Sunday, October 23, 2016

Planting Small

Happy Halloween! Succulents can sometimes look like they're from another planet!
Succulents are slow growers. It can take years for one to even double in size. This can be an advantage if you want them to stay packed into a small space for a time, such as the ones displayed above! If succulents are put in a small pot they're also more likely to sprout "pups", or offshoots that can be split from the main plant and re-potted elsewhere. There are lots of reasons to plant small, including running out of space for plants in your apartment!

To begin I bought tiny, healthy looking succulents from the local nursery (and some extra cactus potting mix). I think I have two  echeveria plants, a type of jade, and a crassula. J.D. told me he'd found a bunch of cute mini-pots over in one corner of the store. He was not wrong. I think this one looks like a tiny plant canoe!

Gathered my supplies... ready for planting!
I liked that the mini-pot had big giant drainage holes, because cacti and succulents require really good drainage. They like to be drenched thoroughly, then dried out fast! Otherwise they rot. So the pot was perfect for this type of plant. However, big giant drainage holes also mean dirt comes out the bottom with the water. So, I lined the bottom of the container with a layer of paper towel.

Paper towel: Check!
The first step was to dump out all of the surface gravel that was in the pot from the nursery. Rocks are good as a soil cover, but I didn't want them taking up what little space I had for soil!

The plants, sans container and rocks.
Next I split up the plants that were clustered together in one pot. It was cheaper to buy them that way, and they would do well for a year or so in that pot, but I wanted to plant them in this little container instead. I learned that apparently it is better to cut the roots apart instead of tearing them, because that way they have clean ends that are less likely to get infected by mold or bacteria. Makes sense. I did have to be careful of the rocks that were still embedded in the soil because I didn't want to dull my shears!
Plant mess.
Next I placed the plants into the container. Some of them had tall roots, so I cut one side of the roots to make a sort of "L" shape so I could smush them down into the pot. This isn't the best thing to do to a plant, but I did it. It seems to have gone ok. Succulents are pretty forgiving about root mangling. They grow from a single leaf if you treat them right, so they are capable of developing an entirely new root system from a stub technically. It's not the greatest way to start a plant but it's feasible.

As a matter of fact, I found this little stowaway hiding in the pot underneath of the echeveria!
Sneaky baby plant! Already had new roots and everything.

I put it in the tiny pot that the other echeveria came in, and it's growing nicely with a daily misting of water. I guess I got an extra for my money. Haha. It'll take years to reach the other plants' size though. Remember, they grow slowly!

Anyway, moving on...
I then added some of the cactus potting soil around the plants to fill in the gaps. This took a little bit of finesse because of how little space there was between the plants. I used the blunt end of a wooden paintbrush to tamp down the soil close to the plants. It's good to pack the soil fairly tight in a small container like this to keep the plants positioned properly, but only if the soil is very dry. You probably shouldn't plant succulents in wet soil anyway but if you do don't pack it. The roots require air to avoid rot and to process food.
Adding dirt around the plants.

Finished soil packing. So pretty!
Finally, I added some "top dressing," aka: stuff to keep the soil from falling out of the pot every time I water the thing. I used fish gravel. They also sell soil dressings of all kinds at the nursery, from moss to fancy glass beads, but fish gravel works just as well and looked pretty. I pressed the rocks down lightly into the soil.

Top dressing. In the background you can see the top dressing from the original pot.

Ta-da! The most important thing to do after finishing a transplanting of succulents is to COMPLETELY IGNORE IT for a week. Don't water it, don't pull off any dying leaves, don't even look at it. (Ok, you can look at it. After all, that's why you got them!) But seriously, cacti and succulents need some down time after planting to heal their roots before watering them. Otherwise they can easily rot. So... after waiting a week I took this to the sink and dribbled water into the soil until it came out of the drainage holes, let it sit until it stopped dripping, and then put it back in its sunny spot on the table. These plants all like tons of sun, so I am trying to give them as much as possible. The echeveria on the end is still getting a bit leggy, but we'll see what it looks like after winter.

Yay, new plants! :)

That's it! Water every week to every other week, depending on how much soil is in there. These I water every week because they dry out so quickly. Hope you liked learning more about re-potting tiny, adorable succulents!