From the Digest

‘Live’ March Meeting Features Repotting

A former commercial flower grower, Mike Hellmann reviewed plant potting basics and offered handy tips, as well.

(March 2022)
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After a two-year hiatus, in-person HSCSS club meetings resumed in March with members Mike Hellmann and Don Lesmeister sharing the basics of succulent repotting with a live audience of 30. Dozens more watched via Zoom.

“The job goes much smoother with the right tools,” Hellmann said early in the repotting program. Equip yourself with kitchen tongs, tweezers, a spoon, a pick, sharp pruners and brushes, he said. Add a dowel for tamping and a spray bottle to keep things moist.

Hellmann started the demo with a small fockea that was outgrowing its pot. Since roots extended out its bottom, the plasic pot had to be cut off. A larger pot was selected, with the plant – which forms a sizable caudex – placed in a somewhat horizontal position to encourage the caudex to form a coil shape over time. Be sure not to raise a caudex more than a third of its volume at a time, he said.

Two euphorbias, two gasterias and a clumping cactus were also repotted for various reasons, including the need for more growing space or replacement with a more decorative pot. Two of the succulents were raised to highlight plant form.

Steps for Repotting Succulents

  • Remove plant from original pot and gently remove excess soil from roots.
  • If needed, lightly trim old, dried roots, but leave small, newer roots intact.
  • Cover hole or holes in bottom of new pot with clay shards, screen or a coffee filter.
  • Add some moist media and carefully position the plant before filling in the pot volume with additional soil.
  • Lightly tamp soil to fill in subsurface voids.
  • For spindly plants, add a small rock or two for support.
  • Add top dressing – and don’t forget the plant label!
Hellmann set a fockea on its side to encourage coiled caudex growth. Plastic pots are OK, too!

Larger containers tend to encourage plant growth, Hellmann said. With highly porous soil, plastic pots can work as well as clay ones, especially for young plants that may need further transplanting. For handling prickly cacti, use heavy gloves, folded newspaper or other material to avoid personal damage.

Members were reminded that repotting is a stressful experience for plants. Hellmann’s advice: Don’t repot and prune at the same time, and wait a few days before lightly watering. In addition, don’t fertilize until new plant growth is clearly apparent.

As with other aspects of the succulent hobby, each grower’s repotting needs, methods and conditions are unique. It’s OK to stray from the basic procedures. “If it works for you, keep on your game plan,” Hellmann said.

(* Thanks again to Jerry Jost for supplying a place to meet. The 8195 building in Overland is huge and will be even better as renovations proceed.)