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!