Houseplants 101: How to Repot a Plant

I’ll let you in on a little gardening secret… plants grow. Shocking, right? Eventually, your houseplants will outgrow the beautiful containers you put them in and need some more room to stretch their legs. Repotting will boost your plant’s vigor and promote the development of a healthy root system. However, it is important to know when and how to properly replant a houseplant in order to effectively encourage plant growth.

When is it time to repot?

We advise that you transfer your potting plant every 12 to 18 months. Some plants grow slower than others but your plant will show signs that it needs to be repotted:

Plant stops growing:

Unless your plant is in a period of dormancy, you should be able to see continuous growth, given your plant has enough room to grow.

More frequent waterings are required:

If the roots have taken over the pot and there is less soil, water will run directly through the pot. Soil is what holds water so that the roots can slowly absorb it. Without sufficient soil, your plant will require water more often.

Build-up of salt:

If there are salt and minerals on the outside of your pot, this is usually from leftover fertilizer deposits. Excess salt and minerals can deter the roots from absorbing water. If you see this build-up, it may be time to repot with fresh soil.

Soil is rising:

If the gap between the top of the soil and the planter has gotten smaller, the roots of the plant have run out of space at the bottom of the container. The roots push the plant and surrounding soil up out of the pot.

Roots are bursting:

If the roots have crept up from the surface of the soil or pushing through the drainage hole, it means that they have run out of space and are now exploring to find some room to breathe.

The soil is shrunk:

As the organic components of your soil start to decompose, it will start to shrink.

Plant is top-heavy:

This is an indication that the plant itself is far too big for the container. If the weight of a ceramic pot can’t hold it down and it tips over, it is time for an upgrade.

Choosing Your New Pot:

Like always, it is important to choose a container with drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. If you have a very small indoor plant, you may only need a new pot that is an inch wider. However, for tabletop houseplants, we recommend that the container be 2 to 3 inches wider than the current one. For larger floor planters, 5 to 6 inches will do. Especially with smaller plants, we caution you not to get overzealous in upgrading your pot. Giving a pot too much room can have equal and adverse effects, causing root rot and eventually death of your plant.

Ceramic pots are usually the first choice for plant parents due to their durability and variety of styles and shapes. However, there are new options that have come on the market. Ecoform pots stress sustainability, creating an alternative to the plastic planter pots. Since they are made from recycled grain products, they are biodegradable. They start to decompose after years, but you should have repotted by then anyway! If your Ecoform is breaking down, you know your houseplant is long overdue for a repotting.

How to Repot Houseplants:

STEP 1: Holding the base of the plant, turn it upside down and gently twist and shake the plant to release it from its container (use a potting knife if necessary).

STEP 2:Remove spent soil with a clean knife.

STEP 3: Using your hands, loosen the bottom of the root ball.

STEP 4: Snip unnecessarily long or mushy roots with shears. Be sure to clean the shears with rubbing alcohol between each cut.

STEP 5: Place a coffee filter or pebbles at the bottom of the pot to improve drainage further.

STEP 6: Fill the bottom of the container with a few inches of potting mix so that when you place your houseplant in the center, the top of the soil will reach an inch below the top of the pot.

STEP 7: Backfill with fresh potting soil and water your plants deeply and slowly.

STEP 8: Place your plant in a sunny location while the roots are settling.

how to repot a houseplant

Food For Thought:

While repotting, you may want to consider splitting plants such as calatheas, snake plants, or peace plants. These types, and others, are multi-stemmed and multiply as they grow. When they are getting too much to handle or have developed offsets, they can be split into multiple plants. The extras can become the perfect gift! After removing your plant from its pot, gently separate the stems and their roots; try not to cut or rip any roots. Repot each plant in their own respective containers with fresh potting mix and viola! Two new plants!

thank you for reading and we'll see you in the garden!