Today’s topic is a favorite of mine—why you should never directly plant your plants into your containers, or planters.
I say this is a favorite topic because many times we’ll get calls to give a quote at an office for plant care where the plants are directly planted in containers by well meaning clients prior to our arrival, and they’re doing terribly, and the client can’t figure out why. Often times I’ll have to explain to the client the problems that this method of interior landscaping brings.
So what exactly does “directly planted” mean?
Indoor office plants get shipped to us from Florida in standard plastic nursery pots, like these here.
These pots have all important drain holes located in the bottom, which I’ll get to in a minute. When we say plants are “directly planted” it means that someone has taken the plant out of the nursery pot and transplanted it directly into soil in a container—terra cotta, ceramic, plastic, or what-have-you.
Removing them from their nursery pots and planting them right in soil is bad. Very bad. For a number of reasons.
One thing that kills plants faster than anything else is too much moisture. When you remove the plant from it’s nursery pot and directly plant it into soil with no drainage, when you water there’s nowhere for that excess water to go except collect down at the bottom of the vessel, where the roots of the plant are. This can lead to root rot and quick death.
Also, when the soil can’t drain properly and stays too moist, you’re just throwing a welcoming party for fungus gnats—tiny flies that are the bane of the interior plant industry that generate and thrive in overwatered, wet soil. They fly in front of your face and are beyond annoying. We have a sure fire way to get rid of those, but that’s covered in another blog post.
The final problem, a huge one for us, that results in plants that are directly potted is replacing the plant if/when the time comes, which is a perfect segue into the method we use when installing plants in offices.
We leave the plants right in their nursery pots, and install them in the container with a top dressing of fibrex moss and a plastic saucer beneath the plant to catch excess water. The nursery pot is just below the visible line of the container and hidden. Seeing it, you can’t tell that the plant is still in it’s nursery pot—it gives the illusion of the plant being planted directly in the pot; that neat, clean, streamlined appearance. This allows the plant to drain excess water into the saucer and the roots stay dry.
More importantly, if we ever need to replace that plant as part of our guaranteed maintenance program, we simply pull that plant and install a new one and replace the moss. Easy!
You can imagine—if the plant is directly planted into the container—yikes! Replacing this plant is a mess. Unless you want to transplant it on site into the soil (which is just creating the same problem later on down the line), you’d have to pull it out of the soil, remove the soil from the pot, and put the new plant in, something we prefer not to do in an office setting.
So leave those plants in their nursery pots and fit them up to the container. Sometimes, you may need to use Styrofoam, bubble wrap, or some other waterproof material to buffer the sides so that it stays even and level, but in the long run it’s worth the effort, the plant will do much better with the proper drainage and if you ever need to transplant it, it’s simply a matter of pulling it out of the existing nursery pot and potting it up to a larger nursery pot. Much easier.