How to repot plants?

Properly Moving Plants From the Ground to a Pot

If you’re into gardening or landscaping yourself, there are a variety of reasons why you may wish to transfer a plant or plants from the ground to a pot.

These could include:

  • Seasonal Changes
  • Plant Not Thriving in Environment
  • Redesigning Your Garden Space

There are other reasons but these are the most common. Whatever your motives, moving a plant from the ground to a pot is not quite as simple as simply digging it up and tossing it in a pot with some soil around it. Like most things, there is an ideal process, and steps you can and should take to ensure a safe move that won’t “shock” your plant and keep it healthy.

Steps to Take Prior to Transplanting

There are a couple of things you should do before you actually begin the physical process of moving the plant. This will ensure minimal hassle and give you the best quality results. Most importantly, it will keep your plant safe.

  1. Check the Soil/Medium.

It might seem obvious, but be sure that the soil you’re going to move your plant to is the same medium it thrives in while it’s in the ground. Also get some form of container aside from the pot itself so that you can store some of the soil. You’ll put this over the plant after transplanting.

  1. Choose the Right Pot

A pot that isn’t relative to the size of the plant you are moving has some drawbacks. Most notably, there is an increased risk that you may accidentally over-water the plant and drown it. To minimize risk, choose a pot that isn’t massively bigger in dimensions than the plant needs.

Properly Moving the Plant

Once you are ready for the move itself, here’s a way to do it safely:

  1. Scoop
  2. Dig

Use a trowel to scoop whatever potting soil your plant needs into the pot. Be sure to leave room for a root system if necessary. Then, dig around the base of the plant you wish to move. Be sure to do this gently and carefully, so as not to accidentally damage your plant. Once you have dug sufficiently that the plant is not cemented any longer, carefully pull it out of the ground. You can shake the plant gently to loosen the roots a bit or remove excess soil; keep in mind it should be going into a mixture that is similar to said soil, though.


Place the plant into the top with some of the soil already inside. Gently cover the roots with the remainder of the potting soil.

To finish, water the plant so that the soil is very moist, but take care not to overdo it.

While there are some variations to all of this based on different plant types and sizes, this handy guide provides a solid, general overview of how to safely transfer a plant from ground to pot. This will work for most any plant and ensure that all of your plants have a stress-free move to their new ceramic homes.

Transferring plants from pot to garden

3. Dig your hole

Dig your hole to the same depth as the plant is growing in the pot, and at least twice the width of the pot. This helps to ensure the soil around the root ball will be loose, making it easier for new roots to penetrate as the plant settles in.

4. Remove your plant from its pot

Before removing it from the pot, water the plant thoroughly or soak it in a bucket of water. This helps to ensure the root ball is completely wet, which is difficult to do after planting.

Hint: Using a mild Seasol solution for soaking can help to reduce the stress of transplanting on your plants and stimulate new root growth.

Turn the pot over and tap around the sides and the rim to loosen the plant and slide it out. Handle it by the root ball and not the trunk or stem.

Don’t disturb the roots unless the plant is really rootbound. In this case, gently loosen the outer roots with your fingers or use a sharp knife to make a few slices a centimetre or two into the root ball, from top to bottom.

If you do have to prune roots, make sure to give the plant plenty of water and some fertiliser according to instructions .

5. Planting

Once you have the plant’s roots in the hole, fill the hole about halfway with soil and then fill the hole with water and allow it to drain. This removes any air pockets in the soil.

Now finish filling the hole with soil and tap firmly around the base of the plant. Don’t stomp it in, as this over-compacts the soil.

If you are planting outdoors and soil or the hole take some time to adjust before planting, it is a good idea to have an old towel handy to cover the roots to protect them from sunlight and drying out.

6. Mulch

Finish off your planting with a layer of mulch to help retain moisture. Completely surround the plant, but ensure the mulch is pulled back a few centimetres from the trunk to prevent collar rot. A standard application of mulch is around 10cm.

7. Stake

Stakes can help protect larger plants while they become established. Make sure ties are loose to allow movement and to avoid damage to the trunk.

8. Aftercare

You’ll need to water your new plantings for at least four weeks to help them to become established.

During this time the plant’s roots will grow out of the old root ball and into the surrounding soil. You’ll know this has happened when you see new growth.

Lastly, add a sprinkle of controlled release fertiliser to the soil around your plant to encourage growth for months to come.

How to Transplant Seedlings

By Charlie Nardozzi, The Editors of the National Gardening Association

After you prepare your garden beds and harden off the seedlings, it’s time to transplant your seedlings into the garden. Transplant seedlings on a calm, cloudy day, if possible. Late afternoon is a good time because plants can recover from the shock of transplanting without sitting in the midday heat and sun.

