Checking out of the potbound camp

Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)June 5, 2012

...but of course, I'll write!


Always read these plants like to be potbound, so that's the way I rolled, very seldom repotting, putting back into same little pot, ignoring it except sips of water and to bring it in/out seasonally for years.

But I kept reading about drainage and realizing that I keep making mixes that drain as fast as my hose can run. As of about 10 years ago, I went peat-free and as of last year, my plants had all been transferred completely out of all store-bought "potting soil" to the point of rinsing it off of the roots except the sans. All of the non-sans plants have been doing better than their usual "fine" from all the years before, they're downright vigorous. So I got around to wondering how the notorious prefers to be potbound sans would do with room to grow in such a mix.

Last year I took my shovel and chopped about the bottom third of the rootball off, then chopped this mini-grove in half (from side-to-side, not top-to-bottom.) Put one half back in the original pot, the other half in another pot. When they went back outside this spring, I started watering them just like the other plants, soon got hot enough for that to be every day. Soon after, 1 of the twins made a flower stalk. I was wondering why when I noticed the pot with the other half of the original plant had a bunch of babies. So I unpotted both.

The plant with the flower, I removed the bottom about 15% of the root ball, trimmed some fat roots, and a couple that were cruising along the bottom of the pot, put back in same pot and backfilled with fresh soil.

The plant with the pups peeking out had other babies in the soil, going down instead of up that I found when I chopped off the bottom of the root ball. I put the loose pups in their own pot. There was also a really old section that was only loosely connected to the rest, so I cut that off and put it in its' own pot. Put that mama plant in a bigger pot after removing all of that extra stuff and trimming the roots a bit more. Now there are even more pups starting to poke up.

It seems to me that just because a plant is able to retain its' leaves in even the most adverse conditions, unlike most other plants, it doesn't deserve to be treated as if this is some kind of preferred technique. There's nothing wrong with having a stagnant entity that just doesn't die if that's what you want. Now that I see this is not necessary, I prefer otherwise.

There are plenty of different sans, and although I've had mine for a really long time, I didn't know its' botanical name until I asked on here a few weeks ago, so obviously I'm not an expert, just relating a very lengthy experience with a single plant. Although I've kept these from dying for decades, I really like the way they are suddenly growing, and will continue to treat them like any other house plant that actually DOES grow when not potbound, given a more preferred soil, some direct sun & plenty of water.

To see if this would apply to other sans, a month ago I bought a cute little clearance plant with the yellow-striped sides, about 7-8" tall. The pot was about 3" tall and maybe 2 1/2" across. After about a week of constantly standing this plant back upright from being blown over, I repotted it into the "extreme drainage mix" in a much larger pot. It was in some kind of coir I think, which I removed almost all of. There were strangle roots at the bottom which I trimmed off. It is making a pup now, too. Hopefully I'll still be around with this plant in 20 years or so, to compare and to draw some conclusions.

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bonsaigai(NY Zone 6)

Looks like a good study purple.

I read somewhere that Juan Chahinian recommends coir, instead of peat; also, SUPER good drainage and repotting every two years. While I do use coir and have good drainage, I'm a bit off on the repotting. I finally repotted some of my things after 15 years... Oops. The gravelly mixture I use/made didn't really break down much. I just added a bit of worm castings in the past few years and plants really responded. This spring nearly everything got repotted.

Good luck with all your new/old plants!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 9:14AM
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Can you give me some advice, then, about repotting mine? I was going to use a combination of #1 poultry grit, screened potting soil and Turface, but I also have a block of coir which I could use. Any suggestions with those materials for a good Sans mix - I have two in particular which need repotting. I also have perlite, but I've not used it in any Sans mix before (was extraordinarily spoiled with pumice for many years, and it was cheap).

I wish there were more varieties available here - to think of all those I left in the ground in San Diego...



    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 9:36AM
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bonsaigai(NY Zone 6)


I've only just really gotten into and gained better understanding of most the Sansevieria species, but I've grown some for 15 years and other caudiciforms for 25 years now. So here goes...

