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All houseplants need repotting occasionally to keep them healthy and thriving.
If you have never repotted a plant before, don’t be scared. Look at it as a spa treatment for your plants.
Pamper them with fresh soil, inspect their roots, maybe do a little pruning, and move them to bigger pots if necessary.
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When to repot your houseplant?
Spring is a great time to repot your plants. It’s the start of the growing season, your plants are full of energy, and in the best shape to go through the adjustment of repotting.
Plus, as a plant owner, you’ve got through the somewhat boring period of dormancy in winter with your plants, and I bet you are ready to get your hands dirty when spring comes.
Your plant will let you know when it has outgrown the current pot and ready for a new.
You might start to notice that the soil dries out more quickly than usual after watering. Or when you water it runs immediately out the bottom.
When you see roots coming out of the drainage holes its a sign of the plant being root bound. The roots are filling up the pot, preventing water from soaking to the root system.
Even if all this is not happening, it can still be time to repot. If it has been a year or two since it was potted up, the soil will be depleted of nutrients, and its structure breaks down.
If your plant doesn’t need more space, get your hands dirty and repot it in the same size pot. Make your plant happy by giving it fresh soil.
Prepare for repotting your plant.
Prepare your plant by watering it thoroughly two days before. You want the roots to be a little moist before you start.
This will help loosen up the plant in its original pot, which makes it easier to slide it out.
How to repot your houseplant?
Just as in cooking, it’s all about preparation. So start by setting up your Mise en Place.
In other words, gather all the needed items before you do the actual repotting.
You will need:
- Newspaper to keep your work area clean
- Fresh potting soil (make sure to get special succulent soil for your cacti and succulents)
- And a new pot.
I also like to have a garbage bag nearby in which I can dump the old soil. And a skewer or chopstick to help loosen the roots.
Once you have everything, let the repotting begin!
Take your plant out of its old pot.
Remove your plant from the pot by turning it on its side, tap the pot to loosen the soil and roots. Support the main stem in one hand (do not pull on it!), and use your other hand to carefully take the pot off.
If your plant is really rootbound, you might need to use a knife to loosen the soil around the edges of the pot.
Clear away the old soil from the roots.
Now that the plant is out of its old pot, you can inspect the roots and soil.
Be gentle, you want to try to disturb and damage the roots as little as possible.
This is a good time to start talking to your plant.
I know I quietly talk and explain in my head why I am doing all this, that I will be careful with all the lovely roots the plant worked so hard to grow.
Carefully tease out the roots from the bottom of the plant, and remove old soil. A skewer or chopstick can help with this.
Remove any dried out roots. Gently pull the roots the help give them some space and direction.
While you’re at it, cut off any dead leaves. And if needed, this is a good time to lightly prune your plant to encourage branching.
Choose a new pot for your plant.
In general, your new pot should only be one size larger than the old pot. You want the proportions to be pleasing.
But more importantly, if you plant a small plant in a container that is too large, the soil will stay wet too long after watering, which can result in the roots to rot.
Transfer the plant to its new pot.
Put some soil on the bottom of the new pot. Place your plant on it. Make sure it’s in the middle and up straight.
You want the surface of the root ball to sit slightly below the rim of the new container. Add or remove some soil from the bottom if needed.
Then, fill the space between the root ball and the sides of the pot with more soil. Carefully push soil until the pot is filled. Pushing too hard can break the roots. So be gentle.
Aftercare for repotted plants.
At first, when your plant is in its new pot, keep it in a bright spot, but aout off direct sunlight.
Let the plant rest for about a week before watering it. You want to give any roots that might have been damaged the time to heal. Damaged roots cannot absorb water, and are very susceptible to rot.
Also hold off on fertilizing your plant soon after repotting, because the roots are sensitive and could burn. And most potting soils come with nutrients already in it, so fertilizing isn’t needed for a while.
Remember that no matter how careful you are, repotting can cause some stress on your plant and its root system.
Keep a close eye on your plant afterward. You might notice some leaves dropping or wilting. In limited amounts this is normal. Just be extra kind to your plant when you resume normal care.