Advice for putting palms in 5-1-1 mix

earthworm73(WA z8)November 28, 2012

I should be getting some young palms in the mail later on this week. I more than likely will keep them in the pots and media they came in. However if I decide to instead get rid of the nursery media and put them in 5-1-1 mix what advice would you give me? I used 5-1-1 mix last summer on some of my palms with mixed results (some flat out died after being changed to the mix) and I want to do it right this time and get a good start.

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Using the 511 and Gritty Mixes takes some adjustment... there is a small learning curve. One can't simply switch and continue with the regimen they followed when using a bagged potting soil. Often, depending on your own growing environment, watering will occur more often.

There are several factors that will come into play... first, one must understand the concept of the mixes we use... why we're using them, and how they work on a scientific level. Most of needed information can be found in Al's main article entitled, "Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention", available for reading here, within this forum.

A few things to keep in mind are... when re-potting, make certain you do so in the shade, out of any winds. Keep the plant's roots moist while working with them. Make certain the newly mixed medium is moist and the fir bark portion has had a chance to soak up some moisture. I usually mix the day before potting, and wet down the medium so it will be evenly moist when I'm ready to use it. And once you re-pot your plant, and have sufficiently watered it in, you'll want to keep it out of direct sun, winds, or excessive heat or cold until it adjusts to its new home.

I'm sure there are many other tips that will help you get the most from these incredible mixes... there's a ton of reading that can be done within this forum, alone. And I know others are more than willing to help answer any questions you may have.

A green thumb is nothing more than applied knowledge. And no two growing micro-environments will be the same. You'll have to make small adjustments keeping your own growing environment in mind. My best bit of advice would be to ensure you understand why you're using these mediums, and how they work within the confined space of containers.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 7:03PM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

jodik thank you for the response. Believe it or not I have read quite a bit on Al's mixes. Apparently I overlooked a few keys things you have mentioned and I think no applying those principals has caused me to lose some plants last summer. When I made 5-1-1 in the past I didn't soak the bark before putting the plant in. Then I would put the plant right into the sun. I can now see why you should soak the bark first and not put it in the sun right away.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 8:50PM
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Happy to try to help, Earthworm73!

I think it's key to try to eliminate as much stress to the plant as we can when re-potting, especially when changing mediums/concepts.

I, myself, took a shortcut or two when I first began, and I've since learned that doing it right is the path to success. It's sometimes the little things we don't think about... like babying a freshly re-potted plant, keeping it out of direct sun and wind, and allowing it to acclimate... or keeping a closer eye on watering needs, and ensuring the medium is properly wetted, with moisture soaked in, before starting... these kinds of things.

I think, also, that watering thoroughly, as Al suggests, has an impact... keeping a good feeding regimen... and keeping your own, personal growing environment in mind... that there will be slight differences between where you grow and what that requires, and where anyone else grows and their individual requirements.

There are definitely some adjustments you'll need to make, but I find it easier if I have a copy of Al's article handy so I can reread and remind myself, to make sure I'm not missing anything. I copied and pasted the main article to a text file on my desktop, and I refer to it from time to time. It's very helpful for me!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 12:20PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi There!!!

I agree with everything Jodi says!!

You may also want to wait until the spring to change the soil unless it is an emmergency. You might want to wait for them to be at the best as far an energy and vigor when repotting to give them the best chance for the change!!! let them adjust before you change soils. This time of the year can be hard on palms and plants in general!! Just MO of course!!!

Take Care,


    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 12:39AM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

Laura glad you could chime in. I recognize you from the palm growing forum. I am sure you have grown palms in the 5-1-1 mix. What have your experiences been with that mix on your palms?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 9:18AM
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I would agree with Laura... spring is the best time to re-pot, unless doing so sooner will save the plant from certain demise.

I just finished re-potting some bulbs, but I had to in order to save them. Other items are ok and will wait until the weather breaks in spring.

I believe Laura uses more of the 511 than I do, so she'll have some good advice... I'm mostly an indoor grower, using a custom version of the Gritty Mix.

