- Repotting House Plants: When, Why and How-tos
- Repotting Guide
- Repotting Your Houseplants
- Think about repotting your houseplant if any of the following applies
- When not to repot houseplants
- When is the best time to repot houseplants?
- What Container should I use?
- What Growing Medium should you use
- How To Repot Houseplants
- Repotting Houseplants: How To Repot A Houseplant
- How to Repot a Houseplant
- Steps for Repotting Houseplants
- Repotting Houseplants
- Repotting Houseplants
- Growing Together: Spring best time to divide, repot houseplants
- Why You Should Repot Your Houseplants & Guide to Repotting
- Signs your plant needs repotting
- Choosing a Pot
- Let’s Get To It: How to Repot
Repotting House Plants: When, Why and How-tos
Sooner or later, repotting house plants becomes necessary.
Plants should be moved into larger containers as they grow. Unless more space is provided for the plant’s roots, they can become pot-bound. That is, the roots of the plant become cramped and form a tightly packed mass that inhibits growth.
How Do You Know if a Plant Needs Repotted?
The most obvious sign is when you can see roots on the surface of the soil or emerging from the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.
If the plant seems to stop growing or has slowed growth, it has likely become pot-bound. If it’s a small plant, turn the pot on its side and ease the plant out of its container. Take a peek at its roots. Are they coiled in the bottom of the pot? If so, it’s definitely time to repot.
Offsets produced by plants can become crowded in the pot and need to be separated and propagated in their own containers.
When to Repot a Plant
If your plant just came home from the garden center, let it adjust to its new environment for a couple weeks before repotting it. Plants are in shock until they get used to new light, temperature, and humidity conditions. If you want to cover up a plain plastic container, put it in a cachepot.
Young, actively growing house plants should to be moved into slightly larger pots with fresh potting mix once a year. Repotting house plants that are large, such as ficus, or slow-growing plants can be done every two years or when they seem to outgrow their pots or look top-heavy. If a plant is thriving, you can assume it is happy in its pot.
It’s a good idea to repot a plant at the beginning of a period of active growth, usually in spring. Repotting house plants that bloom in winter should be done in early fall, after their dormant period.
How to Choose a Container
The new pot should be no more than 2 inches wider at the rim — or 2 inches deeper — than the old pot. Why? A pot that’s much larger gives the roots too much space to grow into. The top of the plant won’t grow until its roots begin to fill the container.
A too-large container will also hold too much water and can cause root rot. And while I’m on the subject — be sure to choose a container that has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Check out Pots and Containers if you want more information on choosing containers.
Scrub used pots between plantings to remove any diseases. You can disinfect a pot by soaking it in a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water. Rinse well with clear water.
If you’re using a new terra cotta pot, soak it in water for a few hours before you plant in it. New terra cotta is so dry that it will rob moisture from the soil leaving the plant thirsty.
How to Repot a Plant — Step by Step
- To remove the plant from its original pot, turn it on its side and ease the plant gently from the pot. If the plant won’t budge, you may have to tap the bottom of the pot on a hard surface to loosen it. Or slide a trowel or knife around the inside of the pot, taking care not to damage the rootball.
- If the roots are coiled around the bottom, use your fingers to pull them straight. Prune the roots before potting. Pruning will stimulate new root growth and help the plant establish in its new container.
- Partly fill the new container with potting mix. Center the plant in its container, then fill the sides of the plant with additional mix. Tamp it down with your fingers, especially around the sides of the pot.
- Water thoroughly to moisten roots and to settle potting mix. Add more mix if needed.
After-Repotting House Plants Care Tips
Repotting house plants is stressful for them and they need time to recuperate. Here are a few tips to help plants adjust:
- Do not expose it to direct sun right away because sun can be too harsh on a weakened plant.
- Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. If you notice that the leaves are limp, the plant is not getting enough water. If the leaves turn yellow, it’s getting too much water.
- High humidity sometimes helps a newly repotted plant recover. Take a look at these tips for raising the humidity for your house plants.
- Never fertilize a newly repotted plant. Its roots have likely been cut and can suffer from fertilizer burn. Wait at least a month before fertilizing when its root system is better established.
