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David_Sweden

Repotting palms

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David_Sweden

There actually is no thread with repotting in the heading (except this which is interesting but rather specific).

Right now I'm considering repotting a few palms, especially these 3 small ones, a Foxtail, Lipstick and Parlour Palm:

post-10152-0-81084500-1426941712_thumb.jpost-10152-0-15770900-1426941711_thumb.j

The Lipstick and Foxtail have several roots coming out ~½" of drainage holes, and the Parlour Palms have risen above ground so that I can see ~½" of the roots. The Lipstick got all new soil in September, the Foxtail I exchanged half the soil for when I got it in June, the Parlour I only added some soil on the top layer for and its pot is very small for the size but it does great.

Some say that when roots begin to show like this, it is time to repot, like e g Junglemusic. And some say one should repot only when really necessary, not when roots begin to show but rather when the roots rip through the plastic walls, like Palmbob. And the first thread I mentioned says some palms never ever outgrow a pot. Some say soil mixes break down in 1-5 years, while others say that if soil breakdown matches root growth (i e breaks down in a few years), you will always have good aeration and thus no need to refresh the soil because of lack of oxygen. And if you are repotting, some (e g Palmbob) say keep the root ball intact, while some say you should replace (some of) the soil, and most people seem to say that for older palms, only the top layer should be exchanged. Depending on which advice I follow, it is either time to repot now or I should rather wait a year, it seems.

I'd love to hear about your experiences.

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MDPalm

Not necessarily an answer, but just trying to get involved in the forums. :)

I have always heard you don't want to disturb the root ball on palms, wouldn't replacing the dirt bother the roots?

Also I have seen huge palms growing in tiny little pots that would appear to have very little soil since the pot is full of roots, because of seeing that I wasn't aware that they needed to be repotted due to breakdown of soil. I thought I read that as long as you fertilize regularly they are fine being root bound?

The few time I have moved to a larger pot, I let the soil dry out. Put new soil in the bottom of the new pot, slide the palm out of the old pot, put it in the new pot, fill up the sides with soil and a little on top, then water and add more soil if needed.

I pretty much have used Miracle grow palm and cactus soil for palms.

Edited by MDPalm

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PalmatierMeg

I sure wouldn't wait until palm roots burst through the sides of the pot because most likely that wouldn't happen. I repot when significant roots push out of the drain holes. If you have doubts see if you can easily slip part of the root ball out of the pot to see how overgrown the roots are. Otherwise, I leave them alone for the time being. But eventually I repot them because potting medium does break down and salts build up. I try not to stress the root ball any more than necessary but palms respond to root disruption in many ways. Chamaedorea elegans (parlor palm) will probably not be a problem (BTW, this palm is solitary but is sold artificially clumped by the growers - a travesty). I've separated group-planted Cham metallica and all palms survived. I don't know about foxtails or lipsticks.

If you do repot, make sure the mix has great drainage. Don't spring for just indoor potting soil.

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David_Sweden

MDPalm, I have the same "baseline" as you: Get a slightly bigger pot, leave the rootball as is, just fill with new soil below and at sides - which makes repotting palms very easy (except maybe for the size, and that sometimes it is hard to remove the old pot). Since Palmbob and Junglemusic agree on this, it seems like a good idea. If it takes more than a couple of minutes, I spray some water on the exposed roots. And I usually water the day before.

But I'm still not sure if the 3 palms I mentioned should be repotted now or next year!

It is also very common that people recommend a lot of new soil below the old root ball: Most, like Junglemusic, say >10cm (some say 25-30cm!), but such pots don't even exist at least not as plastic inner pots and not if you want to increase the diameter only "somewhat" like both Palmbob and Junglemusic say, so I ignore that part, it will be only 2-3cm higher.

