what should i repot my ficus elastica robusta teneke in?!

pinkgnome412(6)December 31, 2013

In a previous post I was desperately looking for this gorgeous plant and somehow fatefully stumbled upon one in a dark cold clearance corner of Walmart. So I saved it. I have it sitting in a south facing window right now, as you can see in the picture. I want to repot it. I've researched everything everyone has said about the soil this plant should be in on here.

Basically, I have a succulent soil mix, an african violet mix, and an orchid mix which is super chunky and full of bark. I'm trying to use what I have. What's my best option?

Thanks for your help!!

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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Can you say why you want to repot it now? Personally I would leave it in peace until it had got used to your home conditions and you had found the optimum place for it. Plenty of time to disturb it when spring arrives and you can put it outside. Many posters here like to repot new purchases immediately they get them home but I've never really understood why it is so urgent.

Your 'plant' looks like several individual rooted cuttings. Maybe you want to separate them? If not I'd give them a break before disturbing them.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 5:33PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You COULD pot up right now if the plant needs it desperately, but I'd wait to repot until around this coming Father's Day. Plants recover fastest and are less susceptible to disease and insect infestations if you repot when they are in the month before their most vigorous growth period. It just makes sense to work in harmony with your plants instead of subjecting them to stress unnecessarily, so be patient. ;-)

Your soil should be one that you can water copiously at will - so that at least 15-20% of the total volume of water applied exits the drain hole(s), more would be better as the extra water carries accumulating salts from fertilizer and tap water with it as it exits the pot. This means that it should have a high % of chunky material. Soils based on a high % of fine ingredients like peat, coir, compost, sand ...... are almost certainly going to be too water retentive to allow you to water properly. A healthy plant is impossible w/o a healthy root system, and much more difficult to achieve when your soil is working against you. Making sure your plants are in a good soil is probably a larger factor in how well your plant does than any other factors, most of which are more readily changed (like light exposure, temperature, nutrition ......).

Al

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 6:04PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Al gives great advice :-)

Of the potential mixes that you listed, I'm most interested in the "Orchid Mix" - specifically, *how chunky* is that bark? That's the question. If the bark is not too large, then you could add rinsed Perlite and a pinch of the AV soil to arrive at a mix very close to what Is called the 5-1-1. Post a pic of the "Orchid Mix" with a coin for size reference, and we can brainstorm about mixes until the time is right for re-potting.

Josh

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 1:21PM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

Do let me mention that that plants doesnt seem like it is potbound... I think it will do fine without repotting until when tapla said

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 4:37PM
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pinkgnome412(6)

Thank you for the feedback!! There's a pic of the orchid mix, Josh. I hope it's visible enough. I put a penny in the middle of it.

Every plant I've bought from Walmart, Home Depot, or Lowe's is always in this densely packed fluff stuff, I guess it's seed starting stuff? I don't know. But I feel like by the time the plant has come to me, it's sucked all it can out of that stuff and won't get anywhere unless I get that fluff stuff out of there and give it something healthy and nutritious to live in. And every time I repot a plant, it immediately shows improvement. Then again, I've only been avidly doing this for two or three years and I've made MAAAANY mistakes thus far. Even now, I'm learning that most of what I knew about soil is wrong. I use the succulent mix like crazy because I thought it was fast draining, but apparently sand doesn't help with draining? I was shocked when I bought my first orchid and replanted it in that orchid mix. I couldn't see how a plant could get any nutrients from such chunky pieces.

But even with all these mistakes, I have yet to lose a plant. They're all growing and happy, so I must be doing something right.

In the meantime, I've resisted the urge to mess with my new baby until you guys can fill me in on all your wisdom. I have it in a south facing window and I've misted the soil every other day. The leaves already feel better!

So anyway... I appreciate everyone's input and time on this. I just felt I had to explain my desperate desire to do something. I'm going a little stir crazy in the dead of winter!!!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 5:36PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Whatever the mix your plant is currently in it is unlikely to be a seed starting medium. These plants were started from cuttings, not seed, so the grower will have first used a mix suitable for starting cuttings and then, if transplanted, one for keeping the plant fed for a few months so it looks good while on display. I don't think the mix will be exhausted for a while yet.

You have at least 3 Ficus in that pot so you can decide whether to grow them as a clump or as separate plants. Maybe you could do an experiment with different mixes if you are curious?

Regarding misting, I would water the plants thoroughly occasionally rather than misting the soil surface frequently. That could encourage moulds and disease whilst not giving the roots sufficient moisture.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 5:20AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Now that I see the size of the bark, I can tell you that it is much too large unfortunately. The pieces of bark would need to be about half the size of the penny. Thanks for taking the pic.

Josh

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 10:42AM
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pinkgnome412(6)

So I've been reading all the threads about the gritty mix, and started researching where the stuff is available around here. My home depot has something called MINI bark Pine nuggets. I haven't seen them in person but maybe I'll play with those? I haven't found a source for the crushed granite yet though. I'll keep researching!! I'm intrigued now!!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 12:34PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Yes, check the size of the pine bark. Hopefully it'll be a good size.

Josh

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 1:02PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

PG - If you let us know where you live, or a large city you're near, we might be able to help you find what you need.

Some helpful (hopefully) observations. If you think about your soil in terms of structure/aeration/drainage, and take responsibility for providing for the plant nutritionally, instead of relying on the soil to provide, it will be a lot easier in the long run. Let the soil provide a healthy home for the root system while you, through a good fertilizer program, provide the nutrients. If you want to explore why this approach is a particularly good one, just strike up a conversation.

Vigor is a genetic trait that speaks more to the plant's potential. Vitality is a measure of how well the plant is coping with the hand it is dealt, culturally speaking. Poor vitality limits a plant's ability to grow to its genetic potential. When you repot a plant and it suddenly starts growing better, what has happened is, you've eliminated or reduced the effects of a limiting factor. In most cases, it's tight roots, so let's use that as an example. Tight roots limit growth and vitality. When you repot or pot up, you reduce or eliminate the limiting effects of tight roots. Most growers would call the subsequent increase in growth a 'growth spurt'. In reality, by reducing the limiting effects of tight roots, you've allowed the plant to grow a little closer to its genetic potential, which is actually what we should consider to be normal growth.

Did you do something right? Yes, you did. Now though, you can put that knowledge to work by using it to figure out how to make sure your plants are always growing at a rate you once might have considered to be a spurt.

Al

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 3:46PM
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pinkgnome412(6)

Al! I truly appreciate the time you're taking on this. I just read your post on soil and water retention, how plant growth is limited, and dealing with water retentive soils. I live in South Jersey. My Lowe's carries the peat and perlite, and the Petsmart carries the Repti Bark. The "mini" bark nuggets I previously mentioned aren't actually at the store, so I don't want to risk ordering them and have them be too big. The only thing I haven't found yet is the lime or gypsum. Can I leave that out if I plan to fertilize in other ways? (That's my next research topic!)

This is exciting, I feel like I understand all this, although it's just a tad depressing because i feel like I'm starting all over, haha.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 5:44PM
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