I use a mixture of things: Haydite, pumice, Dyna-rock, or feeder/layer chicken gravel (the really chunky stuff that looks like it shouldn't even fit inside a bird!). This is the base, 60-70 %. To this I add coarse perlite, some folks dislike this, but it works for me, about 10-20 %. I use COMPOSTED pine bark fines in the mixture, about 10%. Again, some people recommend against using this as they feel most pine bark holds resins that many desert species do not like. It works well for me. The remainder of the mixture is coir, perhaps 10%, more for the more tropical species, and less for the more desert species.

This mixture breaks down rather slowly. My Cyphostemma planted in it 15 years ago, still had noticeable chunkiness and great drainage, while the root system had really filled the pot. I do not recommend letting them go that long without repotting, of course! The worm casting top-dressing really helped as the years went by.

I also found that if it drains very well, in a terra cotta pot, has no water in the winter, Sansevieria will sit for years without growing. I'm still learning to get them into growth for the summer months without starving them during the winter. It's all balance.

I'm slowing being convinced of using plastic pots. Many people believe this aids in keeping moisture levels more consistent. I have some Sansevieria in both now. I also have some in nice decorative Asian pots. These have the same benefits as plastic and a decent aesthetic quality.

How about everyone else? There is always something to say about soil. I know there are about as many recipes as there are growers.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 10:44AM
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I agree with you purpleinopp. I have mine in roomy pots...
Is your dog smiling for the pic? Hahaha!!!

Micheal, I use pure pumice...

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 11:45AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Took more pics today. The pup on the one that made the flower:

The severed pups:

The plant making a lot of pups (5):

Two new leaves coming up on the part that was loosely connected & recently severed:

The new acquisition making a pup:

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 1:02PM
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bonsaigai(NY Zone 6)

If I had access to lots of pumice, that's what I would use in greater percentage. The last batch had very little pumice. I like its water retention and mineral exchange. I had two bags left from a trip to CA. I see it is available on ebay in various sizes. I may try that. It IS just so darn expensive to ship... But really, all that stuff is expensive to ship and there is nothing locally.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 1:13PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Oops, clicked submit too soon.

lovemysans, I think he does try to smile. I know he tries to get in all of the pics!

bonsaigal, Thanks! As you can see my sans (and all potted plants) are in plastic. Most have extra holes in the bottom. I suppose if I won the lottery, I might replace them. Don't really think about the pots much except as the thing that keeps the soil around the roots. I know they're ugly, tho.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 1:15PM
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Micheal, that's were I get mine.

Purpleinopp, he's so cute... Give him a big hug for me!
Plain ol terracota pots aren't expensive at Home depot. Since they're porous, I think they're better for the health of the roots. Yours are all looking great though!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 3:23PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I deleted one of the pics from above, it was making the thread too wide. Sorry, I hate scrolling side-to-side to read.

lovemysans, thanks for the compliment. The dog has been hugged AND bathed! I'm sure you're right about clay pots.

Took more pics this morning (and got 4 mosquito bites in about 2 minutes!):

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 10:44AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

..... nothing but agreement in this camp. If any are interested, there might be some added depth at the link below.


Here is a link that might be useful: Myth: This Plant Likes/Prefers to be Root-bound

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 12:35PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

The plant that flowered has been moved to a 5-gallon bucket:

The other plant needs a bigger pot soon:

The 2 severed pups got repotted a few days ago and have grown a lot:

Repotted with leaves removed from other plant while moving it to bucket:

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 12:00PM
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bonsaigai(NY Zone 6)

Very nice! Look at the color of the new growth! Just beautiful. They look very happy.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 8:32AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

On behalf of the plants (and mother nature,) thanks!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 9:49AM
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Al, thank you for writing that post. I really enjoyed reading it... I've thought that flowering might not be a healthy thing for a while... I noticed that Sansevierias flower when stressed(too much sun,small pots,etc). No more small pots.

Purpleinopp, They look great! Nice orange healthy roots.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 8:48AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

A few updates on these Sans...

Gave my Mom one (trifasciata) which she left outside and in her garage all winter. It's kind of yellow, we'll see what becomes of it...

Most of my Sans are in the ground at this point. The two main, big pots, somewhat separated and planted in various spots around the yard. Now, for sure, they aren't potbound. Have you ever seen Sans planted with Hydrangeas? Two of the green spots in front of the Sans are baby Hy's I propagated last year.

No signs of any flowers yet, optimistically hoping some appear soon...

more in-ground pics.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 12:47PM
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