And for older palms, most people seem to say you should never repot when reached 25-30cm diameter, just excange the top soil, called "redressing". To me, the only thing "redressing" does (except marginally add nutrition for a few weeks), is to let the finest particles sift through the soil and be added throughout the root ball, where the older fine particles most likely have already been leached out. And these fine particles (unless you use loam) are probably dark peat, i e the most decomposed peat. So that doesn't add upp with the theory some have that the soil decomposing can be a problem, if it did then all old palms would be in trouble. Another thing that makes me wonder if decomposing is often a problem is that water naturally accumulates mostly in the lower part of the pot and that's where most roots are too - on the palms older than a couple of years I've seen, the lowest part is dominated by roots, and these suck up the water quickly.

One bigger palm I'll have to repot is my Rh Baueri. Palmpedia says in bold "This is a tillering palm, it exhibits saxophone style root growth (it has a heel), keep top third of heel above soil elevation!". I suppose they mean the "heal" is that plateau I can see just below the soil line. Since I bought it, this was one centimeter below the soil line (but with a coarse mix). I wonder if I can trust that line though because "tillering" is the opposite to "solitary" right? And I'm pretty sure this is solitary, it even says so at other places on the Palmpedia page. No way to contact whoever wrote that though. Or do they mean that the roots "tiller" but not the stems??

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JT in Japan

One thing I did this round was use those thin plastic liners, rather than nicer-looking, heavy plastic pots. The repotting was a breeze, and I'm pretty sure resulted in absolutely minimal root disturbance.

Cutting off he bottom...

post-7712-0-40388100-1427635028_thumb.jp

Slicing up the side...

post-7712-0-02644000-1427635091_thumb.jp

Sliding it into the new medium (wetted earlier with the liner-pot buried to create a form for placement)...

post-7712-0-88841600-1427635205_thumb.jp

And Pogobob's yer uncle!

post-7712-0-54934400-1427635255_thumb.jp

post-7712-0-39041300-1427635394_thumb.jp

JT

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PalmnutVN

Indeed, as mentioned above, palms are quite tolerant when it comes to being root bound in a pot, at least in the short term (1-2 years). In fact, the more root bound they are, the easier they tend to be to re-pot as the entire root ball will lift out in one large clump, which negates the risk of large chunks of soil falling away, snapping off part of the root ball with it.

I just recently re-potted a 3.5m tall Wodyetia from a 120 litre 'pot' (actually a plastic bin) into a 180 litre. The wife and I simply tugged it out of the old pot and plonked it into the new one that was lined with 10-15cm of new soil at the bottom and had a gap of 10cm, each side of the rootball that was then filled with soil. No other manipulation is required. That said, I don't have the rigours of a cold climate here, hence, I generally don't experience plant setback that you might encounter in Sweden. However, the three palms you want to re-pot are all quite tough root wise and as long as you keep them warm at all times or re-pot them in the summer, I can't really see you having any problems.

As for the tillering question, about a third of this needs to be kept above soil level so that it doesn't remain constantly moist and rot. Unlike the majority of palms where the roots grow directly out of the basal plate, the roots initially emerge from this saxophone style growth instead, although this will eventually disappear as the palm reaches maturity. If your palm is still very small, then this heel could still be developing and has yet to poke its head up above the soil. Keep an eye on it though as in my experience, heels are quite sensitive to damage. I currently have a problem with a Dypsis hovomantsina which now looks to be a lost cause.....

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Kostas

Wodyetia seems to be still good in its old pot or could marginally use a repotting if you expect much growth from it this summer and it already has an extended, healthy root system. Chamaedorea elegans definately needs repotting. Cyrtostachis not yet, unless it has an extended root system in that pot.

The only reason not to repot in bigger pot sizes after a certain size, is to keep them manageable for indoors, otherwise all plants appreciate progressively bigger pots as they grow, and big ones eventually need really big pots or preferably the ground prior to trunking.

