How to look after your mail order plants

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A handy reference of how to look after your new plants purchased on eBay. What to do when your plants arrive through the post, how to choose the right pot to plant them in, and how to select the right soil to pot them in. All our plants are soaked in seaweed and very carefully packaged to ensure they arrive in optimum health, and this guide will help you keep them as healthy as when they arrived. 

On arrival

All our plants are sent via express post, to ensure the fastest delivery possible. It is always our aim to have plants in transport as little as possible, and it is very important to unpack your plants as soon as possible when your plants arrive. Please remember to take pictures if the parcel looks damaged, or items are not in satisfactory conditions before unpacking! We soak all plants in Seaweed solution before sending to reduce transport stress. Unpack your plants carefully, and soak them immediately in seaweed solution. Seaweed solution has many uses as outlined below:

-         Seaweed stimulates root development

-         Seaweed reduces transplant stress

-         Seaweed enhances flowering & fruiting

-         Seaweed increases resistance to heat, drought, frost, pests & disease

Due to the fact that Seaweed Solution is not a nitrogen based fertiliser, it is safe to use on all plants. Soak your plants for a few hours or overnight. We do however recommend you do NOT soak succulents, cycads and caudex plants for any longer than 30 minutes. We have various seaweed solutions, including Seasol available for purchase.

Once your plants had a good soak, it is time to choose an appropriate pot size. Choose a pot as small as possible. It is a common misperception to plant plants in a huge pot, thinking plants will grow quicker because they have a bigger pot. The truth in fact is totally the opposite. Plants need oxygen in the soil, and big pots make it harder for soil to dry out. Without drying out, soil becomes logged and oxygen is destroyed. Roots will not develop properly and the plant will stay too wet, being a major cause of root rot, and possibly plant death.

Choosing a pot

Small seedlings, with a small root system should go in a 50mm tube pot. Small seedlings with a big root system or big taproot, such as most cycads and some palms (common for palms like Triangle Palms, Bismarck Palms, Dypsis Fakey, Latan Palms) could not possible fit into 50mm tubes. These types of plants are potted into tubes called ‘native tubes’ which are very tall, but still only 70mm wide. We can help you get some of these tubes if needed. Another option would be to use a pot called a ‘SuperSaver’, 4” diameter, but much taller than a standard 4” pot. Bigger plants, or plants with big root systems will need a bigger pot, choose a pot which will fit roots comfortably without squashing, and without excess room. Some plants, such as succulents or cacti, would be good in a terracotta pot. Terracotta is porous (unless it is treated with a waterproofing compound) and will allow these plants to dry out quicker and easier.

Soils and potting mix

Always choose a well draining mix. For potted plants, the easiest (and often the best) soil are premium potting mixes, available from hardware stores & garden centres. Read the back of the bag to ensure it is suitable for your plant, and check whether the potting mix incorporates fertilisers and soil improvers, or whether you will need to add these yourself. Specific potting mixes, such as ‘cacti and succulent mix’, ‘orchid mix’, or ‘Azalea mix’ are the easiest to use, and these potting mixes ensure you will get the right mix for your plant. It is always a good idea to add some for of soil improver. In our store you will find a product called ‘BioBrew Soil’, which encourages soil activity and insect numbers (such as earthworms), increasing available nutrients & oxygen for the roots. Things like Seaweed Solution, Dynamic Lifter, Organic Xtra etc. are also excellent to mix in with the soil. Be sure to read the packaging for the right amount of solution or fertiliser.

Some plants, such as Azalea, Gardenia & Camellia, prefer a more acidic soil than other plants. These plants will need a specific potting mix, or you will need to adjust the Ph of the potting mix to suit these plants. Sweet soils can kill these plants, or will impair their growth.

It is vital to water your plants in well. If you do none of the other things, please do this one, it is THE most important thing about potted plants. Without proper watering in, the soil or potting mix will have air pockets, causing roots to die back, or die completely. Water in well, then leave to dry out to let the soil create oxygen for the roots, then water regularly to suit the plant.