- House Plant Care
Repotting Your Houseplants
Healthy roots are the foundations for growing houseplants successfully. So always look after your plant by looking after its roots. This guide, which is all about repotting houseplants, will help you to learn the skills to be able to do this correctly. So let’s get started and dig in!
Houseplants normally grow in two different ways. The first is the part of the plant that sits above the soil, the leaves, flowers and everything else that make a houseplant a houseplant. The second type of growth happens beneath the soil with the roots and for the most part are hidden from view.
The roots support all that green growth above the soil and sometimes you’ll need to repot your houseplant into a bigger pot with more space for those roots to grow into.
photo by Rawpixel
Many houseplants do well in the same container and growing medium for many years. But eventually the roots will have spread out as far as they can and will then grow in on themselves until completely filling the space available. When this happens the plant is “pot bound”, or “root bound” and a repot might be needed.
The usual reason for repotting is to upsize the current pot or container the plant is currently in and fill the remaining space with fresh nutrient containing growing material.
The main positive of repotting your houseplant is that you’ll likely get more visible growth above the soil, for example, a bigger and healthier looking plant. Another advantage means you’ll have to water it less because if a plant has completely filled its pot with roots there is then less space for water to be retained.
With those benefits, it’s not surprising one of the most frequently asked questions we’re asked from concerned plant parents is “when should I repot my houseplant?”. Our list below will answer this.
Think about repotting your houseplant if any of the following applies
- More frequent watering
Whenever there are more roots than soil in a container, you’ll find the soil dries out very quickly and you’ll be watering it more than usual.
- Plant rising up out of the pot
Unstable wobbly plants in pots or those pushing themselves up and out are a sign that a repot is needed.
- Roots are coming out of the drainage holes
If a lot of roots have started to poke out of the pots drainage holes this likely means the roots are searching for more growing space.
- Your houseplant isn’t growing
It hasn’t grown for years although you want it to.
- The pot has been damaged
Either from age, accident or from the plants own root growth.
- The growing medium has broken down.
It might be full of mold, starting to smell or has more salt deposits appearing on the soil surface than a Friday night fish and chip takeaway. When this happens it’s time to freshen things up by repotting.
- Pot bound
You take the plant out of its container and it’s all roots and no soil. Like this:
photo byKeith Williamson
When not to repot houseplants
It’s not possible to provide fixed rules which suit and apply to all houseplants, therefore we’d recommend taking a look at our plant profiles where we can be more specific about their needs. But there are some generally agreed rules about when not to repot which we can personally vouch for –
- Try not to repot a plant which is currently flowering
Houseplants normally only flower when conditions are favorable to do so, and if you start turning the plant upside down, shaking it around and giving it a shockingly bad time it may abandon its flowering attempt. This is known as transplant shock.
As a practical example of this happening, the flower buds on your plant may drop off, which can be frequently observed with the Christmas Cactus.
- Don’t do it if the plant is a giant already
You may hurt yourself (and the plant) if it’s too heavy to lift safely, in these circumstances, it’s best to simply top dress.
Top dressing involves scrapping off an inch or so of the soil at the top of the pot and replacing with fresh compost. This will provide nutrients and increase the pots water absorbing capacities.
- Some plants need to be pot bound
In order for them to flower, some houseplants need to be in relatively small pots, for example, the Bird of Paradise and the Peace Lily.
These plants tend to only concentrate their time growing flowers if they can no longer spend their energy growing further roots.
- You don’t want your plant to get any bigger
It’s almost a given that if you repot, the plant will grow larger. If there is no physical space for it to grow into and you can’t move it to a bigger home, or you just don’t want it to get any larger, don’t repot it!
- It’s not usually the best idea to repot a sick houseplant
If your plant has become sickly don’t assume repotting will automatically cure-all. Unless the soil itself is in an absolutely terrible condition it’s far more likely the sickly appearance is being caused by another problem and repotting may make matters worse.
Of all possible things to try for treating a sick plant, repotting is one of the most radical and should only be considered when you’ve tried everything else.
When is the best time to repot houseplants?
