By the middle of August, or the first of September, the plants will require to be re-potted; this must be done with care and judgment. The following directions are minute and to the point:
To ascertain if a plant wants fresh potting, turn it carefully out of the pot, with the earth attached to it, and examine the roots. If they are matted about the sides and bottom of the ball, the plant evidently requires fresh potting. Then carefully reduce the ball of earth, to about a third of its original bulk; single out the matted roots,, and trim away all that are mouldy and decayed. Probably the same pot may then be large enough, but, if it requires a larger one, it should be about two inches broader for a middle-sized plant; three or four for a large plant. If the roots are not matted, but ,the pots are filled with fibres, keep the ball entire and carefully plant it in a larger pot. At the top of a large pot, an inch, and of a small one, half an inch, should be left for the reception of water, without danger of overflow. A little gravel, charcoal, or pieces of broken pots should always be placed at the bottom for drainage.
A plant newly potted must never be exposed to a strong sun. It should be watered and placed in the shade immediately, and there remain till it is rooted, which may be known by its starting to grow.
Plants are frequently destroyed by re-potting, merely from the careless manner in which it is done. "Where the roots spread, plenty of room should be left open, a little hillock made in the centre of the pot, and the plant being placed thereon, the roots should be distributed around it in a regular manner, observing that they are not twisted or turned up at the ends. The earth should then be filled in, a little at a time, and the pot gently shaken to settle the earth to the roots all the way down. When filled, it should be pressed down with the hand. It is very common to fill in the earth at once, and press it hard down, which not only wounds the tender fibres, but often leaves a hollow space around the lower roots, and deprives them of their proper nourishment. But the thing most necessary to be observed is, that the roots be allowed their natural course.
All plants should be kept clear of weeds, not for neatness alone, but because these exhaust the nutriment which should feed the plant.
The best water for plants is undoubtedly rain water; if this cannot be obtained, river water will do, pond water is not so good; but worst of all is hard spring water. In winter, and for delicate plants, even in summer, water should be placed in the sun until it becomes tepid before it is used.
The water should never be allowed to remain in the pan under the pot, as it tends to rot the roots. It may be well to observe that plants should be watered with a rose on the spout of a watering pot, and the more finely it is perforated the better, so as to sprinkle the water lightly over the flowers and leaves, without bending them down with its weight.
Many persons think it sufficient to water the roots, which is a great mistake. It materially contributes to its health and beauty to sprinkle the whole plant:
- "Comforting the garden, woods, and flowers
With the cool spray of artificial showers." - Garcilasso.
Of such plants as are succulent, it is generally advised to water the leaves but seldom, lest a redundancy of moisture should rot them. The best way in watering all plants, is rather to cast the water at, than to pour it on them, as it falls more lightly. It will be observed that more water, as well as more shelter, must be necessary for potted plants than for those in the open ground.
Flowers must not be denied the light, towards which they naturally turn; the want of it will injure their health as much as the want of water, air, or warmth.
They must also be allowed air, even those that will not bear the outer air must have the air of the room frequently freshened by ventilation, to preserve them in health. Care should be taken not to let plants stand in a draught, for, when so situated, one strong gust of an easterly wind will often prove sufficient to destroy them.