Lifecycles of Potted Plants

Indoor plants, which for the most part must be kept in pots, follow something of a regular pattern in their growth ch.  If their care is tailored to the stage of their lives in which they are, they will do their best job of thriving.

 

The 3 stages which are of most concern to the indoor gardener, are:  

Freshly potted

Established

Mature

Freshly Potted

Whether started from cuttings, or by transplanting and potting a smaller plant (or several) the task of the freshly potted plant is to settle into its pot and fill it with roots.  Most plants need to feel "cozy" in their pot, and often a plant which does not seem to be putting on much foliage growth is actually growing like crazy under the dirt. 

Most plant will not begin to look "showy" until they are established.  They need to establish a firm and extensive root ball which will extend all the way through the pot.  Over years they will form additional roots which makes the root ball more dense, but even a plant which is only a few months old will have roots throughout all of the soil in the pot.  A plant that doesn't have this will have have some problems from it.  Empty pockets of potting mix can start to harbor microorganisms which are not good for the plant.  Or they can dry out completely so water will not penetrate them, and eventually become a sort of void within the root system in which no growth is occurring. 

Established

If Freshly Potted is the infancy and childhood years of a plant, Established is the teenage and young adult years.  They have their root systems established and are set to provide nourishment to the plant during its prime years of putting on foliage. This is the stage when a plant really start to look showy. 

Because foliage needs more and a different kinds of nutrients than roots, an established plant needs to be fertilized regularly.  Bear this in mind:

Fertilizer is food, not medicine. 

I have always preferred a liquid fertilizer which I can mix in when I water the plants.  I always go fairly light - often half or less than the recommended dose - except during the prime growing season and when the plants get a lot of light.  Overfertilizing can cause some problems, and for a long term plant collection you want slow and steady growth, not a massive amount of new foliage which by itself can become a problem to have to deal with. 

Mature Plants

Eventually the growth rate of most potted plants slows down.