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How to repot houseplants

Houseplants have a more challenging time than their outdoor relatives. While plants in the wild can stretch their roots far and wide to find nutrients, our indoor friends are limited to the small amount of soil in their pots. And no matter how much you fertilize, that soil won't last forever.

But not all plants need repotting. For instance, cacti and succulents thrive in tight pots with poor soil. But your vibrant tropical houseplant? We probably need to repot them from time to time to keep them growing strong and happy. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about repotting houseplants.

Why repotting plants is necessary?

There are several reasons why it is good to repot your plant. Below, you can see some of the advantages:

  1. Stimulates growth - To make your plant grow well, it is especially important that the roots grow. Roots will only grow if they have room to do so. By repotting your plant into a larger pot, you ensure that the roots have more room to grow.
  2. Fresh nutrients - Your plant gets a lot of nutrients from its potting soil, and the fact is that fresh potting soil only has nutrients for about 6 weeks. Of course, you do not have to repot your plant every 6 weeks, so we help our green beauties by watering them and giving them PLNTS nutrition regularly.

repotting plants

Signs your houseplants need repotting

The first sign you'll see is roots growing out of drainage holes. From this, it's obvious the pot is too small for the plant, and it just grows out of the holes. Taking the plant out of the pot should leave you with a ball of soil where there's not much left and the pot's full of roots.

There are also signs such as:

  • Your houseplant looks unhappy
  • It has stunted growth and hasn't shown any new signs for a long time
  • It looks like the soil is compacted and depleted
  • You’ll see yellow leaves (this can mean something else, too!)

With adult plants, we advise you to loosen your plant out of its pot once in a while to see how the roots are doing. Are they completely piled up around or under the clod? Then it would be nice to repot it the next spring.

Expert tip!Transparent nursery pots will allow you to easily see what is happening inside your houseplant's pot and whether it has root bound issues. Then, you don't have to pull the plant out of its pot.

repotting aloe vera

When is the best time to repot your houseplant?

Spring is the most suitable time to repot houseplants. This is the moment the growing period starts. This period runs until approximately October. When the days are longer, and photosynthesis is at its peak, your houseplant recovers from transplanting the fastest. This means that your plant is full of energy, and it is directed towards creating new growth as well as successfully rooting.

Expert tip! As soon as your houseplants start showing fresh growth in the spring, you know it's time for them to be repotted. They've woken up from their winter sleep and are ready to go into active growth mode.

It may be ok to repot some houseplants during autumn and winter. This is especially needed when you have a problematic houseplant (overwatering or disease/pest issue) that cannot wait for spring. Some houseplants may grow actively in autumn and winter when they grow under good conditions. Then, it's no problem for them to recover from repotting.

How often should houseplants be repotted?

How often a houseplant needs to be repotted is very relative and directly depends on what kind of houseplant you have and under what conditions it grows. Some houseplants grow very quickly and may even need to be repotted several times a year. Young houseplants may need to be planted just as often, as growth tends to be faster in the beginning. In general, however, adult houseplants do not grow that fast and need to be transplanted every 2-3 years. Some houseplants grow very slowly and need to be transplanted every 5 years or even less frequently.

Dieffenbachia repotting

How to repot a houseplant? Step-by-step guide

Now you know why and when you need to repot your houseplant. It's time to learn how to do it. You have two ways to transplant your houseplant - either into a pot with drainage holes or into a pot without holes. To prevent problems with your plants, we always advise you to repot in a pot with drainage holes. With a pot like this, excess water can find its way out, so your roots are never under water, and you prevent root rot.

Repotting to a pot with drainage holes

Step 1. Choose new pots for your houseplant

Usually, the diameter is about 20% bigger than the current pot. It gives your houseplant room enough so its roots can spread into fresh soil and have some room to grow. A pot that is too big is also not good. In this case, it may retain too much moisture, and plants cannot absorb all of it. Soil may not dry out properly, and it can easily end up with root rot.

Expert tip! Do you not want her to grow bigger and keep her in the same size pot? Then repotting is also highly recommended. Refresh her potting soil so that she has enough nutrients for the coming period and place her back in its old, familiar pot.

Step 2. Water your houseplant soil the day before.

This makes sure the roots are hydrated and flexible, reducing the chances of damage and disturbance during the transplant. Too dry soil also will fall off around the roots too easily, which can cause some disruption. If you disturb the roots too much, it causes stress to the houseplant, and it can recover more slowly. This is just an optional step, not 100% necessary.

Step 3. Fill the new pot with fresh soil.

