Repotting plants is a fairly simple task, and even the lowest maintenance plants require a repot – either annually or at least every two years – to keep them looking their best for years to come. Now read best way to repot a plant
How to Tell if Your Plant Needs to Be Repotted
The potting soil your houseplants grow in may cease over time to provide the conditions your plant need to survive. As a guideline, if your houseplants show any of the below symptoms, grab a pair of gardening gloves, your soil scoop and hand trowel, then dig in. You’ll know when to repot a plant when these signs appear:
- Tightly coiled roots protruding from the bottom of the pot.
- Dry soil and lack of moisture retention; water drains out quickly.
- A top-heavy plant that leans over.
- Drooping and sagging leaves that easily brown or just fall off.
What’s the best way to repot a plant
When it’s time to repot your plant, you should use a combination of plastic pots and peat-based compost. Of course, this depends on the plant’s requirements. First, soak the clay pot for a day before using it so the pot won’t draw the water out of the compost.
Pots are available in all sorts of sizes but you usually only need four or five different sizes. The most common sizes used are the 6 cm., 8 cm., 13 cm., 18 cm., and 25 cm. You will always want to leave enough space between the rim of the pot and the surface of the compost; as that’s your watering space. It should increase with the size of your pot because larger pots hold larger plants, which require more water.
When one of your houseplants is in a large pot and can’t be repotted, you’ll have to top-dress the compost. What this means is you will have to remove the top 1 to 1 1/2 inches (2.5-4 cm.) of old compost and replace it with fresh compost. Be sure not to damage the plant’s roots and leave a gap between the top of the compost and the rim of the pot so that the plant can be watered easily.
What kind of soil do I use?
The best thing to do is ask someone at your local nursery. Tell them what you are planting and they’ll give you suggestions. If it’s a tropical houseplant, I’ll use an organic indoor potting soil. I often amend the soil with orchid bark and/or perlite. If you’re repotting a succulent or cactus, you’ll need a soil with better drainage. Typically amended with pumice, vermiculite, or perlite.
Best way to repot a houseplant
What do I need?
- Potting soil
- New pot
- Root bound plant
- Small shovel (cup or your hands) for shoveling dirt
- A bit of water
- Clean scissors (If you need to trim roots)
Bring the plant you’re repotting to an area where you feel comfortable making a little mess. Indoors, many people simply cover a table with newspaper. In some cases, watering the plant to dampen (not soak) the soil may make it easier to remove the plant from its container. In other instances, it’s easier to work with dry soil. Use your judgement. Rest assured that neither technique is better or worse for the plant’s health. Keep in mind that working with damp soil will make the process somewhat messier.
The best way to remove the plant from its current home depends both on the size of the plant and the type of pot it’s in. If it’s a small plant in a plastic nursery container, you can simply turn the container upside down and gently squeeze from the bottom, using your free hand to guide the plant out.
If it’s a larger plant in, say, a heavy terra-cotta pot, work a gardening fork or trowel around the edge of the soil in the container. Root damage is inevitable here, but try to keep it to a minimum. Next, lay the pot on its side and turn the container (not the plant) slowly, thereby twisting the plant out onto your work surface.
Now it’s time to prepare the new container. Double-check to make sure that it has at least one good-size drainage hole; if it doesn’t, you can always create one with your drill/driver. Some indoor gardeners like to line the bottom of pots with stones or broken pottery to further enhance drainage.
After filling the container halfway with new potting soil
Use gardening scissors to clean up the plant and its root ball. Remove any old stems that could slow the plant’s growth, and cut away any dark-looking roots. With your hands, gently break up parts of the root ball to encourage new growth.
Position the plant into its new container so that the top edge of the root ball hits an inch or two below the lip of the pot. Add soil to backfill around the sides of the root ball until the plant can stand upright on its own. You may need to pack the soil, but be very careful not to make the medium too dense.
Use a watering can to give your plant a good soaking in its new home. The drainage hole(s) will allow for excess water to escape. How much water to add after repotting depends on the plant. Make sure to add enough water but not too much to avoid rotting the roots.
To help your plant cope with the shock of having been repotted, give it a good soak. Finally, return the plant to its favorite perch, whether it’s the humid environment of your bathroom or the cheerful sun of a bay window.
How to avoid transplant shock
Plants can suffer from transplant shock after repotting, which can result in a plant wilting and failing to thrive, which ultimately could kill the plant. To avoid this happening, Claire suggests the following:
Make sure the new pot has sufficient drainage holes
Place the plant in the exact same spot it used to inhabit so that it gets the same temperature and lighting conditions it had before
Give the plant a dose of water-soluble, all-purpose plant food
Finally, nip off all dead leaves and stem ends to make room for new parts to grow.