Richard's Plant Care Tips: Re-homing your houseplants

Congratulations ! You finally found that special new houseplant that you had been wanting for ages. Now that you have your special plant, it’s time to help it adjust to it’s new home.

In most cases the ornamental houseplants you purchase in Costa Rica were initially grown outdoors. Either they are sold directly from the nursery, or they are grown outdoors at a nursery and sold to a big box retail store. This can add some difficulty to bringing your plants into their new indoor location. Typical problems with plants purchased from nurseries include very poor soil quality, pests, leaf damage, and an overall lack of plant health.

Part of the value of purchasing your plants from a reputable plant boutique, like Plant Revolution, is that most of the work is already done for you. Plants will have been potted using high quality soil mix that provides the correct drainage, aeration and fertilizer. The store will have a selection of plants that are well suited to interior environments and can advise you on the best types of plants for your needs. Plant boutiques will also have a plant care regimen that helps ensure that your plants are pest and disease free, look great and are in good health.

Wherever you get your plants, here are some points to consider when you take your plants home.

Should I repot ?

This decision might have the greatest impact on your plant’s long term health. Whatever you decide, the plant will likely live with it (or in it actually) for many months. Making the right choice will not only help your plant thrive, but it will also mean less work later on. A properly potted plant can usually be left for 1-2 years before needing to be repotted again. A plant that is in the wrong size pot or in poor quality soil will often need to be repotted much sooner. The plant might also need additional care: that can mean more frequent watering, additional pest control, more frequent fertilization, and a host of other gardening work.

The first thing to look at when making your decision is to check the soil your plant came in. Unfortunately, far too many nurseries and even big box stores selling plants are using soil that is very poor quality. Often the soil has very poor drainage and has a lot of muck, clay, random plant and wood debris, and smells like something like gym bag filled with old, wet socks. Even though it’s not ideal, we do find plants more tolerant of this type of soil outdoors, where the heat helps to dry out even soil with very poor drainage and aeration. Bringing plants indoors is an entirely different matter, and we find It’s almost always worth repotting with a high quality potting soil in these cases. It will lower the chance that your plant will have root diseases, pests, and will generally result in better plant health due to the added aeration, drainage, and fertilizer that a good quality potting mix provides.

Treating your new plants for pests

Hopefully you inspected your new plant to ensure it had no signs of pests before you bought it. Even so, new plants often harbour hidden pests that can affect plant health. Worse still, these pests can easily spread to your other plants. It’s a good idea to have a treatment program for all new plants you bring into your home.

If possible, having a spot you can initially put your plant that is away from any other plants in your home. Keep your plant here until you have a chance to thoroughly review and treat the plant for pests. Take a very close look for any signs of bugs, especially under the leaves and in the crevices along stems and leaves. It’s also a good idea to trim off any dead, dying or damaged leaves, and generally clean up the plant at this time. If you discover any pests, do an initial treatment to remove as many of the pests as possible, and start a regular treatment program. We typically use a mixture of alcohol and water on a cotton swab to wipe off any visible bug infestations, then spray with a mixture of water, insecticidal soap and neem oil. If there are no visible signs of pests, it is still a good idea to spray most plants with an insecticidal treatment, as there are often bugs or eggs that can’t be seen and that might cause problems in the coming days. Bring your new plant in with the rest of your plants only after any issues with bugs have been resolved. It is a good idea to have a weekly bug inspection and treatment plan in place for all your plants.

Helping your plant adjust

Plants coming into your home from another location might need some help adjusting to their new environment. Make sure you are choosing a location that meets the light, heat and humidity requirements for your plant. If the conditions in the location where you want to place the plant is significantly different than where it has been growing previously, you might want to help the plant adjust. If your plant is struggling early on, and you have repotted and checked for pests, consider whether it is suffering from drastic changes in light, heat, or humidity. You may wish to ease the transition by giving your plant a few hours weekly on a patio, or windowsill so that it gets some of the direct light, heat and high humidity it has grown accustomed to. Over time you can slowly reduce the outdoor time, until the plant is completely adapted to it’s new location indoors.

Hopefully this helps you with the basics of bringing a new plant into your home. If you have any questions, let us know! We are happy to help with plant care questions.

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