Almost all books and websites will advise you to only repot houseplants during Spring which is typically when new green growth is starting up. The idea is that the new growth works in both directions and the roots will quickly grow into the new space at this time of year and will, therefore, establish faster in its new home.
The majority of houseplants don’t mind when you do it
However, when you’ve had some experience with houseplants as we have, you’ll find that ultimately the majority of houseplants don’t mind when you do it because it’s more about how you do it.
So if you buy a plant in Winter and you think it’s in desperate need of a new pot, don’t be afraid to do it then if you feel it’s needed. Just make sure you avoid overwatering and if you’re repotting it outside keep exposure to the cold to a minimum.
What Container should I use?
With so many containers out there to pick from, you’re bound to find one that suits your style. Here are a few pointers to consider when making your choice.
- Drainage – Rather than planting your houseplant directly into a container with no drainage, it’s best to have your plant in a pot with drainage holes and then put this pot holding your plant into an attractive outer container with no drainage holes. As shown in the photo here.
This means if you’ve overwatered you can easily remove the pot holding your plant and pour the excess in the bottom of the container away.
- Clay pots Vs. Plastic Pots – Clay pots are porous whereas plastic aren’t. This means plants growing in clay pots will need more frequent watering.
- Upsizing – When you repot your houseplant, it’s normally good practice to replace the current pot with a new one that’s a size up. This gives some more growing space for the roots but isn’t so much space that the plant gets lost.
- Clean Pots Only – When you store a previously used pot or pull one out for use from an existing supply, give it a quick clean to prevent the spread of fungus or bacteria that might harm your plant.
Houseplants look fantastic, but a nice container or pot can really enhance not only the plant itself but the room it’s in. Choose pots and containers that you like and suit your space but stick to the rules above.
If you need some pot inspiration then check out our Pinterest. Or if you want some more commonly found or traditional looking containers then you can browse the Amazon links below which might give you some ideas.
What Growing Medium should you use
What growing medium you choose to grow your plants in is important and surprisingly varied. Many plants will grow really well in lots of different growing mediums from the traditional soil based composts to the less common hydroponics.
For beginners, we’d suggest keeping it simple and using a pre-packaged mix from a store that’s labeled for “houseplants”.
These houseplant types of mixes can be used for most houseplants, except Air Plants, most Orchids, Pitcher Plants and Venus Flytraps. Those plants have very special needs and trying to use a houseplant compost will kill them quickly. If you’re looking to repot an Air Plant, a Slipper, Cambria or Moth Orchid, Pitcher Plant or Venus Flytrap be sure to use the links to read up on their repotting requirements.
For anyone experienced with houseplants, or those who want to learn more, check out our full guide on the different growing mediums.
How To Repot Houseplants
photo by Rubyand Lion
We’ve covered all the basics for you above and now it’s time to look at a real life repotting attempt with full instructions to guide you through.
Step One – Preparation
First things first, find your space. It can be messy work so it’s normally best to do it outside, but if you’ve restricted outside space then, of course, you can do it inside. Just make sure you cover your work area with newspaper or something similar to protect the floor and to help with the clean up afterward.
Gather everything you need such as the new pot and fresh compost.
Step Two – Removing the Plant
Taking the houseplant out of the existing pot might sound easy. But if you’re repotting because the roots have filled the pot then it’s likely the plant might not come out without a fight.
This is due to the old pot being completely full of roots and it might be ever so slightly distorted as a result. The roots may also be coming out of the bottom like in the picture below and just one or two of these roots can really hold everything firmly in place.
Either of these issues can create a frustrating challenge. But gentle hands and patience are needed here, so no yanking the plant out by the base of the stem, because this is simply setting yourself up for disaster. The kind of disaster which involves ripping the plant in two!
Try the following ideas to release a stubborn plant from its container.
- Idea One – Squeezing: (if it’s in a clay / hard material pot which can’t be squeezed go straight to Idea Two).
Squeeze the pot a little in your hands and rotate, repeating the squeeze as you go all the way around, potentially several times. Eventually, you should start to feel the plant getting lose and then at this point the root ball and everything should hopefully slide out neatly.