Your garden soil should be moist, but not soggy. If the weather has been dry, water the planting area the day before you plant. Moisten the soil in your flats or pots so it holds together around the plants’ roots when you remove the plants from their containers.

When setting out plants in biodegradable peat pots, make slits down the sides of the pots or gently tear the sides to enable the roots to push through. Make sure that no part of the peat pot appears above the soil; the exposed peat acts as a moisture wick and can dry out the soil quickly.

To transplant seedlings, follow these steps:

  1. Use a hoe, spade, or trowel to make a small hole in your garden for each seedling.

    The hole should be deep enough so the transplant is at the same depth in the ground as it was in the pot (except for tomatoes). Make the hole twice as wide as the root ball.

  2. Unpot a seedling (unless it’s in a peat pot) by turning its pot upside down and cupping the seedling with your hand.

    Be sure to keep the root mass and soil intact. If the seedling doesn’t come out easily, gently tap on the edge of the pot or gently press on the bottom of each cell of the flat with your fingers. Whatever you do, don’t yank out a plant by its stem.

  3. Check the root ball’s condition.

    If the roots are wound around the outside of the pot, work them loose with your fingers so they can grow out into the soil. Unwind larger roots and break smaller ones (this won’t hurt them) so they all point outward. Try to keep as much of the original soil intact as possible.

  4. Mix a diluted liquid fertilizer into the soil of the planting hole to help the plants get off to a fast start.

    Reduce the recommended strength on the fertilizer container by half. For example, if it says apply 1 tablespoon per gallon of water, use only 1/2 tablespoon.

  5. Put each prepared seedling into the holes that you made.

    Plant seedlings at the correct depth.

    Tomatoes prefer deeper planting. Remove all but the top 3 or 4 sets of leaves, before planting. Tomatoes grow extra roots along the lower portion of their stems and thrive with this treatment.

  6. After firming the soil around the roots with your hands, form a shallow soil basin around the base of the transplant.

    The soil basin serves as a moat around the seedling to hold water. When you water or when it rains, the moisture stays in the moat and drains to where the roots are located.

  7. Depending on the conditions, water the bed that day or the next.

    If the weather has been dry or if the soil is sandy, you may want to water the entire bed; if it’s rainy or the soil is already very wet, wait until tomorrow to water.

  8. Keep the bed moist while the seedlings get established and begin to grow strongly.

    Mulch after the seedlings become well-established. In extreme hot, dry weather, provide temporary shade for transplants with paper tents or wooden shingles pushed into the ground on the south or west side of the plants.

If you don’t get an ideal transplanting day and the weather is hot and sunny, shade the plants until the sun goes down. And don’t be alarmed if your plants look a little droopy after you set them out; they’ll soon recover. Cabbage seedlings can droop and look almost dead, for example, and be up and growing in a day or two.

How And When To Transplant Your Weed

Expansive healthy roots mean strong turgid plants and fat resin jewelled buds on your mature marijuana plants. Type big into a thesaurus. All those words are what you want for your cannabis plants in every way. You have already decided what grow method you are going to use to make the most of your space. Indoor or outdoor. You will have space for a larger number of small pots as in SOGing or a smaller number of large pots as for ScrOGing or a standard tipped and mainlined grow. You may even be going for broke and have one large pot for a single large space filling marijuana plant. No matter what, you will be transplanting into bigger pots at least twice.


Pot on: transplanting to a larger pot from a smaller pot.

Re-potting (root trimming): transplanting the plant back into a pot of the same size with a fresh growing medium.

Here we only discuss the appropriate double entendre, potting on.


Knowing how and when to transplant your babies can add days of resin production in the final weeks of maturation. Little to no transplant shock means minimal time wasted by your plants recovering from broken roots, collapsed root balls or pot binding. Unlike hydroponics or deep water culture, growing in a solid medium like soil or coco makes potting on necessary as your plants grow. The goal is for the roots to keep seeking out from the stem and delay coiling in the pot for as long as possible. When roots start to fill the volume of the pot too much, vegetative growth will slow.


In nature, the spacing of plants affects their habit. When cannabis is planted for industrial purposes it is planted very close together. The resulting root tangling releases hormones that encourage a tall plant with no true side branching. This characteristic has been exploited by humans for millennia to obtain perfect long fibers uninterrupted by branch nodes. Close planting also results in only one large main cola where a phenomenal amount of seed is easily accessed and processed. Similarly, when a plant is in too small a pot the same hormones are released fooling it into believing it is close to other plants making it want to grow tall with minimal side branching. This phenomenon is exploited in SOGing where only a main cola is grown on plants with little to no side branching.

