“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” (May Sarton)
Gardening is good for our souls, but not everyone has the knowledge of plants and how to tend them correctly. Two gardening processes, re-potting, and pruning can cause confusion. Some new gardeners may be unsure how to go about completing these tasks. Often beginner gardeners ask if it is possible to prune and re-pot a plant at the same time. They are afraid that doing both procedures simultaneously will damage the plant.
Plants can be re-potted and pruned at the same time as long as it is done when the plant is in a state of dormancy. Dormancy has low energy requirements making it the best time to re-pot and prune. Treat the plant carefully and ensure that it is not stressed to achieve the best results.
This article will examine re-potting and pruning plants and the effects of each of these procedures on plants. It will also look at whether doing re-potting and pruning at the same time is detrimental or beneficial to plants. A brief overview of the life phases in plants will be examined. Finally, some tips and guidelines will be given to ensure success when undertaking re-potting and pruning.
Plants Go Through Life Phases.
Plants go through different life phases or stages. These phases are governed by the length of daylight hours. The plant determines the correct times for it to carry out various life processes such as flowering or growth. These processes will be different for each plant type which is why there are plants that flower in spring and others that bloom in summer. As daylight lengthens, the plant begins to increase metabolic activity and a period of growth ensures. This will include new shoots, buds, and root development. At some stage after this growth period, a stage of seed production and flowering will begin. During fall, the shortening daylight hours trigger specific hormonal changes that cause leaf color change and leaf shedding.
Dormancy In Plants.
During winter, when daylight hours are shortest, the plant enters a period of dormancy. This is a state similar to animals that hibernate. The plant’s metabolism slows right down, and processes such as photosynthesis reduce to a low ebb or, in some plants, cease completely. The plant still remains alive at its core and in the root system. All other life activities are paused in order to conserve energy. During this stage of dormancy, the plant may lose its leaves entirely depending on the type of plant. Even evergreen trees will have reduced metabolic and growth activity during the short days of winter.
Why Dormancy Is Important For Gardeners.
You may be curoius as to why an article on re-potting and pruning includes information on plant life phases. The reason is that choosing the correct time to report and prune your plants is crucial. If these procedures are carried out while the plant is metabolically very active and requiring energy for its life processes, re-potting and pruning could spell the death of the plant. Dormancy is a period when the plant can be safely re-potted and pruned. The plant does not have a significant energy demand and does not need all the leaves for photosynthesis. The plant will naturally grow new shoots and leaves in spring as the daylight hours lengthen.
Keeping plants in pots creates an artificial environment for the plants. As the plant grows bigger and the roots increase in size, the plant will need to be re-potted in order for it to remain healthy. Repotting involves taking the plant from one container and moving it to another bigger container. Inevitably the roots are shaken and loosened by this process. This procedure creates stress, and the plant can go into shock from this process.
Re-potting Shock In Plants.
One of the biggest problems that cause transplanting or re-potting stress is carrying out this procedure at the wrong time. It is vital that reporting is done only during a period of plant dormancy. The dormant plant does not need the nutrients from the soil. It has an opportunity to acclimatize to the new environment before needing to generate energy for growth, budding, producing leaves and flowers in spring. Never re-pot plants just before spring. This will doom your plant as it cannot prepare its energy stores for spring growth.
Some other factors that can stress the plant are:
- Leaving the roots exposed to the air for some time before replanting.
- Using a different type of soil in the new pot.
- Shaking all the old soil off the roots destabilizes the roots and may cause the death of some roots.
- Moving the plant to a different site where there is a different amount of light or heat.
Pruning plants can be a controversial issue, with some extreme naturalist gardeners feeling that pruning is not necessary and others saying it is essential for the health of the plant. Since time immemorial, gardeners have been pruning plants and sculpting them to grow in certain ways. Nature itself seems to encourage some kind of natural pruning as twigs and branches die in winter. Pruning refers to cutting off dead twigs, stems, and leaves. Sometimes a plant may need a “hard prune” where large portions of the plant are cut back.
Benefits Of Pruning.
- It encourages new growth on the tree.
- Fruit trees often benefit from a hard prune and will produce much better fruit in the following summer.
- Flowering plants produce better flowers after pruning.
- Pruning can create space and improve aesthetics in a garden.
Pruning is a highly personal choice, and each gardener will have their preferences on how to prune. It is unanimous, however, that the best time to prune is during the dormant period in winter. This is because winter pruning will stimulate growth during spring. Pruning plants at any other time of the year slows plant growth and flowering.
Pruning And Re-potting Plants At The Same Time.
As long as re-potting and pruning are done during the dormant period (usually winter) in the plant, then these two procedures can be completed simultaneously. It may benefit a plant to be pruned as it is re-potted. Pruning takes off dead branches, which may destabilize a plant that is newly transplanted. Snipping off extra branches or twigs will reduce the energy burden when the plant begins to wake up and start spring growth. Pruning can also allow the plant to gain access to extra light and water, which benefits the newly transplanted plant.
Some Tips For Pruning And Repotting.
- Only prune and re-pot in the dormant period.
- Keep the plant in the same location until spring growth begins.
- Do not overwater the transplanted, pruned plant.
- Provide sufficient water and mulch around the base of the plant.
- Protect the plant from frost.
- Use a pot that is only a little bigger than the original pot. A lot more soil in a much bigger pot will make the plant prone to suffering from overwatering.
- Try to limit the root disturbance while re-potting the plant.
- If the roots are a tangled ball, you can gently try to untangle them, being careful to avoid breaking and bruising the roots.
Pruning and re-potting a plant can be done at the same time as long as it is done during plant dormancy. If these procedures are completed in other seasons, it is highly likely that your plant will become sickly and may possibly die. Pruning and transplanting must be done when the plant has low energy needs. This allows the plant roots to settle in the soil, and there is no need for growth and limited or no photosynthesis. The plant will naturally grow new shoots, leaves, and buds in spring when its metabolism reawakens. Take precautions to limit plant stress when pruning and re-potting.
Battey, N.H. 2000. Aspects Of Seasonality. Journal of Experimental Botany. https://academic.oup.com/jxb/article/51/352/1769/538801
Moore, T. 171 Inspirational Gardening Quotes and Sayings. https://www.backyardboss.net/171-inspirational-gardening-quotes-and-sayings/