What they mean about heel or tillering, is that the palm initially grows a thin trunk sideways and downwards, digging it's growing center deeper in the ground. With moisture sensitive palms, it's probably worth keeping partially exposed but with moisture loving ones like Rhopalostylis, it doesn't matter the least bit. I keep all the heels of my palms burried, with the top of it below the top of the mulch layer but always, always keep it in airy organic soil, above the clay soil level when growing in the ground. Though Rhopalostylis don't even mind that as well, one of mine is digging the wet clay...

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David_Sweden

Thanks guys. I'm trying to come to a conclusion. I'm thinking now regarding smaller palms that maybe you can say there's a range which starts now, when some roots are visible, and ends when significant roots are outside the pot (which I guess is perhaps a year from now) or the pot has actually cracked (which probably doesn't happen for all palms), and that I can repot anywhere within that range probably, with some pros and cons. Does that sound like an ok (rough) rule of thumb?

I'm a bit surprised that you use so much bigger pots, like 20cm increase in diameter, I'm thinking of increasing it much less, just a few centimeters. Doesn't the big increase mean a risk for overwatering and rot?

When I've reached a 25-30cm pot I hope I can leave it in that size indefinitely as many say but not all, and just exchange the top soil layer every spring. If they slow down it's fine as long as they are healthy, since by then they're very probably close to the ceiling.

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Kostas

Sounds like an ok rule of thumb about when to repot. Palms need a little different watering regime according to their size and roots in relation to pot size, but with the appropriate care, it works out with both under- and over- potting.

The palms you see in the photos are Washingtonia. These will completely fill those pots in less than 3 months and can even need a second repotting to double pot size to keep up with their growth. Mine started trunking at 3,5 years old from seed :)

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PalmnutVN

While it is true that a 20cm increase may seem a lot, it is relative to the size of the root ball and pot itself. The new 'pot' I put my Wodyetia into is 65cm wide and almost 1 metre tall, so it isn't such a large increase really :)

I'll try to post some pics tomorrow....

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Moose

A Swedish guy with a palm related question, where is Bo? :winkie:

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David_Sweden

Thanks for all the advice. It feels good to have a rough rule of thumb to go by and to conclude that repotting anywhere within the range (maybe even wait 2 years) is probably fine, while at the same time I realize one could try to optimize it individually.

For the palms in the pics I think I'll try to find a sligtly deeper pot with similar width for the Lipstick Palm since that's where an increase seems to do most good and also to avoid the constantly moist surface which causes algae and sour smell, and hopefylly require less frequent watering than the 3 days so far. The Foxtail I would leave there for a year except that it's in a rusty metal pot with no inner pot (by necessity) so it will not be fun to have long roots out the drain holes so I'll do something, maybe just move it up ~2cm in the same pot, there is some extra room. It does grow quite fast, had only one pinnate leaf in June. And the Ch Elegans will get a slightly bigger pot, requires watering every 2½ days now (was 4 days in Sept).

I'm wondering about the Foxtail's giant seed. Looks like a walnut. Should it be above or below the soil line? (And will it remain intact forever or will it crack or rot or become part of the stem or what?)

Those Washingtonias sound like they have really aggressive root development? My Phoenix Roebelenii is like that too. I understand why you skip a pot size (or two) when potting those up.

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bgl

Moose,

I'm RIGHT HERE! :) But little to add to all the excellent advice that's already been posted, other than to say that there's lots of variability between different species in how they tolerate root disturbance, and when the best time is to pot them up. Really a species related issue and whether you grow them indoors or outdoors might also make a difference since the amount of water for indoor palms is a much more important and sensitive area. Needless to say, I have zero experience with indoor palms... :mrlooney:

Bo-Göran

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David_Sweden

Thanks. I often heard mentioned that palms don't like when you mess with their roots. But if you let the root ball be intact (especially if it is root bound enough to form a solid pot-shape) and just add soil under and above it (and maybe mist some water on it if the procedure takes more than 2 minutes), it doesn't feel like something that can be stressful at all?

I exchanged 99% of the soil on my Lipstick seedling (because of a worm and other unwanted stuff) and it came out happier than before. I don't know if it's a good example, it's a sensitive palm in may ways, but maybe it accepts handling of the roots.

