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Repotting and changing soil type for Rhopalostylis Baueri


David_Sweden

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I just got a rather big (5' incl pot) Rhopalostylis Baueri and it is in a quite small pot as you can see, and it is rather rootbound: lots of root especially in the bottom but not enough to deform or crack the plastic pot, and not sticking out of the draining holes almost at all. I'm thinking I could repot it now or wait until next spring. I had almost decided to wait 1 year but there's one more reason to not wait:

The soil mix is very gritty and extremely well draining, I've read about this type of soil before, and now that I see it I don't like it. Apparently the reason for choosing this is that it should be virtually impossible to overwater. A major downside is that (according to the nursery) I have to water every day in summer (2-3 times per week the darker half of the year).

All my other plants have some less gritty mix, usually with more than half peat, and I've learned how to use a cheap moisture meter to determine when it's time to water (yes I know they can't be trusted but you can learn to "calibrate" it against your finger or whatever you trust, and then use it as a thin & pointy extension of your finger, especially useful in big pots where the lowest part is wet much longer than the top ½ to 4", or if there are pockets of moist and unevenness as there often is). With this kind of soil it is possible for me to e g go on vacation for two weeks, have someone visity my apartment only once, and still be able to keep all plants in good health (by keeping succulents a bit on the dry side, palms slightly more moist than necessary, and moving the plants temporarily slighly from the windows).

I haven't repotted any palm before, and I have two concerns:

* Pot size: The plastic pot has height 22 cm (8,7") and upper diameter 18 cm (7,1"). Most texts on repotting palms seem to say I should aim for at least 10 cm (4") soil under the root, and increase the diameter by between 2½ and 15 cm (1 to 6"). I can't find any pots with as big height to diameter ratio as this, the best I can find I think is one that has height 25 cm (10"), upper diam 27 cm (10,6") and lower diam 17,5 cm (10,6"). Any bigger pot has enormeous diameter. And I though a general guideline when repotting was to go up one size, not 5 sizes? Do you think the pot I found will suffice or should I get a bigger one, or google for some more oblong versions?

* Soil mix: This palm apparently isn't very perticular about soil, I read it prefers rich/fertile, well-drained soil with any pH, so I thought I'd just mix 2/3 peat based soil with 1/3 pebbles size 2-3 mm (1/10") and add some liquid fertilizer. I'm sure there are lots of alternatives but that's not my question. What I'm thinking about is this: Normally when you repot a palm, you don't want to disturb the roots more than necessary, and I think you basically just keep the rootball as-is and add soil below and around it. But I'm thinking I have to remove the present soil. Cause if I don't, then there will be this extremely well drained soil in the middle and less well drained (but still very well drained) soil around it, so I'm guessing water would move through the old parts quite quickly and those parts would get dry much quicker? So I have to remove all the old dirt, and be careful to remove it all? Sounds like a lot of work (during which time the roots are exposed but I guess I can put it all in a bucket of water while working) and I read palms don't like having their roots disturbed, but it seems I'm disturbing them rather much? From that point of view, maybe wait until next year anyway so that it has at least settled in its new home? (And cancel any vacations or ask my parents to move in while I'm away..)

PS This migh well be the pretties palm I ever saw. And it looks even nicer when a bit bigger. To the left you can see a little bit of a Schippia Concolor I also just got. Unfortunately full of mildew (100 small dots) which come back the next day if wiped off, got that way due to 4 days in darkness in a plastic bag during shipping, it's been expelled to living outdoors until it hopefully cures itself, but I fear maybe it won't. Might try a fungicide lice sulphur tomorrow but I read they can only prevent.

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Don't attempt to remove the existing medium, just add better material around the existing rootball when you place this palm in a larger pot. :)

San Francisco, California

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If frequency of watering is the problem, you can place a mound of sand(or 50-50 sand-organic soil mix but this is more difficult to wash in between the gritty mix so i would suggest sand only) over the existing gritty soil and water it in ''forcefully'',with a thin jet of water falling from high which will wash the sand between the rocky soil beneath,filling the air pockets but without raising the existing soil level. This should make need for watering somewhat less frequent. An addition of mulch over the soil will keep it moist far longer as well. This way you may be able to water once a week.

If you do have to repot, search for a pot with a similar height-width ratio,its better at preventing rot. Or you could repot to a normal pot of similar height as its current one and ''normal'' width ration if you need to wean it to normal pot size ratios to keep the height less(as the palm will eventually reach the ceiling...).