Prepare the new (larger) pot by filling it partly with potting soil or your favorite mix of substrates. If you do not know what potting soil your houseplant like, read more about potting soil and substrates. Do not fill the pot completely. Keep some room for your plant, of course!

Step 4. Take the plant out of its pot.

Take the plant out of its old familiar pot and carefully remove the old soil from the roots. Sometimes, it's hard to get it out of the pot. Try gently patting or pressing the sides of the pot. After you remove it from its pot, gently shake some soil out of its root ball. Be careful not to disturb the roots too much by shaking them too hard!

Expert tip! Gently prune away any dead or overly circled roots. This not only helps in avoiding potential root rot but also encourages new growth.

To make it easier to take the plant out of the pot, place a potting mat on the table or floor. You can safely mess around with soil on it without causing a big mess. In addition, it is very easy to clean.

Step 5. Repot your houseplant into the new pot.

Place the plant in the middle of the new pot and fill the rest of the pot with fresh soil. It is important that the soil is 1 to 2 cm below the rim of the pot. This way, it is easier to water your plant as water stays in the pot. Press lightly on the soil, but do not press too hard. If necessary, add more soil. If the soil is left very airy and you don't press on it, it will sink anyway with watering.

Expert tip! If your plant is tall, it might be necessary to stake it to provide additional support in the new pot. It’s easier to put the stalk into soil while repotting.

Pilea repotting

That’s it! You have now successfully repotted your houseplant. They can be a little sensitive, and you'll need to give them a little extra love and care when they are freshly repotted! Here are some tips:

  • After repotting, water the plant thoroughly, yet avoid excessive watering. While freshly repotted roots require a moist environment for optimal growth, they are also more susceptible to root rot.
  • Find a spot with indirect natural light and away from cold or heat drafts. If your plant previously thrived in direct sunlight, it's beneficial to avoid such exposure for a few weeks to allow the plant to concentrate on establishing roots.
  • When you repot a houseplant, the fresh soil usually contains a good amount of nutrients that the plant needs to grow. Adding extra fertilizer immediately can overwhelm the plant with too many nutrients, which might cause fertilizer burn or over-fertilization, potentially damaging the roots and hindering growth. Waiting 4-6 weeks before adding fertilizer gives the plant time to settle into its new environment and use up the nutrients already present in the soil. After this period, you can start a regular fertilizing schedule based on the specific needs of your plant.

Repotting to a pot without drainage holes

It often happens that you see a pot, and you are immediately sold. Unfortunately, it has no drainage holes. Of course, this is no reason to leave it behind in the shop. If your decorative pot doesn't have drainage, you can place a smaller pot inside it, which does.

One disadvantage of a pot without drainage holes is that any excess water cannot drain away, so there is a chance that the roots will be flooded. Unfortunately, this will not make your plant happy at all, as it would rather receive too little water than too much. For those who do want to plant their houseplant directly into it, you can do it! You can follow the same repotting guide we just mentioned above. We just have some tips for you:

  • You can also use various substrates that help you to absorb excess water think for example, adding hydro grains to the bottom of the pot or mixing perlite with potting soil.
  • Consider giving less water to reduce the risk of root rot. A water meter, for instance, can help you with that. This indicates when your plant is thirsty.

5 common mistakes PLNTSparents make while repotting houseplants

1. Your houseplant new pot is too small or too large.

When choosing a pot for most plants, choose one that is 20% larger in diameter than the current one. Too-large pots can lead to waterlogging and root rot, while too-small pots can stunt growth and lead to nutrient deficiencies.

2. You chose the wrong soil for your houseplant.

It's better to use potting soil that suits the plant's specific needs. Many plants have specific soil preferences, so use potting soil that suits them. Using the wrong soil type can result in poor drainage, inadequate nutrient absorption, and root diseases. We know it's tempting to use whatever soil you find, but that's not easy!

3. You plant your houseplant too deep or not deep enough.

If the plant is planted too deeply, it will lead to stem rot, and if it is planted too shallow, it will expose its roots and lack support. Try to plant it at the same depth as in its previous pot.

4. You repot at the wrong time.

Repot during the growing season (usually spring or early summer) to minimize stress to the plant. Repotting during dormancy or flowering can stress the plant, hindering its growth or causing a bloom drop. But remember, there are exceptions when you can transplant in autumn and winter!

5. While repotting, you are handling the houseplant too roughly.

Handle the plant gently, supporting the root ball and the main stem to prevent damage. Rough handling can damage the roots and stems, setting back the plant's growth and making it susceptible to diseases.

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Hi, I'm Emma, your guide!

Hi, I’m Emma, your guide!