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David_Sweden

Today I repotted 2 palms: The Parlour Palms (which was easy) and my Rh Baueri (5 feet incl pot), which was not as easy due to the size and roots outside pot and having to cut the inner pot to small pieces with side cutters. Both were well needed. I thought root balls always had a cavity in the center but the Baueri was flat at the bottom, very compact, and it looked like the lower half was 100% roots.

I had seen something white through the drainage holes and the only explanation I heard of is "root mealybugs":

post-10152-0-54717500-1428341010_thumb.jpost-10152-0-10720400-1428341012_thumb.j

I really hope I don't have that since it's recommended to throw the plant away. I didn't see any bugs even with a loupe, and there was no white stuff on the sides, only on "free" roots visible from underneath. I'm trying to think of another explanation.

Could it be simply salt buildup? Never heard of salt buildup on roots, but I thought root mealybugs produced something "cottony" (hairy?) and this looks more like it could be a thick layer of salt. When I poked it with a needle it fell apart like something dry. I leached it 2 weeks ago and before that in September, and I always water until there's water on the plate and empty it after a few minutes. Is this a believable explanation? How to see the difference between root mealybugs and salt?

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Kostas

The white stuff seems like surface rot in dead roots but I can't be 100% sure going by the picture. If you suspect root mealy bugs, just take a handfull of used coffee grounds, sprinkle on the soil and water them in... They will be dead soon. After a couple weeks, you can remove or break up the coffee grounds if they form a crust that prevents water entry when dry.

I have never seen root mealy bugs in palms while white surface rot on dead(and mycorrhiza or white rot in live one as well), I do have seen.

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Z4Devil

One quick note besides, David -

don´t forget: there is nothing about drainage, you should consider this before you put them in another pot. Usually foamed clay is the best material to avoid dammed-up water. :-)

Much luck with your beautiful plants. :greenthumb:

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David_Sweden

I looked with a loupe at the excess water after watering, and in it I saw what I would describe as a few 1mm Michelin Man-like white/transparent things with 2 short antennas, close to 180deg apart. That doesn't match my otherwise very good pest book's description of root mealybugs, which also says the coating resembles wool or cotton. So I was hoping it is just springtails - but I know now they look nothing like this. Unfortunately when I googled Rhizoecus, I found this Russian site (or Ukrainian?) with a spitting image of what I saw:
post-10152-0-39446600-1428513833_thumb.j
Says coating looks like ash or white mold, like mine. But usually on the sides. And having been left alone for 11 months and probably not repotted for > 2 years, it seems to me the attack is much milder than what I would expect, some pictures show most of the root ball covered in the white stuff.

Sounds like wandering off the topic here but my book says root mealybugs are usually discovered during repotting so it might be good to mention to look for them, wish I didn't have any experience though.

My book says leaves will turn yellow, and it will eventually stop growing, and not survive. I know mealybugs are very hard to get rid of due to the wax protecting them, and root mealybugs are very closely related.

Has anyone else seen positive effects of coffe, or some other treatment? I am all for organic treatments of edible plants and outdoor plants but for indoor plants you might need something more effective, probably an insecticide.

Univ of Cailfornia lists mainly pyrethroids and neonicotinoid (both mimic substances that plants naturally use as protection against insects). This site recommends neonicotinoids (Acara, Mospilan and Dantop). I wonder if there's any reason to think those are more effective than the neonicotinoid sprays which can be bought in any grocery store here (Provado) and used to contain Imidacloprid but now has Thiacloprid. The same company (Bayer) seems to have a new product now, sticks that you put in the ground, with Acetamiprid (another neonicotinoid). The Russian site recommends higher dosage. Regent (with Fipronil) is also systemic and works in a different manner.

