, Newburyport, MA

February 12, 2014

Tim's Tips: A few potting pointers

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — There are always a few things to tell you about that really don’t warrant a full column. This week, I cover some odds and ends of things that you may need to know.

Most potting soil is made with peat moss instead of topsoil. Peat moss is hard to get moist if it has had a chance to dry out. If you water your dried-out potting soil with cold water, the water tends to run off the soil. If you use warm water, the peat in the soil tends to absorb it.

Next time you have to water your houseplants, make sure that you use warm water.

If you are starting plants from seed, you should always use a potting soil called a seed-starting soil. This type of soil is peat moss-based. It doesn’t contain any ground bark or any type of topsoil. The reason for this is that anything that is added to the soil that may have come in contact with dirt can carry a disease called damping-off.

This disease will cause the seedlings to rot right at the soil line. If you are going to use soil for starting any of your flower or vegetable plants from seed, always use a seed-starting soil.

You may have heard that you can start some new houseplants by cutting off a bit of the stem of the plant and placing that cutting into water.

Eventually, the cutting forms roots and you can then put it into a pot filled with potting soil. There are some plants that won’t root in water. If you want to take cuttings, you need to use a product called a rooting powder.

With this type of product, you take a pot and fill it with moistened potting soil. You then take a pencil and make a hole in the potting soil that is about a half-inch bigger than the diameter of the cutting. You then take your cutting and dip it in water.

Shake the excess water from the cutting, and then dip about an inch of the bottom of the cutting into the rooting powder. You will then very carefully place the cutting into the hole in the soil. Press the soil around the cutting, and place the pot into a well-lit area.

The cutting should not be in sunlight until new leaves begin to form on the cutting. You probably won’t need to water the cutting until those new roots form. However, don’t let the potting soil go dry. Allowing the soil to go dry will prevent the formation of new roots.

Hopefully, these are some tips you can use now and in the future.

I’ll talk to you again next week.


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.