- Idea Two – Remove hooked on roots: – If any roots have grown out of the drainage holes at the bottom, you can cut or break them off. Just one of these roots can twist and hook on with amazing strength completely stopping the overall release.
- Idea Three – Further release tips: – If the squeeze trick didn’t work, there are no hooked on roots to dislodge and the plant is still trapped you’ll need to apply a little more force. You can try pushing the blunt end of a pencil (or similar) through each drainage hole a little up into the root ball, the intention is for you to gently push the plant up and out.
- Idea Four – When all else fails… It’s hammer time: – It’s time to get brutal. On the container. On occasion, some plants leave you no choice but to literally be smashed or cut out of their old home.
A very badly distorted pot is an indication you’ll need to cut your plant free with a pair of large scissors. If it’s not in a plastic pot, you have one of two choices, either smashing the container or abandoning the repotting attempt entirely.
Step Three – Clean Up The Roots
Hopefully, by this point, the houseplant is free from its old home! This is a great time to check the roots for damage and the general health of the plant, any mushy roots which are black, dead or dying should be cut away.
If you’re repotting because your plant is sick, and you can now see that the root health isn’t good, this is a warning that you need to adjust how you’re caring for the plant generally.
Some people at this point will also recommend cutting or pulling off healthy roots to encourage new growth. We don’t recommend this at all.
Some people will recommend cutting off healthy roots to encourage new growth. We don’t recommend this at all
You’ll just be forcing the plant to grow all these roots back which is a complete waste of energy that would be better spent fueling new leaf growth or flowers.
We think this idea evolved from how gardeners “tease out” roots before planting outdoors. It’s not needed for houseplants growing in pots. Just remove the dead or damaged roots only.
Teasing out, means you are gently pulling on the compacted roots to loosen and free them from the tight bundle. Tightly restricted roots can end up growing around in circles and not out into the new compost and space of the new container. So, by all means, give teasing out a go if your plant’s roots are all tightly wound up, just remember not to be too aggressive.
Step Four – Planting Up
There are several good ways to actually get the plant into its new home. We’re going to take you through two of the most popular.
Whichever you choose make sure when you’ve finished, the plant is still sitting at the similar “soil level” or depth as it was in its old home.
The first way of doing it uses the old pot as a “guide” as shown in the photo here. Placing the old pot into the new container (with some fresh compost at the bottom already) visually measure its distance from the top, bottom and sides.
When you’re happy you just “plant the pot” by filling all around the sides between the new and old pot with fresh compost, then pull the old pot up and out. This leaves an imprint which your plant can now just be slotted into for a perfect fit. Just a little more soil is then needed to firm it into position before giving it a good watering.
This method is very easy and ensures a very precise result. But it might not be practical if the new pot you’ve selected isn’t of a similar shape to the first, is only a tiny bit bigger or if the root ball has lost the shape created by the old container when you’ve been freeing the plant.
The second and more frequently used approach is just to use the plant itself as the measuring guide. Put the plant in the pot and hold it at the right height and position with one hand and then use your other hand to fill the space with compost.
This way of doing it is more fiddly as you need to get it just right, but if you go wrong or you’re not happy with the result you can just keep doing it until you are. When you’re satisfied, gently firm the soil around the plant a little to keep it in place and finally give it a good watering so everything settles into place.
That’s it, repot complete. Good Job!
About the Author
Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.
Also on Ourhouseplants.com
Credit for first photo in the article – Thanhpho2112
Repotting Houseplants: How To Repot A Houseplant
So you’ve determined that your houseplant is in need of a major overhaul–repotting. Houseplants require occasional repotting to keep them healthy. In addition to knowing when to repot, you must, of course, know how to repot a houseplant for this task to be successful.
How to Repot a Houseplant
When it’s time to repot your plant, you should use a combination of plastic pots and peat-based compost. Of course, this depends on the plant’s requirements. First, soak the clay pot for a day before using it so the pot won’t draw the water out of the compost.
Pots are available in all sorts of sizes but you usually only need four or five different sizes. The most common sizes used are the 6 cm, 8 cm, 13 cm, 18 cm and 25 cm. You will always want to leave enough space between the rim of the pot and the surface of the compost; as that’s your watering space. It should increase with the size of your pot because larger pots hold larger plants, which require more water.
