Repotting, killer baskets, potted toads (pics)

Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)July 23, 2012

When a plant isn't doing well under the "right conditions" regarding light, water, temperature, it's almost always an issue with the roots (usually in combination with poor soil that is almost always peat with little else added to increase tilth and moisture/AIR movement.)

Here's a Begonia/Tradescantia combo pot long overdue for repotting (as apparent by the decline in flowering). After trimming off some excess Begonia branches and about half of the length of the Tradescantia, it's ready to investigate inside the pot:

Chopping off the bottom half with a shovel reveals - nothing:

No roots on the inside and evidence of potting up, not repotting:

Here's another Tradescantia still in store-bought basket-bound condition (more about this at the end) from last year, covered with buds that quit opening:

Roots with nowhere to go:

Another case of no roots in the center of the "root ball" which is really a root sphere on this plant:

Compared to the roots of a plant grown in better soil, a cutting from the mama Begonia ('castaway') shown above:

I filled this pot with cuttings about 3 months ago. It really didn't need to be repotted but I wanted to see and show (show & tell?) what's going on in the pot.

The roots are not all on the outside but they don't show up well in this phone pic:

Now when one puts home-made yard pile compost in potted plants, it's necessary to expect some things (critters) to be in the pot sometimes, but it's still kind of creepy and I'm not immune to flailing backwards and screaming like a little girl if something moves and I don't know what it is (and sometimes when I do.) But this little guy or gal really SURPRISED me!

I am so glad he/she wasn't at the level where I chopped with the shovel!

I think I'm forgiven for the disturbance and was rewarded with an introduction.

Then we found a more suitable home in a moist shady corner where I keep a little dish of water for the lizards, where I hope this cute little critter decides to stay and eat as many bugs as his little gut will hold. If he eats ONE mosquito, he's my hero!

Anyway, I'm glad I decided to repot that plant just for demonstration because these chunks were not in the soil, just kind of hovering above, and most still a ways from extending their roots far enough to get to the soil. Amazing, I guess the water from the hose was enough for them (and now I see one of the things that might have disturbed them from how I had them, with at least an end of each in the soil.) Think I'll stick these in the ground where I put the toad since he seems to like it.

Store-bought basket-bound condition... These plastic baskets are plant-killers by design. Not saying that's the intention, but the result is what it is. All water in the ring-around-the-hole is unable to drain from the pot. That plastic thing at the bottom does not keep the roots from making contact with this water, which can cause rot, and takes up space that could be filled with roots/soil. The most critical thing to do is make some holes in the true bottom of the pot. The easiest way for me is to use a sturdy pruner to nip some little triangle holes around the outer rim or the inner rim near the hole.

Then there's no reason not to remove that plastic thing and put more soil. The increased root space combined with better drainage can do wonders especially if it's a plant that has stopped blooming prematurely.

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Thanks so much for taking the time to post these pictures, purple! It should be quite eye opening for those that don't understand the problems associated with a typical fine-textured medium. ANYone can see that there are some real problems with those root/soil systems.

You're a gem.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 9:42AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Nice of you to say. It's sad to read the stories and see the pics of plants that need to be repotted so badly. If roots aren't growing, the foliage can't ether. Adding some fertilizer or changing the atmosphere or watering regime is not going to 'fix' most of these plants. Repotting is so easy to do and nobody needs to be intimidated.

Thought your comment would be in regard to the Fowler's toad. Incidentally, I saw another one hopping across the porch last night about 8:30 pm. ...If you build it they will come... :)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 10:36AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I love the toad! I know what you mean about not liking to be startled by the 'wildlife'. When I lived along the coast in SC (also in zone 8b), staying on guard was always a good idea...just so you wouldn't pee your pants when a frog, toad, spider, skink, or snake would jump out nearby.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 1:33PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

In the first pic above, you can see some new growth starting on a Begonia cane, which has really taken off in the past few days.

There's also another cane that had one new tip showing the other day, and now has two.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 9:08AM
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