Thinking of repotting your plant?
Repotting houseplants may seem like a scary endeavor if you’ve never gotten your hands dirty, but anyone who has ever repotted will agree that it’s not only simple but also quite fun and enjoyable as well! Learn when to repot, and how, with this simple guide.
Do you have to repot your plant?
Our Plant Doctors receive many enquiries about when to repot plants, or if it’s an absolute must for the plant to thrive. The truth is that most indoor plants only need repotting once every one or two years (though some slow growers can survive many years in the same pot!), and even then, it isn’t necessarily required to repot them in a bigger container.
The primary reason why we repot plants is to give them fresh, nutrient-rich soil, which can easily be done by removing the plant from its pot and shaking the old dirt off the roots. At that point, if you’d like your plant to stay the same size, you may simply repot it directly in the old pot, of course with fresh new soil. If you’d like your plant to grow bigger, you can repot it in something about two inches larger than what it was in before.
Of course depending on the plant, it could potentially survive years without repotting. But if you want your plant to thrive, think about giving it some fresh soil every few years!
When to repot your plant
As mentioned above, it’s good practice with indoor plants to repot once every one or two years. However, sometimes your plant may also send you signals that it’s time to repot. Here are some signs you may look for:
Matted roots on the soil surface, as can be common with Fiddle Leaf Figs
The roots are coming out at the bottom, through the drainage holes for example, not uncommon with Birds of Paradise
The roots are quite literally “pushing” the plant out of the pot
The plant dries out very quickly, for example in a matter of days
The best time of year to repot your plant is in the spring or summer, as this is when plants are actively growing. That said, is not the end of the world if for whatever reason you need to repot in the middle of winter!
How to repot your plant
Before repotting your plant, make sure you have the necessary materials to repot:
Fresh, indoor potting soil
If desired, a new bigger pot
Sharp, clean shears
When your plant is dry, or before it's next watering, follow these simple instructions:
Remove the plant from its pot. For smaller plants, you can do this by simply turning over the pot and letting the plant slide out. For larger plants, you may need to lift it out while holding the pot to the floor (pro tip: spread newspaper over the floor for easy clean up!). If your plant is difficult to remove from the pot (the roots are twisting out the drainage holes), you may need to simply cut these roots off to get it out.
Shake the soil off the roots, removing about half of the old soil. You may need to gently detangle some of the roots to do this. Don’t panic if some of them rip or break. You may also prune some roots, especially if you are planning on potting it in the same pot as before.
Pour a couple inches of fresh potting soil into the pot and pat down so it’s firm.
Place the plant in the pot and fill with more soil until it’s secure in place and standing straight. Pat down again until firm.
Fill with soil to the top of the pot, but make sure to leave about an inch so that water does not overflow when you water your plant.
Water thoroughly and let the plant completely drain.
Voilà! You’re done. Remember that your plant may be a little unstable the first few weeks in its new pot, so take care when moving it back to its home.