When one of your houseplants is in a large pot and can’t be repotted, you’ll have to top-dress the compost. What this means is you will have to remove the top 25 to 36 mm (1 to 1 1/2 inches) of old compost and replace it with fresh compost. Be sure not to damage the plant’s roots, and leave a gap between the top of the compost and the rim of the pot so that the plant can be watered easily.
Steps for Repotting Houseplants
Repotting a houseplant is easy when following these basic guidelines for houseplant repotting:
- First, water the plant the day before you plan on repotting it.
- Put your fingers over the top of the root ball and invert the pot. Tap the pot’s rim on a firm surface, like a table or counter. If the root ball resists, run a knife between the pot and the root ball to loosen the roots.
- Inspect the roots and remove the crock from the root ball’s base when repotting a houseplant into a clay pot. Tease the roots free. You might have to use a stiff label or sticker.
- After that, pick a clean pot a little larger than the one from which you just removed the plant–normally going up a couple pot sizes.
- Place a nice, firm handful of fresh compost into the pot’s base. Place the root ball on top of that in the center. Make sure the surface of that root ball is below the rim so you can cover it adequately with compost. Once you have the plant in the correct position, gently place some fresh compost around it and over it. Do not ram the compost into the pot tightly. You want to give the roots some ability to move and grow.
- Finally, if you think it’s necessary, add more compost on top and gently make it firm. Be sure to leave the recommended amount of space on top for watering purposes. Put the plant where moisture can drain freely and trickle water onto the plant filling the watering space on top. Allow extra water to drain out and place the pot in an attractive outer container to catch any excess. You won’t want to water this plant again until the compost shows some signs of drying out.
Now that you know how to repot houseplants, you can enjoy them even longer year round.
Most houseplants can live happily in the same pot for years. But some fast-growing species such as philodendron or pothos may outgrow their home and need repotting every year or so. You can generally tell if a plant requires a new pot if you notice the roots are growing out of the drainage holes. Another telltale sign is if water runs right through the pot and out the drainage holes every time you offer moisture.
Of course there are some plants, such as orchids and snake plant, that don’t mind cramped quarters, but even they need a new home as their roots become tangled.
In general, the best time to repot your houseplant is during the spring and summer when the plant is in active growth. Fall is also a good time for transplanting, but try to do it at least three to four weeks before you bring the plant indoors for the winter. You want your plant to acclimate to its new container while it’s still on summer vacation.
Gently remove the plant from the pot and check its roots. If they are tangled, circling tightly around the inside of the pot, or if a lot of the soil is missing, it’s time for an upgrade. Find a pot that’s about an inch or two wider than the pot your plant is growing in.
Choose the new pot carefully. Clay (terra-cotta) pots look beautiful, but are porous so the soil will dry out faster. They are perfect for plants that prefer quick drainage such as succulents, cacti, orchids, ponytail palm, and snake plant, It helps to soak them in water for a few hours before you plant, otherwise they have a tendency to suck the water out of the soil. Plastic pots hold soil moisture longer so use them with tropical houseplants such as anthurium, spathiphyllum, African violet, and ferns. But, no matter what type of pot you choose, make sure it has a hole in the bottom to allow excess water to drain away. Use a pot that’s about 2 inches wider than the one your plant is living in.
Use a quality commercial potting soil designed for indoor plants; there are even soil mixes sold for specific plant types such as cactus or African violets. Do not use soil from your garden. The perfect soil should be light and fluffy, with a generous helping of compost and sterilized organic matter that will help hold soil moisture. Inexpensive potting soil is not always a bargain because it may be too heavy and hold too much moisture.
Fill the pot with soil until the crown of the plant (where the roots join the stem) is at the same level as it was growing previously. Gently pack the soil around the roots and water to eliminate air pockets. After planting, add a saucer to catch excess water. Don’t feed your plants at this time. In fact, if you are repotting in the fall, you might want to hold off on fertilizer until early spring. Plus, keep in mind that many potting soils already have fertilizer mixed in so don’t worry too much about feeding your plants right away.
