This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
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The Garden* in discussing lately the best season for transplanting house plants, says, it is when the plants are about to pass from a state of rest into a condition of fresh growth, that is, early in spring. Another favorable time is at the end of the first growth in spring, and before the plants (as is the case with many evergreens, such as Camellias, Azaleas, etc.) commence to form the buds for the following year. Transplanting at the time when the plant is in full growth should be avoided, as it disturbs the growth of the plant, and the young shoots are frequently injured, and sometimes quite destroyed. It is only to be recommended when individual 'The Horticulturist and Journal specimens of speedy growth are grown for exhibition, and for this purpose are transplanted several times in the course of the summer. Transplanting in autumn is especially to be avoided in the case of room plants, as the new soil does not become filled with roots during the winter, and consequently, becomes sour and spoiled; and, if not watered with great care the plants will become sickly, or perish completely. There are a few exceptions to this; as, for instance, bulbous plants, which are kept dry late in summer, and are intended for winter blooming, and some other plants which are to be forced in winter.
We would especially remark that the result of forcing will be so much the more certain, the earlier this transplanting takes place, in autumn or late summer.
In the common practice of a transplanting, fine, healthy specimes are sought to be raised in pots which are proportionately not too large. Plants which have their ball only so far filled with roots that a few small ones reach the side of the pot, should not be transplanted so long as these roots are healthy, and the soil of the. ball is fresh and does not give out a sour smell; which, as we have seen before, is the result of an unhealthy and injurious condition.
Where the soil is spoiled, or the young roots are unhealthy, or, as is frequently the case in good culture, the entire ball becomes so full of roots that it seems to be thickly covered with threads, the plants should be transplanted. Therefore, before proceeding to transplant, the condition of the ball should be examined. This should be done very carefully, so that in case no change is necessary, the ball may be replaced in the pot without injury. With small plants this examination is best effected in the following manner: The left hand is spread over the top of the pot, allowing the stem of the plant to come between the fingers. The pot is then taken in the right hand and reversed. The edge is then carefully struck against the corner of a table or board, so as to loosen the pot from the ball; the pot is then lifted off and the ball examined. In the case of larger plants, the soil is first of all allowed to become somewhat dry, then the plant is seized by the lower part of the stem and lifted along with the pot. The pot is gently struck on the rim with the hand or a piece of wood, and so carefully separated from plant.
When a ball filled with roots will not readily separate from the pot, a knife should be passed round the edge as deep as it will go; this will greatly facilitate the operation.
Lastly, plants in large wooden tubs or boxes should only be transplanted when an examination of the ball from above shows that transplanting is absolutely necessary. The vessels are removed either by taking off the hoops of the tubs, or by taking the boxes to pieces, or else by first passing a long knife round the ball to loosen it, and then turning the vessel on its side and carefully drawing out the plant. After the ball has been carefully removed it should be reduced in size, by removing the spoiled and exhausted soil, in order to give the plant as much fresh, good, soil as possible, without having to place it in too large a pot or other vessel, which, especially in room-eulture, would be very inconvenient. For this purpose the earth round the ball is loosened by means of a sharp-pointed stick, and is shaken out from the roots, so that the ball may be rounded above and below, and its diameter reduced to three-fourths or two-thirds of its former size. If there is an underlayer of potsherds, etc., it must be entirely removed. The boards should then be trimmed round with a sharp knife. In sickly plants the roots will be more or less decayed in parts. These parts must be cut back until sound wood is reached.
The roots of healthy plants should not be cut when the plant is in a state of active growth; in which condition, or when it is known that the plant will be injured by a severe root-pruning, it will be sufficient to take away some of the upper soil to remove the layer potsherds, to loosen the surface of the ball, and to trim a few of the longest roots a little.
In planting, a pot should be selected so large that, according to the strong or feeble root-forming powers of the plant, there may be round the ball a layer of fresh earth from one-third of an inch to one inch thick. A piece of potsherd, arched in shape, should then be placed over the drainage-hole, so as to cover it well above, but leaving space at the sides for the flow of water. Then should follow a layer of broken potsherds from half an inch to one inch thick, and over this a thin layer of moss to prevent the soil being carried among the sherds. Instead of the layer of potsherds, a layer of moss or of coarse sand may be used, or some of the coarse fibrous tufts which remain in the sieve when soil is sifted. Attention in providing good drainage will be always repaid by the healthy condition of the plants which it secures, especially if they are sometimes carelessly and immoderately watered. After the drainage layer has been put in, just so much soil should be placed upon it that when the ball is laid in, the uppermost roots will be from about one-third of an inch to an inch below the top of the rim of the pot, so that when the soil is filled in, there may be sufficient space left to. retain the water in watering.
The ball being so placed that, the plant may stand exactly in the center of the pot, the soil should then be filled in. This should be dry, so that when closely pressed it will not become cloddy. During the gradual filling in of the soil, the pot should be repeatedly shaken, so that the soil may be evenly settled all round. In small pots it will be sufficient after the soil is filled in to press it down close with the thumb. In pots more than five inches high, especially when' the space between the pot and the ball is only limited, the soil should be pressed in during the process of filling in, with a flat, blunt piece of wood, so that it lies evenly in all parts. When the soil is moist and stiff it should not be pressed so closely. The common rule is that a well-potted plant, if the pot is not disproportionately large, may be lifted up by the stem along with the pot without the pot falling off. This experiment should not be tried with weak plants, as they could not sustain the weight of the pot and would break of especially if the soil was stiff and moist and the pot rather heavy.
After filling it with just so much soil that the upper roots will be covered, it is to be pressed round the rim of the pot, so that the flow of the water may be directed towards the ball, and not pass through without wetting it thoroughly. When it is desired to raise strong specimens quickly, the roots of the plants should not be trimmed more in transplanting than will allow them to draw sufficient nutriment from the soil in the pot for a strong growth. Two modes of treatment are in use, viz.: a single transplanting, and transplanting several times. Single transplanting in pot culture is similar to that practiced in open air culture. It is generally employed in the case of young healthy plants of quick growth, which have not been long raised from seeds or cuttings. When they are transplanted in spring, they are put into pots from twice to four times the diameter of those in which they have previously grown. The old ball is not disturbed, only the roots which come through it are loosened and spread out in the fresh soil, which should not be pressed down so closely as in ordinary transplanting, as it will be quite sufficient to shake the pot frequently and then press the soil down gently with the thumb.
A deep layer of potsherds and moss for drainage, is, in this case (where at the same time a great deal of nutriment is given, and the soil, changed only once in the year), very conductive to successful results.
Ammonia for Verbenas* - Sulphate of ammonia is an excellent manurial liquid to apply to verbenas and other flowers, giving to the foliage a dark green, luxuriant and healthy appearance. It is economical, clean and easily applied. Prepare it in the evening before using, by dissolving one ounce of ammonia in two gallons of water. It may be applied with safety about once a week.