PS Right Z4Devil, I haven't said anything about soil. I use ordinary potting mix (about 45% light peat and 45% dark) mixed with usually 35-40% sand size 2-4mm (the sand and the light sphagnum improves drainage) after lengthy investigations. We probably can fill at least one thread with soil discussions! ;)

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David_Sweden

Watering after repotting hasn't been mentioned I just realized. Palmbob (see above) says "Water thoroughly soon after, and frequently for a few weeks.". I recognize that advice from other texts on repotting but does it really apply to a palm to which you just added some soil beneath the rootball and on the sides? Logically one should avoid too much water in the new soil until there's roots in it but besides that water as usual, i e aim at the center for a few weeks? I repotted 3 palms recently and it seems to vary but at least one of them needs less frequent watering afterwards. Anyway I measure moisture with a probe to keep from guessing.

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David_Sweden

I just repotted my 3 biggest palms, since they required very frequent watering (2-3 days, used to be 4-8), uneven moisture, and major roots sticking out the bottom. Here's 2 of them:

post-10152-0-63613000-1436890415_thumb.j

I'm still contemplating how to water them: I did water them thoroughly after repot and then emptied excess water from tray as per usual. But the following weeks - I can't see why I should water more frequently (see above)? Shouldn't I be concerned with root rot and rather avoid keeping the new soil too wet i e aim mainly at the center (the old roots) for a few weeks?

While contemplating I was thinking: Does a palm think there's enough moisture as long as some small part of the soil is sufficiently wet, or does it need all of the root ball to be moist to be fully content and avoid signs like brown tips?

And another thing: The Rh Baueri had very compact roots due to the inner pot being unusually sturdy and me not realizing that. And the only pot with sufficient height was quite much wider. So now you have the center part with the very compact roots and a few weeks from now a much less compact outer part. Wonder how to best water that then, I can imagine the inner part drying out much quicker than the outer part.

Any thoughts or experiences are most welcome.

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Pal Meir

There actually is no thread with repotting in the heading (except this which is interesting but rather specific).

There is no such thread on »Repotting Palms« because it makes no sense. The act of repotting depends on too many factors.

(1) Different palm species have a totally different behaviour according to their natural habitats.

(2) Even the same species behaves differently according to their state: seedling, juvenile, or adult?

(3) Other factors are the location and climate where the repotting takes place. You have totally different problems if you replant your palm in Sweden or in Vietnam, indoors or outdoors, etc.

(4) »Wet« is not always the same »wet«: Is it standing water (e.g. ok in case of Acoelorrhaphe) or floating (oxygen rich) water (as for Syagrus insignis)?

(5) There are palms which don’t suffer even if parts of the roots get dry (e.g. Chamaerops) and others which don’t like this at all (e.g. Syagrus weddelliana).

(6) All palms belong not only to a species, but are also individuals: So you have to watch them if they are growing healthily etc.

(7) And depending to the growth conditions in their habitat you have to choose the appropriate soil mixture: Shall it be mineral rich, humus rich? Must it have a good drainage, or could it be simple loam? And so on …

Here a picture when I was cutting the lower parts of the roots of a Phoenix canariensis with a saw; afterwards I repotted it into the same container as before. If you would do this with a Bismarckia it wouldn’t survive. The location was Middle Europe (50°N), the season spring (May).

post-10467-0-42893500-1436898748_thumb.j

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Pal Meir

Oops! My auto correction made a strange spelling: Of course it must be at point (4) … »flowing (oxygen rich) water« (and not »floating«). :indifferent:

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David_Sweden

Thanks Pal, really interesting. I still believe it's a good idea to write down advice and experiences on repotting though, even if the subject as you say can be rather complex. My own favorite starting point is the 17 lines of repotting advice by Palmbob, but I know there's more to be said and that some views are even a bit controversial.

Regarding mimicing the conditions in the natural habitat that's always a good idea of course but not always as necessary as one might think, especially when it comes to soil I'd like to quote the inventors of the UC soil mixes back in 1957 when they wrote that most plants have a wide tolerance for different types of soil. Which means I don't agree that item (7) is an item you have to think much about, and that many people waste lots of time focusing on that.

