How to Top-Dress Houseplants
By: Julie Day
This mixed planting doesn’t need a bigger pot, so I’ll just top-dress it this year.
As I inspect and repot my houseplants in early spring, I often find plants that seem to fall “in the middle.” Perhaps they’re very large or sensitive plants, making repotting difficult. Or they may be happy in their pots, but the soil is looking a little old. Finally, there might not be anything actually wrong with the plant, but I might want to give some extra TLC.
In cases like this, top-dressing is a great solution, and it’s quite easy. Here’s how:
- Step 1: Water your plants lightly to loosen any hard-packed soil.
- Step 2: Using your fingers or a small trowel or spoon, very gently scrape away the top 1”- 2” of potting soil, until you begin to see the top of the root ball. Try not to damage or tear any roots!
- Step 3: Add fresh compost to refill your pot. Make sure to keep the plant at the same depth – don’t pile more soil than was in there before. If you like, you can mix in some slow release organic fertilizer, following package instructions to get the correct dose.
- Step 4: Water again to settle the new soil. Don’t leave water sitting in the plant drainage tray.
- Step 5: While you’re at it, gently clean the dust off your plant’s foliage, trim away any dead parts, and pinch back the ends of leggy branches.
- Step 6: Finally, toss the old potting soil on your compost pile, where it will mix with other goodies and get its own second chance!