If you are planting straight into the ground, be sure to prepare the planting site well. Dig your hole much bigger than the plant’s root system, and dig through lots of organic matter such as Blood & Bone, Manure, some people even use dog food. If you are lucky enough to have a compost pile, this would be the time to use some! Please do check the Ph of your compost – last time I checked ours the Ph was 3, which is not beneficial at all to any plant! If it is fairly neutral, or slightly acidic, it would be great to dig some through the soil at the bottom of the hole, and the soil which is used for back-filling the hole. We always soak the hole with water to make water penetration easier once the plant is planted. Press soil on firmly without being rough, and water in well once again. Fertilise around the base of the plant, but do keep it at least 10cm away from the base to avoid trunk rot. Mulching is always good in the conditions we’re dealing with in Australia, but it is absolutely necessary in areas of drought, areas on water restrictions, or areas without much natural rainfall. It will keep the soil moist, and directs water to the roots without run off. In hot parts of the country, mulching is necessary to keep soil & roots cool, in cold areas it is used to keep roots warm. It works as a natural insulator, and while the mulch composts, it provides nutrients for the plant as well.

Watering

Watering is one of the things most people worry about. If you follow our instructions on pot size above, your plants will be a lot more forgiving than they used to be. All plants prefer a soil which is well draining and free flowing, and pots of the right size will allow the soil to do so. A good rule of thumb is to water when the top inch of soil is dry, in summer this may be every day, in winter this may be no more than once every 2 weeks. Plants in pots will need to be watered more frequently than plants in the garden. Our plants in 50mm tubes are water daily in summer, every 2 days in winter. Due to the pots being so small, overwatering is not an issue. Plants dry out quickly, and quickly establish root systems whilst having adequate watering applied. Plants in standard 4” pots are watered every 2-3 days in summer, once every 4-5 days in winter. Plants in bigger pots generally fend for themselves, but during dry times they get additional watering. Some plants, such as bamboo, some palms and things like Azalea, Orchids or Medinilla’s, appreciate being fairly moist at all times, and will grow much quicker when watered regularly. Once they are ready to go into the ground however, most are able to completely look after themselves with just natural rainfall.

When you water, water well. Most plants do not appreciate always being wet and receiving little amounts of water often. It’s best to water well, leave the plant to dry out and a big, and water well again. Some plants that like high humidity are different, they prefer being wet most of the time, and they will also benefit from regular misting to increase humidity.

Many helpful products are available to increase water retention and stop water runoff, such as water crystals and soil wetter. More information on these products is available in the listings for these products in our store. 

Position

It is very important to read as much information on the plant you purchased as you can. We have a lot of growing information available on our website or you can click on ‘grow notes’ on our about me page. When you receive your plants, you will need to adjust them to the position where they are to grow eventually. If your palm is to grow in full sun, you cannot place it in full sun immediately, especially not with seedlings. Seedlings are best grown in a shady, brightly lit position until they have established themselves in their new pot. Once they have, you can slowly adjust them to full sun. Take them out into the sun for an hour or so a day, and slowly increase until they are completely sun hardy. Obviously, some plants are not suited to growing in full sun, and these can be established in their pots and planted out immediately afterwards. You will need to think carefully about the position for your plant, make sure you know exactly how big the plant can grow, whether roots are invasive or not, whether it needs shade or full sun, does it need acidic soil, how much water does it need etc. As you may have recently seen on ‘Better Homes and Gardens’, someone planted a nice little pot plant along a fence, and before they knew it the ‘little pot plant’ was 8m tall and going strong. This was a Ficus, which is known to be a great house plant, but can reach up to 50m tall in the garden! This is just an example, but it really pays to look into it, as removing a tree of that size can cost a lot, and you are left with an empty spot in the garden which may take years to fill.

Indoor plants

We have some plants that are great as indoor plants. Place these plants in a brightly lit position, under a Skylight or close to a window is great. Check whether the plant can handle air conditioning if your house is air conditioned, and keep it away from draughty winds. Air can be very dry inside, so keep an eye out the plant, water it when needed, and mist it regularly if it likes humidity. You will need to wipe the foliage free of dust every week or so, with a damp cloth. I take my house plants outside regularly for a little TLC, they get a hose off and an application with liquid fertiliser every two weeks. Liquid fertiliser are great for indoor plants, it’s easy to apply and feeds through foliage as well as soil. We have a few liquid fertilisers in our store, be sure to check them out.

If you have suggestions on things to add to this page, or you have a specific question, please contact us through eBay, or our website. We always appreciate your feedback.

Thank you for your interest & kind regards:

Dan & El – National Tropical Plants (Formerly Cactus Island Nursery)

Plant your own Paradise!

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