When And How to Repot a Plant without Killing it

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All houseplants need to be repotted occasionally to keep them healthy and thriving.

If you have never repotted a plant before, trust me, it’s easy.

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.

repotting root bound houseplants

How to Know When its Time to Repot your Plant

Your plant will let you know when it has outgrown the current pot and ready for a new.

You will know that its time to repot when:

  • You 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 that your plant is root-bound. The roots are filling up the pot, preventing water from soaking to the root system.
  • If it has been a year or two since it was potted up. The soil will be depleted of nutrients and appears dry and hardened. Time for fresh soil.

Repot your plant in a clean, new pot one size bigger than the old one. If your plant doesn’t need more space, just fresh soil, get your hands dirty and repot it in the same size pot.

Spring is a great time to repot your plants. It’s the start of the growing season, your plants are full of energy, and will be in the best shape to go through the adjustment of repotting.

Plus, as a plant owner, you’ve gone 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.

Repotting Jade Plant. Bare Roots.

You may also Like: Beginners Guide to Basic Houseplant Care

Repotting your House Plants. When and How. Echeveria Roots.
How to Repot your Indoor Plant

How to Repot your Indoor Plant

Yield: 1 repotted plant
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: easy

Every potted plant needs to be repotted from time to time. Once you know how to see when its time to repot, and how to do it, its super easy!

Materials

  • Plant to be repotted
  • Newspaper - to keep your work area clean
  • Fresh Potting Soil
  • Clean new Pot
  • Scissors or pruners
  • Skewer or Chopstick - to help loosen the roots (optional)
  • Garbage bag - to dump old soil in (optional)

Instructions

    1. Remove your plant from the pot.
      Carefully turn your plant 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 root-bound, you might need to use a knife to loosen the soil around the edges of the pot.
    2. Inspect roots and remove old soil.
      Now that the plant is out of its old pot, you can gently tease out the roots from the bottom of the plant, and remove old soil. A skewer or chopstick can help with this. Be gentle, you want to try to disturb and damage the roots as little as possible.

      Remove any dried out roots. Gently pull the roots the help give them some space and direction.
    3. Choose the right new pot for your plant.
      In general, the new pot should only be one size larger than the old pot. You want the proportions to be pleasing.

      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.
    4. Move the plant to the 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.

Notes

Repotting is a good time to also remove any dead leaves from your plant, and if needed give your plant a light overall pruning to encourage branching.

Care for Plants after Repotting

At first, when your plant is in its new pot, keep it in a bright spot, but out of direct sunlight.

Let the plant rest for at least a few days before watering it. You want to give any roots that might have been damaged some 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 really isn’t needed for a while.

Repotting is a great 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.

Repotting does not kill plants. But 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.

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2 Comments

  1. Great article. I did not know to wait a fre days after planting to water. I was wondering if you ammend your soil with anything. I have been reading about adding perilite to help indoor plants drain and vermiculite to retain water in outside plants. What are your thoughts? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jeanie. I don’t have an exact houseplant soil mix recipe that I use, but I do mix some perlite in already well-draining soil.
      My plants seem to like it. 🙂

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