How To Repot Your Houseplant

What should you do when your plant is outgrowing its pot? In this article, I’ll show you how to repot your houseplant to help it keep growing and stay healthy.

While it may sound or look intimidating, I assure you it is not. In fact, repotting plants is quite straightforward. And it may one day save your plant in case of emergency.

 

Repotting

As your plants grow, there will come a time they’ll outgrow the current pot they’re in. When this happens, it’s time for you to repot your houseplant.

This is a specific gardening task that you’ll need to do for smaller plants in containers as they get bigger.

It’s less of a problem for those in your backyard because they have a lot of room to grown.

In contrast, pots have limited space for the roots to spread out.

 

When Should You Repot Your Houseplant?

  • You see roots coming out from the bottom of the pot’s drainage. This is a sign that they need more room to grow.
  • On the top side, roots will also come out and circle around.
  • The plant is getting too big for the pot. This works both in height and width. Tall plants can make a small pot unstable. Thus, increasing the risk of toppling over. Similarly, as the plant gets wider, there won’t be enough space in the pot to hold it.
  • The water quickly drains out the bottom. This happens because there’s little to very little soil left to hold the liquid. Since there’s only limited space in a pot, as the roots grow, small granules of soil will slowly get displaced leaving less in the container.
  • The soil doesn’t smell fresh. Or, there’s a funky smell to it. This is often a sign of age. That is, the soil has been there a while and it’s likely running out or run out of nutrients.
  • Your plant has been in the pot for 3 or more years. Over time, soil breaks down. And, its nutrients also get diminished. So, it’s time to give your plant new soil.

All you need is one of these signs to know that it’s time to repot your plant.

If you’re just starting out, or don’t like making a mess, you may be intimidated or decide to put off repotting. But, at some point you’ll need to do it for your plant to grow properly.

Eventually, the plant will bust out of the pot one way or another. This can be a result of a broken pot or some deformity on the part of the plant.

 

The One Exception

The one exception is when your plant is blooming. When it’s in flower, you should put off repotting even if the signs tell you to.

Plants in this stage need to focus all their energy on blooming. And, when you transplant them, there’s some kind of shock that will affect the flowering. Likewise, it will also need to channel its energy onto its root system.

 

How to Repot Your Houseplant

Here’s how to repot your indoor plants step by step.

 

Step 1: Choose a Pot

The first task is to pick the right pot to replace the old one.

You can go back to the section on Pot Types and Sizes above to check out the different kinds of materials available, and each of their pros and cons.

But, there’s a more important matter to discuss here. That is, how big should your new pot be.

 

How Big Should the New Pot Be?

To begin, you want to choose the right pot.

Ideally, you want a pot that’s at least 1-2 inches wider in diameter. But, you can adapt that based on how fast your plant is growing.

  • For fast growers, a pot that’s 2-4 inches wider in diameter than the old one is a good choice
  • For slow growers, a container that’s 1-2 inches wider should suffice.

Often the width and height of the pots are proportional. So, height is less of a worry, since the new pot will likely be deeper than your current pot.

 

Avoid Jumping Too Many Sizes

Pots come in size increments of 2 inches. So, there’s the 4-inch, then 6, 8, 10, 12 and so on.

At some point, as a gardener, you might think that jumping from say a 4-inch pot to a 10-inch pot will save you time.

This way, you won’t have to repot again soon since the plant is growing fairly quickly.

And, that would be correct.

At least in theory.

Unfortunately, application would disagree.

That’s because a pot that’s too big will leave a lot of soil in the meantime. That means when you water your plant, there will be a large outside area where the soil will be left wet.

That’s because your plant’s roots only go so far. At least for the time being. And, they only take up a certain amount of water. Again, as of the time being.

This means the outside soil will remain wet for longer periods since there’s nothing that’s absorbing the moisture.

And, we know from above that extra moisture always leads to plant problems including root rot and possibly killing the plant as well.

 

Step 2: Measure the Pot & Add Potting Soil to the Bottom

In addition to the pot, you will need:

  • Potting mix
  • A work table that can afford to get dirty
  • Something to cover the bottom of the new pot with. This can be a broken piece of an old pot, a screen or piece of cloth. The goal is to clog the drainage temporarily.

Once you have all these things ready, it’s time to put the old and new pots side by side.

Here, you want to see how much deeper the new pot is compared to the old one. Doing so will let you know how much potting soil to fill the bottom of the new pot with.

Of course, you can opt to skip this and not fill the bottom of the new pot with soil.

But, this will mean that your plant will stand low in the new pot. And, when you fill it in the crown and the base of the stems will be covered by soil.

So, by adding soil to the bottom of the plant, you’re “preparing” the new pot before placing the plant in.

To do so, plug the drainage with something first so that the soil won’t go through as you pack in it.

Then fill the bottom with potting soil to the leave that you’ve measures to keep the plant high enough in the new pot.

 

Step 3: Take Out the Plant from the Pot

Here’s where you need to do things slowly. You want to be careful and not jolt things too much or do things all in a sudden.

Tilt the plant sideways on the table. As you get better, you can be more aggressive allowing the pot to point upside down.

If you have a plastic pot, you can squeeze the sides. This will help loosen the edges to let the entire rootball slide out easier.

With your fingers, slowly work on the edges and try to loosen the plant out of the pot.

You can knock it a few times like a ketchup bottom with your hands or the table to help loosen the rootball.

 

Step 4: Untangle Parts of the Rootball & Clean Out the Excess Soil

The more the plant needs to be repotted, the more roots you’ll see curling around the root ball. You want to untangle this to allow the root tips to spread out.

This will let them spread out into the new pot’s larger surface.

Also, take out any excess soil.

If the plant has been in the pot for a long time, you can take out some chunks of soil as well. This way, you’ll be able to replace it with new nutrient-filled soil.

 

Step 5: Repot the Rootball

Set the rootball down in the center of the pot. You’ll need to hold it in place because of the extra 1-2 inches around it.

While you hold it up, start adding soil to the sides to fill the space in. Then, pack the soil in firmly.

The goals here are:

  • To fill in the sides
  • To get the plant up to the same level it was from the top (with the old pot). Ideally, this is about 0.5 to 1 inch beneath the rim of the pot. This gives it enough space when watering.

 

Step 6: Give it a Good Watering

Water the plant thoroughly.

 

Related

 

Plant Propagation – Dividing the Plant

Note that repotting is also the best time to divide the plant.

Division is a method of propagating the plant. As such, you can grow more plants from your mother plant right from your home for free!

In this case, you’ll be splitting up the mother plant into 2 or more smaller plants.

Then put each of the smaller plants into their own pots.

In time, they will grow to become as big or bigger than the original plant.

In addition to division, there are also other methods of propagation, namely leaf cuttings and stem cuttings.

These are more popular for most home gardeners because propagation from cuttings is easier and more straightforward to do.

Plus, you don’t need to unpot the plant or decrease its size.

However, not all plants can be propagated from stem cutting or leaf cutting. And in those cases division is usually a better option.

Here’s a chart of houseplants that can be propagated from leaf cuttings.

chart that shows you which plants can be propagated from leaf cuttings
chart that shows you which plants can be propagated from leaf cuttings

Here’s a chart of houseplants that can be propagated from stem cuttings.

chart that shows you which plants can be propagated from stem cuttings
chart that shows you which plants can be propagated from stem cuttings