Now with spring close by we need to get the pots ready. Most people remove all of the old soil. For my big pots the last few years I have pulled some of the old soil out and stirred the rest below. Garden centers now have rejuvenating soils to add to the old. It works quite well if you do not add too much.  It seems to be high in nitrogen which makes more leaves than blooms.

          Another thing I do is have an extra pot that is usually a little larger than the first one. I then mix a good deal of compost with the old soil and use again.  This does not work if you have had a disease on the plant or in the soil. Most people will tell you not to reuse potting soil for this reason.  I also try to put different species of plant in the old pot for the same reason.   

          Since soil shrinks a good deal as it settles, I like to heap the soil above the edge of the pot early in the spring several weeks before I plant anything and then water well to eliminate large air spaces. I never use garden soil as it might contain weed seeds, insect eggs, or disease organisms from many years of use.

          Compost is my answer to soil ills either in pots or in the garden. It adds food, creates space for roots in our clay soil, and makes it easier for roots to find their way. A pot plant does not have much soil for space so what they have must be superior.

          Each spring I enjoy hunting for plants I have never had or finding my favorites. A bulb I like is the Pineapple Lily. They come in different sizes of plants. It forms a rosette of leaves and then sends up the “Pineapple” part later in the summer.  The blooms are the “Pineapple” which usually is green. This spring catalogues have both pink and purple blooms. I have always had them in full sun. They are not hardy here so you can bring the pot and all into a frost free place or you can dig the bulbs and keep them over.  I usually use sphagnum peat moss as storage medium. You can also use wood chips, which BJ used for all my Dahlias. They are stored in the insulated garage as it does not freeze in winter. I do have an electrical heater to turn on if the local news says it will be near or below zero.

          It is fun to go up and down the aisles in the garden centers to hunt. This year I will have the dramatic green and yellow leaf Canna to put in the center back of a big pot.  It gets about 6 feet tall with an orange flower.  It is not hardy so must be dug in the fall. (I have small barrels of vermiculite in the basement for these tender bulbs.) This Canna is called “Pretoria” in most places but has some other dramatic names such as “Bengal Tiger”. Another dramatic one is “Durban” with pink and yellow stripes.

          For my climbers in large pots, I already have Black Sweet Pea seeds started that will grow on the trellis. They are the first seeds planted as they don’t prefer hot weather. I am hoping to find plants of Spanish Flag (Ipomoea labata). It is a very vigorous plant that has blooms of three colors-orange, yellow, and white about 12 inches long, curved, with numerous blooms all the length.

          Mandeville has gorgeous blooms of red or pink and yellow. They are large about 4 or 5 inches across with 5 big spreading petals that last for some time. I like one of each color on a 6 foot trellis and growing in a pot on either side of my front door. They are not hardy here.

          Bananas (Musa species) are sometimes called Plantain. I buy a new one each spring as they get too big to bring in before frost. Those big, paddle shaped leaf blades look perfect in a large pot with small drooping vines at the base. One can find various leaf patterns with some variation in color.

          Most of my pots are in full sun or I would like to try some Begonias. Calla Lily bulbs do very well in pots and are easier to dig in the fall. If you have a color scheme they can be found as mixed colors in the blooms. Some have variegated leaves adding to the fun.  The blooms of course are very different from others, consisting of a twisted cup whose rim may be a different color.

          Of course many of your house plants would like a turn outside in the                         wind and rain.

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