a question about repotting

Lamora(4)March 8, 2012

Hi all. I have been trying to look up on how to repot my Spider Plant. I actually know how to repot her, but I have 2 questions about it anyway. She is very big right now. I don't think she needs a bigger pot right now, But I kinda wanted to put her in new soil.

I am going to wait till May-June to do it. My question is, how do I get all the old soil off the roots so she can have new soil? The soil she is in now doesn't drain too well.. always wet on the bottom. (yes, the pot has holes)

Question 2, she is 2 plants in one, is it possible to separate the 2 plants? or would the roots be too damaged if I did that. I don't even know if I want to attempt that tho. I was just wondering if it could work like that.

She is so big, I am proud of her and terrified at the same time. I have never repotted a plant this big before. Maybe by the time I want to do it, I won't be so afraid.

Oh-- and she hates tap water! Watered her with tap, she doesn't wilt or anything, but give her distilled or filtered?? she stands up so straight and tall and the Bonnie in her gets really curly,, something she doesn't do with tap. Just my observation is all-- :) I guess mine is just picky. And it isn't just me that has noticed, daughter and husband too. Just in case you thought it was a "Marjie thing" lol.

I envy those of you that can use tap water all the time and have your plants happy.. :)

ok.. off track of my questions. How to get all the old soil off roots.. and can they be separated..

Thanks in advance :)


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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

In the summer, you can take the plant outdoors on the lawn or over a tub and use a find mist under high pressure from your hose to do most of the work. You can also use a chopstick or a piece of wood dowel sharpened in a pencil sharpener. Yes, they can be separated if you like.

Here are some of the tools I use for repotting:

The saw with the orange on it is to saw through the root mass. When plants are large, I usually cut off at least the bottom 1/3 - 1/2 of the roots before I start. The stainless steel rake next to the saw is for combing roots out and removing soil. It works very well if the roots aren't too congested. The root hook right of the rake is for stubborn, tangled roots. Pulling it through the roots untangles & straightens them. The white nylon tool and the piece of dowel do the same thing - they remove soil. The white nylon tool is just better at it. It's homemade from a windshield installation glazing stick. The sickle is for cutting stubborn plants from their pots, and the stainless tool that looks a little like pliers is a root cutter, and works very well for large roots. The round brass tool with three heads is a Dramm brand 'Foggit' hose nozzle that sprays fine jets of water under high pressure at 1/2 gal/min. I use it to blast soil off the roots w/o injuring them.

A lot of people are either frightened to repot or think messing with roots is taboo, but repotting is NECESSARY if you want to undo the negative effects of only potting up. Potting up ensures your plants will be limited by tight roots (requires a qualifier) - repotting ensures they won't. The qualifier is, potting up doesn't have negative effects unless you go too long between increases in container size. If you pot up before the root/soil mass can be lifted from the container intact, there is no harm. If, however, you allow your plant to become rootbound beyond the point where roots/soil can be lifted from the container intact, growth and vitality are permanently affected until you get into the root mass and correct the problem.

You don't need all the specialty tools. You can see the things I use & improvise.

You'll hear lots of people tell you that they've had their plants in the same pot or only potted up for X number of years, and usually the plants serve as witness to what folks are telling you. To make a point, not to boast: people are always telling me that my plants look perfect. It's not that difficult. Soil choice is key. W/o a good soil, you're fighting uphill all the way. After that, the rest is easy. A good fertilizer and watering habits, which the soil makes easy, the right light, and regular repots all fit together to do away with practically all the underlying issues that prevent you and your plants from realizing your potential. Toss in an understanding of when to work your plants and when to hold off, and you're golden.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 9:20PM
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Thanks Al, so I can remove all the old soil? (just to understand) If I decide NOT to divide her, do I need to "comb" out the roots still? Or just put her in the new soil the way the roots are.

What made me think of dividing her is I really want the Bonnie w/out the straight leaves. (does that make since?) I have a few starters from the Bonnie and they are not doing too bad considering I did it in the winter. (and I didn't have a clue of what I was doing at the time--lol)

And if I DO decide to divide her, it shouldn't be too hard after getting all the soil off.. should it? (I think my DH would be very upset with me if I did divide her tho. He really likes the way she is now)

Anyway-- I have time to think about it.
Thanks again for the quick reply Al.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 10:37PM
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Marj..how big is your Spider? Have a picture?

About repotting. It's true most plants should not be repotted during winter months, but Spiders are an exception.

Spiders seem to grow 12 months a year. For instance, do your Spiders produce offshoots and flower in winter? Grow new leaves? If so, they're not dormant, therefore, if necessary, can be repotted.

Quoting Jerry Baker, 'Although unofficially, the month of February is Mother Nature's Spring.'

According to James Underwood Crockett, prepare plant supplies, (soils, cleaning containers, etc,) in January.
He then suggests to begin repotting in Feb, but no later than June.

Cleaning roots. Are you planning on changing soils/mixes?