I'm still not sure how I should water my Rh Baueri and Licualas after repotting. One idea I just got is that maybe it is essential (in the general case) to add no more than 1-2 centimeters around the rootball, and that the water in the new soil then will be removed fast enough (by adjacent roots and by being close to the pot?) to avoid risk of rot? Just a thought. (Edit: How fast does the roots grow 1cm in the general case?)

Another related thought of mine is that any palm that is even slightly rootbound has roots at the bottom which will get dry between waterings. Will those survive? And if some species hate dry roots, how does that work out?

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Pal Meir

Hi David, I wonder why you can mean that item (7) might be irrelevant only because »most plants have a wide tolerance for different types of soil«. I thought you started this thread because you have questions concerning not »most plants«, but very special ones, not even »most palms«, but very special palms. And when I wrote you have to consider the soil types in their habitats I didn’t mean you have to copy these. But you have to be aware if they are mineralic or organic, if they are on plains or hillsides or slopes, and so on. If you think that this is no problem with most palms, so you are okay. But there are many »special« palms which have problems if you don’t consider these circumstances. (There are also many palms that thrive very well without any soil in hydroponics, as Syagrus romanzoffiana.)

However if you have only questions like »Is it okay to repot a palm into a container with a diameter of a couple of cms more than the old one?«, or »May the roots on the bottom get dry between watering?«, then the answer would be »This is no problem for most plants and even most palms.«

But as I see you intend to repot a Rhopalostylis baueri and – as you say – Licualas. I think you won’t have problems with Rhopalostylis and the bigger Licuala (spinosa?). But in case of the smaller Licuala (grandis?) you could get problems if you don’t consider many other factors like soil type and the way you are watering the palm.

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David_Sweden

Hi. Didn't say soil is irrelevant, I said plants in general accept more variations in soil than most people think and that there are usually better things to invest your time in than mimicing soil in the habitat.

I don't want to make this a thread on potting mixes because that's a separate chapter, so I won't tell you what I use because then I'd definitely invoke such a debate (if you start a separate thread on potting mixes I'll be happy to contribute there), but I'm convinced it is fine to use one, simple mix for all plants with just a little variation in proportions. I bought the Licuala Ramsayi and Peltata (see pic) a year ago barefoot and they do very well.

What I'm trying to find out more about here are other things like how to water a plant after repotting, and in general to ask about peoples experiences. And scrutinizing common advice found elsewhere if it doesn't make sense.

Like the advice to increase pot diameter by only 1-2 inches (and preferably more at the bottom, many say) to "avoid risk of root rot", and to water frequently for a few weeks after - to elaborate on that, e g why would risk of root rot increase in a 1000GAL pot, I mean, if there are roots they will suck the water up and if no roots in some part then no root can rot, so what's the problem? I haven't found many credible sources on watering after repotting so I thought this forum might be a good place to ask.

I think it would be good here to focus on the main issues that apply to most palms but also to mention exceptions and more extreme cases briefly.

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David_Sweden

This is interesting. My Kentia (see pic above) has ~2 cm of new soil around the old rootball's sides since the repotting 12 days ago. Today the new soil was almost dry (2-4 on the meter) while the old soil was almost wet (8-10 on the meter, scale 0-10). Not easy to explain, I would have expected the opposite! The surface was almost dry above the old soil, and moist above the new soil. Again a bit hard to explain. It is a plastic inner pot.

My best explanation is that fine roots have emerged enough into the new soil (bottom 2/3 or so) to suck up most of the water and are very healthy, while in the old rootball (not repotted in years) it is very crammed and less efficient, and that in the old part roots reach almost to the surface, but are still lower in the new part, causing surface to dry up sooner in old part.

It is these kinds of things I was hoping to get other peoples views on: How do roots grow when repotted, and from that deduce how to best water it. I decided to give it a small amount of water along the sides only, to keep the new roots developing.

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