Lots of questions re: soil and transplanting

AndrewRaz(5-6)September 14, 2013

Hello all! Brand spanking newbie, paint still wet. I recently rediscovered my childhood love of gardening, and oh boy do I have a lot of questions. I'm hoping for some 'quick answers,' for now, with maybe some links to relevant articles to read an explanation as to why when I have some time.

I've been doing as much reading as I can, especially about soil mixes and such. I've not had a chance to read Al's articles on *why* his soil mixes work yet, but I've got several of them open on tabs. Classes are my main focus, and have to be, so time is limited (as is funding!).

So, I've managed to get some fairly inexpensive supplies for both the 5-1-1 mix and the gritty 1-1-1 mix (except the granite, working on that). The plants I have so far are kind of a hodgepodge of techniques and potting mixes, and I'm wondering what I should change now, what I should wait to do till winter/spring, and what I should just leave as is. My question for each of these plants is: should I repot it, and if so, in the 5-1-1 or 1-1-1 gritty (keeping in mind I know nothing yet about actual feeding).

First question is: I have a pretty big bag of "small" pine bark. There's a lot of fine particles, but I haven't yet sifted it. Most of the larger stuff is between 1/4 and a little bigger than 1/2 inch. Is that a good size? Also, what can I do with the fine particles? Do I just throw it in the trash, or use it somewhere else?

First: 3 small Snake tongue, planted in 1-1 peat moss/Mir-gro potting mix, as per one internet recommendation. Seems so dense I feel sorry for them. Contemplating putting them in gritty mix, but I just split it and transplanted it 2 weeks ago, I'm worried it would be too much. Growth of new sprouts has almost ceased, but they don't seem distressed (not wilting, browning, etc.) I know they're pretty slow to react though too. Should I transplant them again?

Second: Azalea 'malsai', about 8" high. Received mid-August. Had no idea how to water it. First probably not enough, then too much. Surprisingly, it's still alive, and even putting out new shoots. A few leaves are turning brown from the outside-in, I'm not sure whether it's too much sunlight (south-facing window, but with blinds partially closed), water, or possibly fertilizer (gave it 1tbsp holy-tone two weeks ago, but the problem existed before that). I would leave it longer, but I've had a couple spots of powdery mildew in the soil and a few small flies (attracted to fertilizer-bad idea indoors, btw). Sprayed the soil and whole plant generously with Fungicide-3 Neem oil. Mildew is gone for two days now, but I have cut back watering too, when I realized the mildew is from wet soil. Still, there's a *lot* of organic material in that little pot. Considering either 5-1-1 (personal preference here) or gritty mix. Should I leave it alone now, or transplant it?

Third: little juniper retaining-wall survivor. Dug it up before the neighbors killed it. Had one single very long thick root, almost no fibrous roots at all. I potted it once in just peat and potting mix, for a week until I got worried about the compaction I was reading about. Nursery manager suggested Myke mycorrhizae to produce more roots, rather than other rooting hormone or using a tourniquet. I did cut a lot of that one root off, but left all the small roots I could. Gave it a dose of Superthrive about 3 weeks ago, and Mir-gro standard fertilizer about a week ago. It has been kind of drooping consistently. It isn't totally dying, but tips are drooping. It's in a pot outside, but sheltered from sun most of the day. Full sun probably from about 11-2 or 3, otherwise bright but in the shade of the building. It is potted in what is probably 1.5 or 2 parts *unsifted* pine bark fines, 1 part sphagnum peat moss, and 1 part mir-gro potting soil, with some rough gravel thrown in there (mostly around 1-inch size). Sorry, it was before I realized that there was a method to the mixes. Should I just see if this juniper survives, or should I transplant it again?

Fourth: Probably the poor plant that has had the hardest time: a little Japanese maple, 4' high, only 1/2" trunk. It had a rough time at Lowes, with a damaged pot, so it didn't get much attention. My father bought it cheap as damaged goods, but then left it inside in a dark room with a tiny window and didn't water it for two weeks. When I got to it, I didn't know better, so I pulled it out, washed the roots, pruned them (wrong season!), and potted it in the same mix as the juniper. Well, then to top off the poor maple's abuse, I was worried I had overwatered it, and kind of neglected it for another week after I potted and watered it. And it was hot. After 2 or 3 days in full sun, I moved it where it and the Juniper are now, in shelter, but the damage was done: nearly all the leaves had withered. There's maybe two or three that are still hanging on. There are tiny buds on the branches, but I can't tell if they're growing or not. It's late in the season for them anyways. It has the same feeding as the juniper: some Superthrive and mir-gro, with a bit better watering schedule (I hope) now. Now my question is, so I leave this one and hope for the best, or do I risk shocking the poor thing again by trying to improve the soil?

I know this is a massive wall of text. I'm sorry for that. I tried to keep it minimal, but still give as much info as I could. I'm in the Detroit area now.

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Howdy! Welcome to container gardening! :-)

First, that azalea needs to be outdoors with the juniper and the maple.

Snake Tongue, which I assume is a Sansevieria, will do wonderfully in the Gritty Mix. That's what I use for mine. Mine is growing right now, and it sounds like yours was as well, so I imagine that you could do another re-potting...even though it is getting late in the season. With Winter around the corner, a fast-draining mix will make maintaining moisture-sensitive plants so much easier.

5-1-1 uses bark that is a mix of particles 1/2 inch and smaller.

Gritty Mix uses bark that is 1/8 to 1/4 inch for the best results.


    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 2:28AM
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This azalea says to maintain a temperature above 60 degrees (F). It has been inside because I didn't want to put it out in the heat. Temperatures have dipped below 60 the last couple nights too.
It is a satsuki, if that matters.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 4:10PM
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Good advice from Josh - but wait until later to repot the maple. Once leaves off and closer to full dormancy, the less chance of shocking/stressing the plant further.

There is a pretty general rule of thumb regarding keeping plants indoors or not.........if it can grow outdoors happily in your climate (most temperate plants), then it will not make a satisfactory houseplant. Our homes indoors are too hot, too dry and with inadequate light. The azalea is somewhat in between :-) Perhaps not fully winter hardy in your climate, it would still be happier outside from spring through fall. Azaleas grow quite well in heat - they are common landscape plants in the deep south where summers can be very hot yet they tolerate mildly freezing temperatures in winter.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 5:37PM
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Thank you both for your answers! I really appreciate it.

Should I repot the Azalea, and if so, when, and in what? (5-1-1 or gritty)

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 8:17PM
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