When growing marijuana for recreational buds or therapeutically strong flowers the further plants are apart the better. Five square metres is the recommended minimum outdoor area per plant. The spacious root room encourages the plant to fulfill more of its potential. It establishes more vigorous side branches which have multiple sites for flower production. Correspondingly, a big pot makes the plant think it is at a distance from its neighbours so it will have a much bushier aspect. This growth pattern is ideal for modern manipulation techniques like mainlining and SCROGing. The extreme outdoor example, of course, is ten pound plants grown in 4,000 litre grow bags. Mmmmmm … ten pound plants.


There is no real formula used to gauge ideal pot sizes for your ganga apart from the biggest possible for your particular situation. Things vary indoors and outdoors. You have already considered how much space you have. What type of growing you are going to do. How much personal time you have available for maintenance etcetera. You already know the maximum pot size in which you will finish your cannabis plants, getting the highest yields of buds possible for your personal situation. If you are growing outdoors, ease of maintenance in the early vegetative stage should be considered before planting into your garden, giant pots or grow bags.


Your cannabis clones have taken or your seeds are thriving and have a healthy white root ball. You can see roots emerging from your rock wool starter blocks or jiffy pots. They may be starting to snake their way out of the bottom of your cloning trays or are in plain sight in your quick rooting or atomizing box. If the roots have already started to feather then be swift and gentle, you are running late. The feathering is very delicate and will break off easily. You want glossy white seeker roots. These roots are quite strong and they will easily penetrate the new medium before divaricating on their search for moisture and nutrients. At this point potting on is as simple as filling your chosen pot with growing medium. Make a hole with your finger in the centre and plant your seedling or clone. Back fill gently and water into place.


A clone or seedling potted into a four litre pot will easily be ready for its final indoor location after three weeks. For this whole stage your marijuana plants will be easy to manage with no risk of water logging. There would be no need for an intermediary pot size. Outdoors roots will expand rapidly when given more volume. A four litre pot when potted on with minimal root damage will fill a nineteen litre pot within three weeks. For this whole time they are easily maintained with minimal effort after which they are ready to be potted on again to their final outdoor location. You will need a trusted friend to do a good job of transplanting from a larger pot. They are heavy and struggling on your own is a guaranteed way to do some kind of root damage.


The mantra here is ” Transplant shock is bad. The less root damage the better.”

First, water your plants thoroughly and leave to drain well for a few hours. This way the medium will be less likely to collapse when the pot is upended. Overly dry or saturated root balls collapse easily.

Gently squeeze the pot with both hands. Apply even pressure to each point of the compass.

With fingers placed either side of the stalk, palm flat on the surface of the grow medium, turn the pot completely upside down and make sure you have it balanced well.

Lift pot away to reveal the root ball. Timed to perfection a well-formed root mass will hold all the medium in place in the shape of the pot and not sag or break and fall apart. The roots will be bright white and not have feathered too much or have knotted at the bottom. If the roots are slightly yellowed and the root mass is very dense then you are a bit late but richer in experience. If the grow medium slumps away exposing seeker roots to the air then you are too early, but again, richer for the experience. In this instance delay your potting on for a few days so the rest of your weed crop can develop more roots and avoid being traumatized.

Fill your target pot close to full with moistened medium. Make a divot for the transplant to stand up in while you gently back fill around.

Water with the same amount used for the smaller pot for at least two days to avoid water logging the soil while the roots grow. Slowly increase the amount as the root ball and plant get larger.


This is up to you. The only issue is the risk of water logging soil that is yet to be invaded by roots. Use care when watering so as to not water log the bottom of the pot. Roots will recoil from saturated soil and be prone to rot. Leaves will curl under and growth will slow. Cannabis likes dry feet, so err on the side of caution. Water sparingly in the first week after potting on if you choose to go to the biggest pot immediately. You must consider though that in the early weeks of vegetation smaller pots are easier to look after. During those initial weeks well maintained marijuana plants have a substantial amount of attention paid to them. Small pots are easier to move about when tending and can be easily rotated to give 360 degree light coverage.


If you are growing autos put your sprout straight into the finishing pot and carefully increase water levels. Days are precious with autos. Four days recovering from unintentional root damage can be 6% of the grow time. That’s 6% less dry yield at the end of the cycle.


As a guide to help you utilize your space and time efficiently here is a list of standard pot sizes. A very reasonable plant can be grown in a thirty centimetre pot and an exceptional plant in a sixty one centimetre pot. All standard pots are alike in that their diameter at the rim is equal to their depth. A healthy cannabis plant can easily have a canopy three times the diameter of the pot.

