Repotting Mr. Ficus

ficus repottedWe own a ficus tree that’s a hand-me-down from a neighbor. She bought it in grad school and when she unloaded it on us a few years after we moved in, it was outgrowing its ceramic pot. I bought a much larger one, also ceramic. The one drawback was its weight (I admit I could barely lift it empty — these were the days before resin pots were everywhere). The plant thrived in the extra space, though, and we developed a routine for getting it out on the deck in May and back inside in October. We even got the point where it didn’t lose most of its leaves over the winter.

But it was getting cramped again. The roots were taking up so much space that you were never sure how much water got below the soil line. So time to repot.

This time I got a resin pot. That was the easy part. Getting a tree that’s taller than me out of the old pot was a bigger challenge. We took a knife around the edge of the pot, but that didn’t do much. So we rolled the pot down some planks onto the grass and started loosening up the soil on top. Tugging at the plant still didn’t do much. We rocked and shook the pot. Some movement. More loosening. More rocking, using the slope of our backyard and gravity to help us. Finally it came out!

What a rootball!

ficus rootballThen I followed the directions of a video and gave the rootball a haircut — down the sides and along the bottom. That should help it spread out. (The trowel gives you a sense of the haircut — it is shorter than the pot the plant had been in.)

ficus after haircutThen we put it in the new pot. OK, we used garden soil (infused with Miracle Grow) instead of potting soil, and we didn’t have any vermiculite or perlite handy to loosen it up. So maybe it is heavier than it needs to be. But as long as the ficus tree is happy….

I just don’t want it to shoot up so much that it is scraping the ceiling this winter.



One Into Eight

Part of our fall clean-up means bringing in the plants that spent the summer thriving on the deck. That means, among other things the ficus tree that is on loan from a neighbor with no room and that we moved a few years ago from a cramped pot into a the heavy, giant ceramic pot — and that we can now barely lift.
We also had four pots of clivias on the deck. These are native to South Africa, like shade and occasionally bloom beautiful salmon flowers. (They also like very little water in the winter, when they are indoors.) Several years ago, a sister gave me a jam-packed pot of them that she’d inherited from a friend, and we needed a knife to get them out and break them apart into separate pots. But we left a lot in one pot, and now it was that container’s turn to be nearly as full.

Fall may not be the best time to divide plants, but we felt we had little choice. I’d thought about doing it this past spring, but several plants looked ready to bloom (just like one might be now). Plus, I think we’d divided them in the fall years before, and they seemed to do just fine.

So out came the knife, and we filled seven nothing-fancy black plastic containers we had lying around in the garage with a plant or two, plus a lot of compost mixed into the soil. We kept three for in the original container.
And yes, a few still need homes!
Eight Clivia containers