How to repot a houseplant without killing it in the process

Having indoor plants is a good idea on so many levels, from visual aesthetics to physical and mental health benefits. If you love having your green babies indoors, you want to make sure they are getting all the care and attention they need to flourish for a long time. Repotting your indoor plants is necessary on occasion and not just to match your newly redecorated space. It’s also good for your plants. We’re going to walk through how to repot plants safely without harming or stunting the growth of your beautiful indoor oasis.

Indoor plant in wicker container
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Why repot a plant?

While replacing and updating your decorative pots is a good way to spice up and refresh your indoor space’s decor, the biggest reason to repot a plant is for the plant’s health. Potted plants often start to outgrow their pots, and they need to be transported to a larger pot to continue to grow and flourish. The soil in the pot also needs to be replaced on occasion. As the plant grows, it absorbs nutrients from the soil, and in the case of a potted plant, replacing the soil allows your plant to continue to be fed.

When to repot a plant

Believe it or not, repotting your plants is not something you should frequently do. The repotting process can put stress on the plant and cause damage to it or stunt its growth. You should only repot your indoor plants at certain points throughout the life of the plant, and the process should be carefully done to minimize stress.

After purchasing the plant

When you purchase a new house plant, wait several days to repot it. Give your new green baby some time to get accustomed to your home’s light, climate, and airflow before you put it through the stress of repotting.

After 12-18 months

As we mentioned, potted plants need their soil to be replenished occasionally so that they continue to soak up nutrients. It’s a good idea to repot every year or so, even if the plant isn’t showing signs of outgrowing its pot. This timeline will ensure that the soil around its roots is continually beneficial to the plant.

When the plant outgrows its pot

If your plant gets too big for its planter, it will eventually stop growing and possibly even start to yellow or wither. After you’ve had your plant for a while, you may notice some tell-tale signs that it’s starting to outgrow its potted home. Look for these signs and be ready to repot your plant into a bigger home soon after the signs start to show.

  • Roots are growing out of the drainage holes
  • The plant dries out more frequently than when you first got it
  • You can see excessive amounts of roots amid the soil
  • The top of the plant is tilting from being too top-heavy
  • The plant’s growth has slowed or stopped

indoor plant on windowsill

What kind of pot should you transfer to?

Consider the size, material, and drainage in your new pot. A too-big pot will make it so that water drains without reaching the plant’s roots. It’s best to gradually increase the pot size by 1 or two inches for smaller plants and 3 or 4 inches for larger floor plants. If your plant requires lots of water, pick a pot that traps moisture like plastic or ceramic. If your plant requires less water, a terra cotta pot pulls moisture away from the soil. Select a pot with drainage holes or use rocks at the bottom of the pot to help with drainage.

How to repot a houseplant

Remove the plant from its old pot

Hold on to the thickest part of the stem and gently tip the plant. Tap on the bottom of the pot, and the plant should eventually slide out of the pot. Be careful with any roots that are coming out of the bottom.

Examine and trim roots

This is a good time to take a close look at your plant’s roots. Give them a gentle shake to loosen them up so you can see all the roots easily. If you see any that look dead or are super long, trim them off with pruning scissors.

Add the plant and soil to the new pot

Keep about a third of the soil from the old pot, as its presence will make an easier transition for your plant and create less of a shock. Place the plant in the new pot and top it off with the new soil. Press the soil down gently to remove any air pockets but don’t push down too hard as you want your plant’s roots to remain a bit loose in the new soil.

Water appropriately

You may be tempted to excessively water your newly potted plant, but only water until you see some of the water start to drain out of the bottom. Then, check the plant with your fingers daily in the following week to ensure the soil is still moist and water more if necessary.

You’ve worked hard to maintain your lovely indoor garden, and you want to create the best possible growing conditions for your beloved plants. While repotting your indoor plants is necessary for them to live a long life, it can be a tricky process. Avoid damaging or stressing out your plants by repotting them the right way so they can flourish in their new homes.

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