Transplanting by Plant Personality Type and Needs

when to transplant a jalapeno

Transplanting jalapeno,
an impatient hothead

Transplanting a plant should be an easy exercise. If it’s too big for the pot it’s in, it needs a new pot. Right? It’s not like the plant is going to care. Right..?

Well, yes and no. For instance, I spent this afternoon transplanting the jalapeno from a little peat pot starter into a larger pot, even though it was still not all that big compared to its starter pot. BUT —and here’s where the fun happens— when it started growing, it was smack dab up against the edge of the peat pot, and it was way too small to move without risk. So I waited, for nearly a month as it turns out, until it had gotten a good enough foothold to be able to withstand the move. But transplanting the jalapeno meant learning what sort of a plant personality I was facing.

Transplanting the Drama Queen

Plants will mess with you. Some transplanted plants are Drama Queens, screaming their fool heads off about how terrible you are as a steward and how you abuse them at every turn. Threatening to alert the authorities, call the neighbors, raise a ruckus. Then the next day they’re all comfy and happy and settling in.

Transplant in the morning while it’s still sleepy, and maybe you’ll get the task done before it starts to panic.

Transplanting the Stoic

Then there’s the Stoic. Go for it. No, no anesthetic. I can take it. Just give me a log to bite down on and —(muffled) AARGH. No, nothing. Just a scratch. A shot of whiskey would be good. Thanks, dude.

REAL Transplanting Guide

  • Water the day before.
  • Transplant when cool or overcast.
  • Water just before digging up or taking out of its pot. Soak the root ball.
  • Water the hole here the plant is going.
  • Place plant into hole and fill halfway with water. Wait while it settles the soil.
  • Firm up the soil around the plant.
  • Water the whole plant.
  • Shield from direct sun (3-5 days).

When you’re not looking, the Stoic one faints dead away. Act fast before it wakes up.

Transplanting the Collaborator

There’s the Collaborator. All full of opinions and guidance. No, not that one. Too small. That one’s a mite wide. No, let’s go with terra cotta; gray just doesn’t do a think for my eyes. Mulch and a handful of —YES, that soil, that soil. No, not that one. That’s got that bleach odor to it. Well, ok. Yes, I can live with — wait! What about that one in the corner? Four days later it wants to move again.

Distract it and transplant based on your own logic.

Transplanting the Diva

There is never a good time to transplant the Diva. You are, after all, interrupting her routine and insulting her previous choice of pots by insisting on this gauche process. I mean, goodness. They certainly don’t make us do this sort of thing in Bel Air. Come now. Let’s get it over. I have a mani-pedi at 11 and tennis with Giorgio at 2. Oh for GAWD’s sake put down a tarp. That’s a 19th Century Kurdistan Herati!

Aim for late afternoon, and before the dinner party starts. She’ll want time to change.

Transplanting the Hothead

You might as well transplant this at high noon on a hot sidewalk or at midnight by the light of the New Moon; it’s going to want you to hurry no matter what. The jalapeno started yammering the moment I took it away from its nice warm perch in the growing room window, and didn’t stop until I got its roots firmly buried in a brand new 8″ self-watering pot worthy of a plant ten times its size.  Done yet? Done yet? Done yet? Oh for Pete’s sake are you done yet? You’re slowing me UP. I gotta GO. I gotta MOVE. C’MONNNN!

Aim for a nice quiet afternoon, with earplugs in place when you start.

Bottom Line

There are going to be some plants that were born mad, who don’t want to be pleased, don’t want to be happy, and don’t want to be transplanted smoothly no matter how careful you are. Work calmly and confidently, and don’t stop to pick a fight.




Here’s why you never want to try to save money on potting soil

happy staghorn sumac in his or her new pot

Staghorn sumac twin in his (her?) new 5″ pot, stretching out and sighing happily

Yesterday the message about selecting nice, clean, evenly textured potting mix hit home in a big way.

