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How to Wash the Roots of House Plants

geranium image by Deborah Benbrook from

In the constant pursuit of keeping healthy houseplants, an indoor gardener must keep a watchful eye on the health and well-being of each plant to ensure it will continue to thrive. If you notice signs of lagging health and decaying roots in a houseplant (such as failure to thrive or wilting), act swiftly to counteract the problem. Often, simply re-potting a plant after washing the roots will improve the health and vitality of houseplants and give them renewed vigor.

Fill a dishpan with tepid water and set it onto a flat work surface. Spread three to four layers of newspapers beside the dishpan.

Remove the houseplant from the current container and shake it gently to remove as much soil as possible from the roots.

Place the houseplant onto the newspaper and use your fingers to gently remove as much soil as possible from the nooks and crannies of the roots.

Set the houseplant roots into the dishpan and swish the roots around in the water to dislodge any remaining soil.

Lift the houseplant from the water and examine the roots for areas of decay. If you find roots that are decaying, trim them off with the pruning shears. Continue removing roots until the remaining roots are all healthy in appearance.

Fill the new planting container approximately halfway with new potting soil. Never reuse potting soil and only reuse planting containers if you sanitize them completely. When you have a plant with declining health, ensure the best outcome by using a brand new container and new potting soil.

Place the plant into the container, carefully nestling the roots down into the potting soil. Add additional potting soil to the container so the plant is at the same depth as it was previously growing. Tamp down the soil gently with your hands and water the plant generously.

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