No need to remove its current mix. The new mix will wash in between the gritty mix. While repotting it,when you have it in its new pot and have half filled it with new mix,flood water it forcefully and the old mix will mix with the new as well as partially wash off the roots. Repeat when you have it filled with soil by 3/4th's and when full :)

Btw,is this from Palme Per Paket? I find its mix perfect for this palm and all of mine did great groundplanted as they were. This mix may seem that it dries out too fast but it actually did not for me unless outdoors in the full summer heat. It can easily go 3-4days with cloudy days or out of the full blown,dry summer heat we get here.

P.s.: If the Schippia is giving you trouble,i can take care of it... :innocent:

''To try,is to risk failure.......To not try,is to guarantee it''

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Hello David,

i would suggest a potting mix of sand (25%), perlite (25%), pinebark, peat moss, bark humus, pumice and lava rock (10%).

You can find the pot-sizes you are looking for. Rose-growers are a good source for pots with a good height but small diameter. An alternative are manufactures of pots for shopping malls. I bought 4 pots with a height of 80cm and a diameter of 32cm this year. I could send you a link to a german manufacturer if you want to.

Jakob

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Nice looking palm for sure! Then ad in that you are going to grow it in Sweden and its a double wow! :yay:

Good luck. Thanks for showing and asking and show us what you do when its done if you can.

I DIG PALMS

Call me anytime to chat about transplanting palms.

305-345-8918

https://www.facebook...KenJohnsonPalms

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Thanks for all the helpful advice!

Yes the recommendations I read (at various places) is to have 4-6" of soil under the roots, someone recommended 12"! In a few years the pot would be as tall as the palm is today.. I guess you are saying I could use the pot I suggested but take care not to have too wet soil to avoid risk of rot. Or try to find an even better pot (will check rose growers). But I'll wait until next spring.

Another problem with this soil is that my humidity meter seems very unreliable, I'm guessing it's because there's a high grit vs water ratio. So basically I have no idea when it needs watering. All I have to go on is that they told me it needs water once daily when hot, 2-3 days apart when not hot, and that I can't overwater with this mix, so the conclusion is: I'd better give it water every day, at least in summer.. Even if I add sand I would still be missing a criterion for when to water right? I like the moisture meter, keeps me from guessing. Adding soil then forcing water on it sounds like a good idea though. I will do that next year, sounds like the best solution.

I hope it will do fine indoors, it is supposed to like not having too much sun (from full shade to a couple of hours direct sun in the evening is what I read) and no symptoms of suffering from low humidity so far when misting once daily, and I've seen many pictures of it in pots. Bought from Germany so it's used to being far north already.. :)

Yes it is from Palme Per Paket. They said it is ok to change soil and that it is "quite adaptable". I know many like gritty mix but not me. I tried a few mail order plants now, PPP worked very well, arrived in perfect health. They snapped a few millimeters of all leaves on one frond, isn't that cheating? Still it's the second biggest frond so one day it will be less in focus. Apart from that all is great. I don't know if you all see ads from rarepalmseeds.com here or if it targets Europeans, anyway that seems to be the same company.

I'm treating the Schippia with sulfur this morning. I have good hope it will rid itself of the fungus at least with some help (I read sulfur can remove mildew if applied early). If you have an idea how to ship it then PM me. I haven't decided but it's not easy treating a sick, big plant when limited to an apartment and trying to avoid spreading the spores all over. Shows no signs of suffering from low humidity after 3 days. The other one I bought from the same place (Nanaplants in Thailand), a Pinanga sclerophylla, shows extreme signs of not liking the humidity even though it is 55% and I misted it over 10 times daily, I'll have to keep a sealed plastic bag over it says the grower, until the first new leaf comes, which I imagine is months.

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If you really have to water your palm every day indoor your doing something wrong.

With the mix from my previous post i have to give water every 10-14 days. I don`t trust moisture meters anyway. Use the finger test.

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I have to, since I have nothing other to go on except the seller's recommendation. Do you water with 10-14 day intervals for Baueri in lots of indirect sunlight with this soil mix? I would have thought at least weekly even in a more water retaining mix.

I have investigated the cheap moisture meters to great extent and I find them very useful. You can't trust the scale blindly, but basically you can check the top inches with the meter and your finger until you've learned what it shows when slightly moist, and then you can check further down where your finger does not reach. And in this gritty mix I can't press my finger down even an inch.

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You have yourself a very nice palm there . Rhopalostylis is one of my favorite species and i have grown and germinated hundreds over the last 5 years !

As Darold said don't disturb the roots just put into a larger pot with rich potting mix with some perlite mixed through and a little slow release fertilizer .

cheers Troy

Old Beach ,Hobart
Tasmania ,Australia. 42 " south
Cool Maritime climate

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I have to, since I have nothing other to go on except the seller's recommendation. Do you water with 10-14 day intervals for Baueri in lots of indirect sunlight with this soil mix? I would have thought at least weekly even in a more water retaining mix.

