and death. While some houseplants are tolerant of less than optimal soil conditions, most will do better with soil that drains properly.
Greenhouses grow plants in pots that have plenty of drainage holes in the bottom or along the sides. This allows for proper drainage as well as proper watering. The problem is these containers are often not the most attractive or aesthetically pleasing when it comes to placing plants in the home. While there are plenty of attractive, good looking containers to plant things in, the main problem is that many of them don't have the holes in the bottom to allow for proper drainage. Who wants a great big puddle on the floor or table after watering your plant? Without holes, water can be retained in the soil, especially toward the bottom. Even if the surface seems dry, the bottom portion of the pot can be soggy. Repeated watering just makes it worse. Soon roots fail, leaves turn color and start falling and the plant is dead or on the way to being dead.
One way to avoid needless plant loss due to no drainage is to use the decorative pot with no holes as a cover for the less than attractive greenhouse pot with holes. Put a layer of gravel in the bottom of the decorative pot, drop in the plant in its original greenhouse container and you now have effectively disguised the greenhouse pot. When it comes time to water use enough so that the excess drains out into the decorative pot. Take the decorative pot to the sink and dump out the excess water. The soil in the greenhouse pot has been properly watered, excess water has drained away and the roots are happy. If the decorative pot is too large to pick up and move just use a turkey baster to suck out the excess water.
For those using saucers to catch water, don't allow the plant to sit in a saucer full of water. Dump out the saucer after you are done. Pots sitting in water will again have soil that stays too wet for too long.
The other important thing to note is how much water you use. Try to apply enough water each time so that water drains from the holes in the pot. This helps to move away built up of soluble salts present in water, soils and fertilizers. This build up can result in root damage that can express itself as leaf margin damage and root damage.
The take away message this week: Soil is home for roots. The more comfortable and desirable we make that home the better your plants will grow and look.