I’d noticed that, after sprouting and shooting up a couple of inches, the staghorn sumac twins had essentially stopped growing. I tried more water, less water, fertilizer-laden water, a drop or two of tea with lemon – nothing seemed to convince either of them to gain an inch.

I thought perhaps they’d sprouted too close together, but aside from the lack of vertical growth, they seemed rather happy with their arms wrapped around each other. And who was I to separate fraternal twins?

Well, as it turns out, I should have separated them sooner, performing the surgery which would save them both – and although I waited (who knows why), it was the right thing to do.

Each of the staghorn sumac twins is in his (her?) own little 5″ pot with completely new potting soil. In that potting soil you will not find chunks, clumps, big flats of bark, inch-wide bits of branch. All you’ll find is clean, evenly sized, well-moistened Miracle Gro!

When I took the twins out of their former pot – a peat starter shell – I noticed the soil seemed a bit disjointed and loose. So I peeled off the bottom of the pot, preparing to put the remnants into the new pot, per instructions. Instead, when the bottom came out, so did a large clump of peat capsule which showed no sign of growth inside. Above that was a layer of nearly rock solid soil chunks, capped with a thick layer of bark – hard as marble. The sumac twins’ barely there roots were less than a quarter inch long. No wonder the poor things weren’t growing. I might as well have planted them in cement!

I’m such a bad plant mommy. Trust me, no more generic potting soil. EVER.


PS – A belated Happy Summer Solstice to you!

How to sterilize potting soil for indoor use [video]

Marci Degman explains soil sterilizationSterilize potting soil for indoor use. I had no idea this was even a thing until I was hunting around for transplant guidance about my struggling cauliflower.

Suddenly I was concerned that the 15 bags of potting soil I’ve brought in over the past few months – had I brought trouble under our roof? No, as it turns out, another video explains that, by law, bagged potting soils have to be sterilized before they’re allowed to be sold.

I should probably be worried about post-prep contamination, and I should probably start baking my soil before even using it the first time. But watch the video; learn along with me.

How to Sterilize a House Plant’s Potting Soil —powered by

Video Transcript

Hi, I’m Marci Degman, the aspiring gardener, and today we’re going to talk about how to sterilize your potting soil. The reason you would want to do that is because seedlings tend to be very, very sensitive to pathogens, insects, or anything that would get into your potting soil. Most of the time your everyday potting soil is OK for house plants and other plants, but seedlings need every bit of help that they can get. So, even though you buy this and it says that it’s sterile, sometimes while it’s sitting stored at the store, garden center, maybe in your potting shed, pathogens and things can get in the tiniest little holes. So, it might look good, you want to inspect it of course for insects or anything, but even if you don’t see anything, there can be pathogens. So what you want to do, the first method that I’m going to talk about is baking. And what you want to do is get a good baking dish. I like to use a shallow one because that way I can stir it and I can keep an eye on it. You don’t want to leave it in too long or have hot areas that are burning that you don’t notice. You don’t want to change the soil, you just want to heat it up. The best temperature is 180 to 200. Most of our ovens don’t want to go to 180, so if you have 200, set your oven there. And you want to bake your potting soil for 30 minutes. But don’t walk away and ignore it. Fill in maybe just a little bit more. Put it in and about every five to ten minutes check it and take a spatula and move it around so it doesn’t get too hot. If you start to notice any changes in the potting soil, you don’t want it to burn or turn black. Take it out. It’s done. The other way that you can heat it up is in the microwave. Th bad part is you can’t put a very big pan in there. But the good part is you only have to put in the microwave at high for two and a half minutes and if you’re doing just seedlings, all you need is a little bit at a time. So those are the two main ways that you can sterilize potting soil. If you have a really big amount, say for outdoor projects, things that you really need sterile soil for, you can pile up a mound of soil, cover it in black plastic and let it sit in the sun. That’s called solar sterilization, and today we’ve learned how to sterilize our potting soil.

Read more: Video: How to Sterilize a House Plant’s Potting Soil |