Either way, though, I think a complete understanding of the concept is the key. How it works, why it works, and why we use it.

Happy Growing!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 11:21AM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi Earthworm.

What types of Palms are your purchasing?

I have had good results with both types of mixes and i use the Gritty Mix more than the 5-1-1. ( with all of my other plants and C & S, tropicals ) My palms love both types, but the Gritty Mix is heavy, so with my huge palms they all are in the 5-1-1. All are doing well!!

Since you live in WA, I would wait until late spring to repot your new palms into the 5-1-1 mix. I think this mix will be good for the palms, but if they are small and you want to use the gritty Mix and can find the ingredients that would be my choice. The only reason i would use the 5-1-1 on my large palms in containers is due to weight issues. My potted palms are huge and i can't move them around like i used to!! I have huge in ground palms here and i love my container palms. They would love either mix, but the mix would last longer if you used the Gritty so you could leave it in the same container for a couple of years instead of repotting if using the 5-1-1-. It would be a choice of convience for you.. but if it was me.. and i had some new palms and they were small in size, i would repot into the Gritty. It sounds like you want to use the 5-1-1 and they would be very happy in this mix!!!

Like Jodi mentioned up thread, make sure when you repot this spring/summer to keep the roots moist when barerooting and due this in the shade. Make sure you give your palm a rest after the repot and acclimate it so it doesn't burn in the sun. Let it rest in the shade for a couple of weeks and gently introduce it to the full sun!!

Have fun with your new palms and remember to check the moisture level with a skewer if you are uncertain of the moisture needs. It does take a little adjustment period for watering, but i found it was easy with palms in this mix.

Please let me know if you have any questions and i can't wait to see what you have coming soon! :-)

Take care,


    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 9:42PM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

Laura I have seen your beautiful pindo, sabals and trachies you will be my go to gal for anything relating to my palms and these light mixes. I just bought some t. fortunei 'Bulgaria', t. fortunei 'Nainital', and a s. minor 'Cape Hatterras'. I've got a few more sabals and washies in pots and some baby trachy seedlings that will need potting up soon. While the baby trachies are in a small greenhouse under lights and not effected by the season. But my sabals in pots and living in my first batches of 5-1-1 look like crap! I made many mistakes last year with my first mixes like not soaking the bark, not filtering the perlite and pumice and not using coarse perlite. I also placed the pots in full sun immediately after being placed into the new mix. I lost a bunch of young palms that way.
Right now I didn't have anything that will stay in pots permanently all of mine will eventually go in ground when they get some size. So 5-1-1 will suit my needs.

Laura have you used Foliage Pro for any of your potted palms? So I have to make sure the palms are free of the soil in the old container before I place them into the 5-1-1 mix right? For some reason that worries me.

So leaving the long root that is growing out of the drain hole is gonna be okay? Sorry for all of the questions.

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    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 12:36AM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi Earthworm,

Sounds like you have a great variety of palms!! Congratulations!!!

Those Sabals in pots and in the 5-1-1 look bad? They should be almost to easy to forget and look good. I would say that you might be watching them to closely and probably watering them to much. They really like to dry out and kind of be left alone...especially baby Sabals.

It is all about learning from our mistakes.. believe me!! ;-) Once all of mine that are planted in the ground, i don worry abou them anymore after a few years now that they are established.

I do use the foliage Pro on my container palms and i use another type of fertilizer on my trees in the ground. i will share that with you as well... Send me an email and we can discuss this and about your questions about roots and transfreing into the 5-1-1- from you mix that comes from the nursery...

I dont mine at all..

One palm freak to another!!! LOL!!!

Take care,


    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 1:06AM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

Laura I believe my sabls and others were more affected by me not screening the ingredients which kept too much water retaining materials in the mix thus making it hold more water. And placing everything in full sun immediately after re-potting in the mix. I also didn't soak the bark and I think I had some dry spots and water repelling. I even lost a trachy after putting it in 5-1-1. Before hand it was healthy and putting up growth then died about 3-4 after 5-1-1. I do use the dowel method to check for moisture.

I'll send you my email addy.

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    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 10:13AM
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