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If you are repotting a household or other plant that has gotten root-bound, the new pot should be at least 2-4 inches larger in diameter than the previous container. That’s enough space for new root growth without making the pot a great deal heavier. In general, it’s best to move up gradually in pot size.
Also consider the weight and porosity of the container. Lightweight plastic or foam pots will be easier to move than heavier ceramic or terra cotta pots. Terra cotta pots are also porous, so water evaporates through the sides. While this is good for aerating the soil, it causes the pot to dry out faster than plastic or ceramic pots. Dark-colored pots situated in sunny spots also warm up and dry out faster than light-colored ones.
To repot houseplants, gently remove the plant from the existing pot. This will probably be easiest if you water the plant several days before transplanting so that the soil is moist. To remove a small plant, place your hand over the top so you can catch the root ball. Tip the entire plant upside down and tap the rim of the pot on a hard surface until the root ball releases. With a larger plant, you may have to run an old knife around the edges before the root ball can be gently pulled out. If the plant still won’t come out of a clay or ceramic container, you may have to break the pot. To do so, place it in a bag or wrap it in an old sheet. Tap the pot with a hammer until it breaks.
Place enough potting soil in the bottom of the new pot so the top of the root ball is at least an inch below the rim. Put the plant in the pot and fill around the edges with potting soil. Water well. If necessary, add more soil.
Growing Together: Spring best time to divide, repot houseplants
Spring is the best time to divide and repot houseplants. As March and April’s days get longer and light levels intensify, indoor plants begin a growth spurt.
Plants that benefit from dividing include Boston fern, snake plant, peace lily, cast-iron plant, spider plant and aloe vera. Multiple shoots arise from a “crown” where stems meet roots.
How often should plants be divided? When their growth has multiplied outward, touching the edge of the pot, leaving very little soil that isn’t packed with roots. Such plants can be repotted into larger pots without dividing, but increasing pot size can’t continue indefinitely. Plants whose centers have become sparse, with all nice growth on the perimeter can be refigured by dividing and replanting the vigorous parts. Dividing is also a way to multiply plants when you’d like a few more.
Begin by choosing a container and soil. Plastic pots are more common, but old fashioned unglazed clay pots breathe and are more forgiving of overwatering. Always soak new clay pots in water for several hours before using. Cheap potting soils that feel heavy in the bag are a poor buy because plants won’t grow as well. Top quality mixes are light, high in peat moss and aggregate, and drain well. Miracle Gro Potting Mix and mixes recommended by locally owned garden centers perform well.
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The plant upon which you’ll perform surgery should be neither too wet nor too dry before the operation. Both extremes make soil and roots less workable. Water the plant a day or two in advance.
Cleanup will be easier if you cover the work surface with plastic or newspaper. To ease the plant from its pot, insert a long knife between the pot and soil/root ball. Slide the knife around the inside of the pot to break the clinging interface between soil and pot.
Next place an open hand over the soil between plant stems. Turn the plant over and pull off the pot with the other hand. Avoid tugging on stems because it can injure the crown. If the pot won’t release easily, slide the knife around the inside again.
Now examine the plant. Look for natural separations from multiple “offsets” that have sprung from the original. If the plant is a continuous, solid growth of stems, we can arbitrarily divide into portions.
The most common way of dividing is to cut down through the soil/roots with a sharp knife either at natural divisions, or by slicing the soil ball into halves or fourths. Although this usually works, roots are so intertwined throughout that cutting causes huge root loss. Usually the divisions recover, but there’s an alternate method.
Before dividing, immerse the soil/root ball in a bucket or tub filled with water. Much of the soil will dissolve, entwined roots will loosen a little, and roots can be teased apart, preserving more. If the crown doesn’t pull apart into desired divisions, you may need to cut through the crown.
The size of division to repot is your decision. Large, crowded plants are best divided at least into fourths. You can replant one chunk, or several smaller ones into a new pot.
New potting soil is often quite dry straight from the bag, and should be moistened before use. Roots don’t appreciate going into dry soil, and it’s harder to wet once it’s in the pot. Add water to the bag the night before, stir well, and allow to permeate.