If you intend growing in soils, after Spiders are taken out of containers, remove excess soil, 'if any,' by shaking plants. Most loose soil will fall off roots. Add fresh/new soil around the least amount existing on roots.

It's recommended soil should be wet before repotting, but I disagree. Crumbly soil is easier to work with, doesn't cling to roots, so there's less chance disturbing roots when handling.

If you plan on changing to a soil-less mix, all old soil must be removed.
The best way is by running water via a hose 'outside' through roots, gently lossening old soil. It washes off until roots are soil-free.

Of course, you have DH to contend with, lol. Like your DH, I prefer fuller Spiders...NO duplicates for me, 'usually, lol'. A huge hanging Spider or sitting solo on a stand is a wonderful sight. Especially when shoots hang around mom.

But, opinions differ.

Marj, think I mentioned this before. If I purchased bottled water for each and every plant we'd have to go bankrupt, lol.
Instead, I keep regular tap in old, 'cleaned' milk containers.

Baker suggests using water from humidifers, de-humidifers, rain, dish washer, washing machines and aquariums. The author/tv host conserves anything and everything. He wastes nothing.

Deviding is an easy task, as long as the correct section is cut into.
Like you said, you have months to decide.

You'll figure it out, Marj. Toni

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 1:35PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

M - When you prune roots, the same thing occurs as when you prune branches; that is, it stimulates branching of lots of fine roots behind the pruning cuts. It also offers the opportunity for you to remove or correct roots that were growing long and building the potential to be problems (or already were problems) because they are winding around the outside of the pot or growing back toward the center of the root mass.

I think rather than surmise what might be acceptable or not as it relates to timing of repotting, I'd rather focus on what is better for the plant, and repotting in the summer is simply better. I think anyone who wants to is free to ignore or disregard that fact as they see fit - no problem there, but when it comes to what's better over what's acceptable, summer gets a big nod. Anything you want to do is acceptable, but not everything is better. ;-)

Basically, what you would do is cut the bottom half of the root mass off with a saw or old scissors, bare-root, remove any exceptionally heavy roots (they serve little purpose except as conductive plumbing) or problem roots, then repot into an appropriate soil, using a chopstick to work the new soil in and around the roots. I use the mallet in the picture above to tap the side of the container to help settle the soil around the roots.

Your plants shouldn't be completely dry when you repot, and not wet, either. Soil is more easily removed when it is barely damp. Use a spritzer to keep roots moist as you work with them, or if the soil is coming off easily, simply dip in a tub & use the chopstick or wood dowel to remove old soil.

Never shake the soil from your plants when you're repotting. Doing so leaves your plant vulnerable to several things that can damage your plants when you do this, most of which involves bruising and damage to the roots and stem vasculature.

Whether or not you decide to divide is up to you, but it's not all that large of a trauma. Your plants will pout a while & then lift their heads & take off running. Repotting, as opposed to potting up, has a marked rejuvenating effect on plants because of its effect on the plant's physiology.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 2:34PM
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This is my Spidy-- I don't think she needs a bigger pot, I just wanted new type of soil for her. She looks like she is having a bad hair day.. lol

I was just wanting the Bonnie part alone is all, but I don't think I will do that now. DH was very disappointed when I told him what I was thinking about it. I don't know, she just looks like she needs something is all. What do you think?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 6:26PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I've repotted spider plants MANY times and I can assure you that as long as you leave the juncture between leaves and roots intact, you can remove as much roots as you want. Spider plants grow big, carrot-like roots that fill and cram the pot and if this mass is not removed, water will never penetrate well and the plant has nowhere to grow. Totally agree with Al!

Here's my example... When I repotted mine Saturday, I laid them on the ground and took my shoved and just chopped the bottom 2/3 off, you have to come down hard to get through (to me, not a very strong person). Then I pried my fingers into the mass from the bottom to loosen everything, ripped/cut off the outer 2" of small and large roots, then used a pruner to remove any of the "carrots" that were left. The root mass was about 15-20% the size at the end. It fit back into its' hanging basket with plenty of new soil, just like it did last year. Other plants don't get such gruff treatment from me but spiders absolutely thrive after this and I would swear they are relieved by this spring ritual.

Your plant is beautiful and looks very healthy but I think it could use more light. You could tip it out of its' pot to see if it's just a solid clump of white "carrots". Can't tell if it would be in the way of something if you lowered it a bit/made the chain longer?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 11:22AM
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purpleinopp-- Thanks for saying she looks healthy, I just think she could be a bit happier somehow.

She hangs in front of a bay window-- all the light that comes in this room she gets- lately it hasn't been much cuz of the weather. She can be moved over some, but not much. She is right over the edge of the coutch, so to lower her would not be a good idea for those that sits there-- lol

I don't see any roots out of the holes yet, so I don't think she is root-bound yet. Either way- if I do decide to re-pot her, it will be in Summer, That way I can do it outside. (had snow this morning)I have noticed that the "shoots" are not growing long, they have some babies, but are not getting long like they should. Would re-potting her help that?

I know it would be hard to hurt her much, I just want her to be happy.

Marjie :)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 6:22PM
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