I have investigated the cheap moisture meters to great extent and I find them very useful. You can't trust the scale blindly, but basically you can check the top inches with the meter and your finger until you've learned what it shows when slightly moist, and then you can check further down where your finger does not reach. And in this gritty mix I can't press my finger down even an inch.

I have to disagree fully! Everything depends on the granulometry and the porosity of the medium. Hygrometers do not work properly in such light medium, let aside the damage in root zone, because every time you make a new measurment you have to stick hygrometer in to another spot of the surface (previous spot until next watering is useless showing much less moisture thatn rest of soil). For example in pots with pumice as medium hygrometer right after watering shows plain zero moisture but my plants grow freely!

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Hello David,

none of my indoor palms gets water more then once a week. My Rhopalostylis sapida var. oceana is way smaller then yours. But even my biggest "drinker" indoor, a 2,50m cocos nucifera, only gets water every 7 days. Most other palms are in the 7-10 days (summer) or 10-14 days (winter) range. Depends on the type of palm of course. Don`t overwater your palms. The finger method is quite easy. Just check moisture regularely by sticking your ring finger deep in the substrat. If your finger tip still feels slightly wet but the top of the surface around your finger already feels dry, thats the perfect time to water your indoor palm. I may have lost 50 seedlings to overwatering last year. Too much love is not always a good thing. :)

Edited by Alcibiades
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Troy, I suppose you mean like Kostas said, sounds like a smart way to avoid dry spots without disturbing the roots.

- - -

Regarding harming roots the thought has crossed my mind, but in reality I find no indications this is actually happening, is that statement based just on theory? My finger is much wider, I can hear things ripping if I press it down 1-2", and the meter has a blunt tip that I think should be able to find a way in between roots, not through them, and you can change spot or angle if you run into something.

I don't have very much experience of this or anything else yet, but I have some. These two photos show naked, complete root balls of a big Licuala Peltata seedling and an 80 cm Schippia Concolor from the last few days, I think it's easy to imagine the probe finding its way through that, at least if you lirk it rather than force it, and you don't usually have to stab close to the center much.

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On my Kentia in a 10" pot I have put 3 marks at the pot, that's where I put the probe most days (in between the pot and soil) since I usually get enough info that way, only when it is almost dry there would I consider probing somewhere else. I take a second to poke some soil into these 3 holes afterwards, that's good enough for me to be able to reuse the holes (I have plastic pots for palms). I have done this several times per week the last two months and this 10 year old quite rootbound Kentia has never grown as much as it does now. And for plants that aren't rootbound, probing next to the pot wall seems risk free regarding hitting any noticeable root. The Kentia's soil is rather compact, a few plants of mine came with a very "airy" (non-compact) peaty mix, for those it is easy to probe and feel assured there is no damage, the problem with those soils is that the reading can be way too low, in this case you have to learn e g to probe at places with some compactness.

I actually mentioned the question of the probe damaging the roots in a Swedish forum but no one came up with anything. I suppose it could damage some small amount of root hair in some situations but afaik that is easily replaced and only has a life span of 2-3 weeks anyway? And there are probably none of those in the center. Eventually I think I will be able to let the moisture meter rest most days, when I can just look at the surface, know the history and recent climate, and maybe use my finger, still I find it very useful when approaching the point when it's time to water, especially for big pots and some other ones. But sure, it is a good idea not to poke around more than necessary.

Cheap hygrometers don't have great accuracy in any medium, and there are a few pitfalls (like very loosely packed peat based soil showing less than expected, and old salts in soil increasing the reading but not as much as some seem to think), but again, for each individual plant I find that you can learn how it works in that soil. I don't have any soils with just pumice, mine are usually mostly peat, and they all work good it seems. I can't think of any alternative that is nearly as reliable. Even buying a €200 moisture meter (not hygrometer, that's for air) wouldn't be an inprovement for me since the ones I found have too short probe.

I'm interested to hear about all experiences and thoughts regarding this though (even though it is a bit off topic).

Also a bit off topic, the Schippia Concolor seems to have responded well to the sulfur treatment. When I wiped the leaves clean from mildew a few days ago, it all came back the next day, but this time, when I wiped the leaves clean then treated with sulfur, there are no signs of mildew still after two days. There are 7 fronds (and one on the way) and almost all mildew was on the bottom 4. Seems to be a sturdy palm, no signs of desiccation even though I can't mist it more than once daily.

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