Choose a pot size at least several inches larger in diameter than the root spread of the divisions. Don’t use a pot too large, or new plants will flounder with too much soil and moisture. Increase pot size every year or two as plants grow.
Add a layer of potting soil inside the bottom of the pot. Hold the division with one hand, suspending it in the center of the pot. Add potting soil with the other hand. Jiggle and tap the pot up and down as you fill, to settle and firm the soil. Packing tightly by hand can overly compress the mix. Continue filling until the divisions are at their previous soil depth, and soil is just below the pot’s rim. Soil will settle a little more when watered. Plants seem to grow better if there is less than an inch of “headspace” in the pot.
If you’re concerned you’ll hurt the plant during surgery, use a painkiller. The plant doesn’t need it, but maybe you could take a couple aspirin yourself.
Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler’s Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at [email protected]
Why You Should Repot Your Houseplants & Guide to Repotting
by Madison Crabtree August 02, 2019
Whether you’re transplanting your plants because you want to freshen up your decor or because your plants are ready for a much-needed refresh, your plants will be so grateful for the added space and nutrient boost that they’ll create lots of beautiful new growth!
Here’s a few tips to help you transition your plant to a better and healthier living arrangement.
When should you repot? It depends on your plant; some plants will be late to the party, enjoying the same pot for years, but in most cases, plants that are growing regularly will need to be repotted every 12 to 18 months as growth continues and nutrients in the soil are depleted. The best time to repot your houseplant is in late winter or early spring, before the growth season is in full swing.
Signs your plant needs repotting
If you see one or more of these signs, you’ll know it’s time to repot:
- Roots are growing through the bottom, sticking out anywhere, or are pushing the plant up & out of its planter
- There is a lot of salt and mineral buildup on your planter
- Plant is top heavy and falls over easily
- Soil dries out quickly and water will run right through it instead of being absorbed (hydrophobic soil)
- Plant is straggly, pale, and grows at a snail’s pace
- If the plant looks too big for its pot, lift up the plant to check if it is rootbound (roots are thick and coiled tightly around the perimeter of the pot)
Choosing a Pot
When it comes to choosing a pot, size is everything.
If your plant isn’t rootbound or overcrowded, but its soil is becoming hydrophobic or disintegrating, repotting your plant into the same container (or one of the same size) with fresh soil works wonders by refreshing the soil with nutrients. Think of it like changing the sheets on your bed – just something you should do for your plant every once in a while to clean its home!
However, if your plant is clearly getting too big for its home, you will need to graduate it to a roomier vessel. Not too big, though – a plant with too much space can drown in all the extra soggy soil around it. As a general rule, don’t go more than 3” larger in diameter for tabletop planters, and more than 6” larger in diameter for floor planters. Make sure the new pot is not only wider, but also deeper.
For Wally Eco planters, we recommend 1 6” plant per planter.
Let’s Get To It: How to Repot
- Water the plant: Start by watering your plant thoroughly a day or two before, or lightly water just before. This will help avoid transplant shock and keep the rootball together.
- Remove the plant: Gently remove your plant from its pot by turning it sideways, supporting the main stem in one hand, and pulling the pot away with your other hand. Having trouble? Use a knife to loosen the soil around the edges of the pot.
- Prune the roots: Using your hands, loosen the rootball and prune any long ends or rotten roots. When repotting in the same pot, shake off excess soil and use scissors to cut back a quarter of the roots. This will rejuvenate it while keeping it the same size as before.
- Clean & add soil: Clean your planter with hot, soapy water and pat dry. Wally Eco planters are also dishwasher safe! Then, pour a layer of fresh potting mix into the planter and pack it down, creating new space for roots to grow.
- Place your plant: Place your plant centered and upright in its new home and add potting mix around it until it is secure. If you’re using a Wally Eco, make sure to pack soil in until it reaches above the perforated holes in the divider, or water may run over the top of the soil and out the front panel.
- Finishing touches: Once your plant is in place, give it another rinse to settle it in its new home. It will take a couple weeks to recover from repotting, and in that time it may need more frequent watering than usual, but keep it away from direct sun and hold off on fertilizing until it’s back to normal.
That’s all there is to it! Best of luck and happy planting!
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