Repotting and Transplanting Tomato Seedlings

Deciding when to transplant tomato seedlings is easy. When tomato seedlings are three or four inches tall and have their second pair of leaves, it’s time to take them out of their crowded containers and put them into deeper, roomier ones. (If you started seedlings in individual containers at least three inches square, simply thin out the weaker plants by snipping them off at the soil line and leaving the strongest one.)

Choosing The Right Container

Any part of the tomato stem that’s covered with soil will develop roots, and a large root system is important for transplants. Try using a deeper container and set the plants lower than they were growing before – right up to the lowest set of leaves, if you can. Use the same soil mix that you used to start your seeds. Here are some hints for successful repotting:

  • Water the tomatoes well before you start to repot. Moist soil will cling to the roots and protect them from drying.
  • Lever the seedlings out of the soil with a small utensil, such as a table knife. Lift the plants by their leaves, if necessary, rather than by their stems – if you lose a leaf, it can grow back, but if you break the stem below the leaves, the plant won’t make it.
  • Set the seedlings about three inches apart in their new container(s). Firm the soil around them, and water gently. Keep out of bright sunlight for a day or two.
  • Fertilize once a week with liquid fertilizer. Follow the directions for dilution on the label. Some recommend different dilution and application rates for seedlings versus houseplants or full-grown plants.

The Second Transplant

Before the tomato plants can be transplanted successfully to the garden, they need to develop strong root and top growth. To be sure their seedlings have a good root system, many gardeners prefer to repot them a second time before setting them out in the garden. Wait until seedlings are six to 10 inches tall. A good rule is to transplant when the height of your seedling is three times the diameter of its pot. Pot them up individually in half-gallon milk cartons or four- to six-inch-diameter pots. Again, you can plant them right up to their first set of leaves.

Indoor Care

If your seedlings are getting tall and spindly, the room temperature may bee too high, the light too weak, or you’re using too much fertilizer (or a combination of all three). Review seedling needs in Starting Tomatoes from Seed and adjust growing conditions as needed. Transplanting leggy seedlings deeply helps them to root along their stems, thus reducing the problem, but the best solution is to give your young plants proper growing conditions in the first place.

Plant Care: Repotting

Repotting your plants can be tricky, but we have a few tips to make it a success. Proper repotting is key to avoid stressing out your plants. If your plant is overgrown or you want to switch up the decor, we feel that. Let’s take a look at what to know before you repot.
When to Repot

Repotting does not necessarily mean changing a plant’s planter, but rather, changing its soil or potting mix. Fresh soil means new nutrients. This is great news if you love your current planter, but if you’re looking to purchase a new one that’s fine. If you are changing planters, try to keep the size no more than 3″ larger in diameter for tabletop planters, and no more than 6″ larger in diameter for floor planters. Make sure your planter has drainage and put a tray underneath to catch any excess water. The size is important here, because typically when we move our plants to a larger pot with more soil, we will be inclined to water more often. A small plant + an oversized planter + lots of soil + overwatering = killing with kindness. Learn more about picking the perfect planter here.

If you see one or a combination of these signs, you’ll know it’s time to repot:

  • Roots are growing through the drainage hole at the bottom of the planter
  • Roots are pushing the plant up, out of the planter
  • Plant is growing slower than normal (different than dormant)
  • Plant is extremely top heavy, and falls over easily
  • Plant dries out more quickly than usual, requiring more frequent waterings
  • Aboveground parts of plant take up more than three times the pot space
  • Noticeable salt and mineral build up on the plant or planter

Plants typically need to be repotted every 12 to 18 months, but some slow growers can call the same pot home for years. Early spring, before the start of the growth season, is the best time to repot your houseplants.

Early spring, before the start of the growth season, is the best time to repot your houseplants.

How to Repot

Now you know when to repot, but still not sure how to? Check out or step-by-step below.

What You Need
  • Your houseplant, of course
  • Newspaper (for easy clean up)
  • Fresh potting mix
  • A watering can, spray bottle, or makeshift water bottle
  • Scissors or pruners
  • A planter (your choice as far as colors and materials, but be mindful of the size)
10 Step Repotting

1. Water your plant thoroughly a day or two before you plan to repot.

2. Pre-moisten the new potting soil if it feels dry (optional).

3. Turn your plant sideways, hold it gently by the stems, and tap the bottom of its current container until the plant slides out (you can give it a bit of help with a couple gentle tugs on the base of the stems).

Plants typically need to be repotted every 12 to 18 months, but some slow growers can call the same pot home for years.

4. With your hands, loosen the roots and prune any that are head or extra long.

5. If your plant is root bound – footings growing in tight circles around the base of the plant – unbind them as best you can and give them a little trim. You may find yourself tearing them a little if you cannot finesse them apart. Try not to damage buds or stems. Be gentle.

6. Remove about 1/3 of the old potting mix.

7. Pour a layer of fresh, pre-moistened mix into the planter and pack it down.

8. Set plant on top of the fresh layer of mix in the planter, making sure it’s centered.

9. Add potting mix around the plant until it is secure (sitting upright). Be sure not to pack too much soil into the planter, as you want the roots to breathe. Leave some space below the lip of the planter, about an inch or so for larger planters. Avoid piling soil all the way up to the top of the pot. You will not be able to water it properly, as water will rush off the sides of the pot without ever soaking in.

10. Even out the potting soil on top, making sure to leave the soil line an inch or so from the top. Water well and let it drain.

Keep growing your plant knowledge.

Want more tips? Sign up for our plant care newsletter and find out how to keep your plants healthy and happy.

When Does a Plant Needs Repotting?

By Bill Marken, Suzanne DeJohn, The Editors of the National Gardening Association

When does a plant need repotting? Any time its roots are overcrowded in the container. But don’t wait for outward signs that a plant needs repotting The following clues tell you it’s time to repot:

  • You see lots of roots coming through the drain hole.

  • You find matted roots near the soil surface.

  • You slip the plant from its container and you see more roots than soil.

Poor flowering, quickly dried out soil, stunted leaves and stems, and even leaf drop and die-back are signs of distress. Plants give these signals because they’re not able to draw enough nutrients and moisture from their current root situation. Check container plants regularly, if possible, slipping them out of their pots to examine the roots for crowding.

Annual flowers and vegetables that you’ve started from seed in small containers need frequent repotting into progressively larger containers, perhaps as often as every month, until they’re ready for their season-long home, which should be a container chosen to accommodate their mature size. Ditto for young transplants that you purchase.

Permanent plants, such as trees, shrubs, and perennial flowers, may need repotting every few years. Permanent plants are best repotted when growth is slow or when they’re dormant, either before or after flowering. With this schedule, plants have a chance to recover from the root disturbance that invariably occurs during repotting, no matter how careful you are. Repot spring-blooming permanent plants in fall and evergreens in spring or fall.

How Often Should You Change the Soil in Your Houseplants?

If you want your houseplants to thrive, they need to be in a nutrient-rich environment where they’ll get enough water, sun, and air. Over time, though, plants use up many of their soil’s nutrients and organic material, says Jeana Myers, a North Carolina State horticulture extension agent. “The soil becomes depleted and hard and won’t hold water or nutrients as well.” To keep your indoor plants healthy, you’ll need to repot them with fresh soil. But how often should you change out their soil for fresh stuff? We break it all down.

Image zoom Tetra Images/Getty

Related: How to Successfully Repot Your Houseplants

How Often to Replace the Soil

It really depends on the plant, says Myers. “Faster-growing houseplants like pothos and African violets will benefit from annual repotting . Slower-growing plants like cacti and sansevieria, or mother-in-law’s tongue, can be repotted every one-and-a-half to two years.”

When to Replace with Fresh Soil

Myers says spring is a good time to repot houseplants using fresh soil. “There’s an abundance of sunlight during that time, so plants are going to have some significant root growth,” which will necessitate planting them in a larger pot. But repotting is also essential when a plant looks dried out and pops right out of the pot when you try to remove it; when you water the plant and the water runs through to the pot’s dish, which mean there’s no more organic materials left to retain moisture; when the plants aren’t growing well and start to look slightly yellowish; if the soil becomes overly firm to the touch; if you see many roots growing out of the drain hole on the pot’s bottom.

Do You Need to Change the Pot?

If you want to keep the size of a plant the same as it is, use the same pot but change the soil. If you want to give a plant more room to grow, use a new pot that’s no more than an inch or two larger than what it’s currently in. Don’t make the mistake of putting a small plant in a too-big pot. “The plant is going to have a hard time getting enough air,” says Myers, and without an adequate air supply, it won’t last long.

What Kind of Soil to Use

What keeps plants happy and well-nourished is a potting mix, which is a light and fluffy combo of peat moss, pine bark, and perlite or vermiculite. Never use garden soil, which is too dense for a potted plant. “It contains clay or sand, which won’t let the plants breathe enough or get enough oxygen to the roots,” explains Myers. “Your plants will not flourish.” You can find potting mix at any garden center or nursery.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *