How To Re-Pot Indoor Plants and 5 Reasons Why You Should

Posted on Jun 2, 2015 in Projects | 27 Comments

The long daylight hours of late spring are like rocket fuel for indoor plants. With the higher temperatures and increased light, your plants just want to spread their roots and grow, grow grow.

To take advantage of the peak growing season, this is the perfect time to re-pot or pot up your houseplants. Whether you’re putting your plant into a new vessel or simply refreshing the soil in its current home, your plant will be so thankful for the added space and nutrient boost provided by re-potting, and will show its thanks by creating lots of beautiful new growth!

Here’s a few tips about how to re-pot indoor plants to ensure they’re as happy and healthy as possible.

How to Re-Pot Indoor Plants

Re-pot vs Pot Up

Did you know that plants don’t necessarily have to be moved into new containers to reep the benefit of a spring re-potting? Actually, if you’re going to graduate your plant to a roomier vessel, you’ll be “potting up” your friend, rather than just re-potting. Re-potting your plant into the same container works wonders by refreshing the soil and freeing up root space. Potting up should only be done when your plant has become root bound or overcrowded in its container.

How To Re-pot Indoor Plants

1 – Water your plant thoroughly a day or two before you plan to re-pot. This will make it easier to get your plant out of its pot, and ensure that it is hydrated, which reduces the risk of shock.

2 – Gently remove the plant from its pot. Depending on the size and the degree to which it is root bound, you may have to turn the pot on its side, or have a friend hold the pot while you grab the plant. For highly root bound plants, slide a butter knife around the perimeter of the pot to loosen roots.

How to Re-pot Indoor Plants

3 – Gently loosen the root ball. Shake away excess soil, taking care not to damage the tender roots. Clip off any brown, black or visibly damaged roots with sharp shears. For highly root bound plants, or if you plan to just re-pot without potting up into a bigger plant, trim up to ⅔ of the root mass starting with the bottom and sides of the plant.

How to Re-Pot Indoor Plants
4 – If re-potting only, dump remaining soil from the pot, and clean away sediments with hot water. If potting up, choose a clean new pot that is no more than 2” in diameter larger than your plant’s old home – too much space slows growth and can lead to root rot.

5 – Add .5” of pebbles or charcoal to the bottom of your pot (optional, but encouraged if there is no drainage hole), and begin adding a layer of fresh potting soil to the bottom of the pot so that the base of the plant will be about .5” below the rim of the pot.

6 – Place your plant in the new pot and fill in with soil until all roots are covered and air. Firm soil gently to ensure that there are no air pockets, but take care not to crush delicate roots. Water lightly so that the new soil is moist, but not sopping wet.

What To Do After You Re-pot Your Plant

After re-potting or potting up, plants tend to enter a period of shock. Don’t worry – it’s normal! Plants may appear wilted and thirsty, but take care to refrain from watering until about a week after re-potting to ensure that any roots damaged during re-potting have healed. During the recovery period, place plants in a cooler, shadier spot.
Most potting soil contains fertilizer. To prevent from over-fertilizing and damaging your plant, you can hold off on fertilizing for about 6 weeks after re-potting.

5 Reasons To Re-pot Indoor Plants

1 – Fresh Soil – Nutrient Boost

Your indoor plant absorbs the majority of its food through nutrients in the soil. Over time, the soil becomes increasingly depleted. You may notice that after a few seasons of thriving, your plant produces small new grown, off color leaves, or is just generally “unhappy.” Even if you fertilize regularly, re-potting (or potting up) with new soil provides a nutrient boost that will give your plant what it needs to thrive.

2 – Better Watering

Ever notice that when you water, it seems to immediately immediately seep out of the bottom of the pot? Your plant is likely root bound – a condition in which the plant needs new space so badly that the roots have wrapped around and around the outside of the pot. This creates channels for the water to flow through which is why a root bound plant is very difficult to actually water. Freeing up these roots through re-potting will help your plant get the water it needs to keep its thirst quenched and leaves lush.

How to Repot Indoor Plants

3 -Room to breath = New Growth!

Everyone likes a little breathing room, houseplants included. Another reason to free plants from being root bound is to promote new growth. Plants can rebound dramatically and generously from re-potting. A stronger, growing root system will make your plant happier and grow faster.

4 -Disease Prevention

Ever over water your plants? Don’t worry. We all do. The issue is root rot – when roots become damaged from over-watering, they turn dark brown or black. They’re susceptible to disease in this state, and actually are unable to absorb water (which is why an over-watered plant can sometimes seem thirsty). Clipping off these damaged roots helps a plant recover from being over-watered and your best line of defense against fungus and disease.

5 – Divide and Conquer – Plant Babies!

When plants get too crowded, many can be divided to free up space and make new plants! Re-potting time is the ideal moment to take advantage and divide offshoots and pups into self-sufficient plants.

27 Comments

  1. Ellen Waldman
    June 3, 2015

    Thank you for an excellent how-to, and equally helpful, ‘why-to’ on this subject. The re-pot v. potting up is something I didn’t know much about. I was about to
    pot UP a few houseplants, but will now, instead, be RE-potting one of them. Your photos are beautiful, as always!

    Reply
  2. Your Best Bet for Revitalizing an Unhappy Houseplant - Recipes Heaven
    April 7, 2016

    […] If your planter has a hole at the bottom, you can choose to add an optional (but encouraged) layer of pebbles, rocks, or even packing peanuts for added drainage (if the pot doesn’t have […]

    Reply
  3. Your Best Bet for Revitalizing an Unhappy Houseplant | Latvian Technology Review
    April 7, 2016

    […] If your planter has a hole at the bottom, you can choose to add an optional (but encouraged) layer of pebbles, rocks, or even packing peanuts for added drainage (if the pot doesn’t have […]

    Reply
  4. Steph
    May 19, 2016

    How often should re-potting be done? Once a year? Longer..?

    Reply
    • Jesse
      May 23, 2016

      Hey Steph,

      It really depends on your plant. Fast-growing tropicals are going to require repotting much more often than most cacti, for instance. As a general rule, you’ll want to repot when the roots of the plant are poking out of the holes in the bottom of the pot, or when it seems as though the water just comes right out of the drainage holes, rather than soaking into the soil. Once a year, in the spring, is a good rule of thumb. Just take care not to pot anything into a pot that’s too large – graduating in increments of 1-3″ is just fine for most plants.

      Hope this helps!
      Jesse

      Reply
    • Pam
      April 19, 2017

      How often should you repot: once a year or longer?

      Reply
      • Jesse
        April 24, 2017

        It depends a bit on the plant! Generally, once a year is great. Some can go much longer, though!

        Reply
  5. Vicky
    September 14, 2016

    Hi! This was really helpful. What is the plant in your photos – I love its colors and textures!

    Thanks,
    Vicky

    Reply
    • Jesse
      September 19, 2016

      Hey Vicky,

      Thanks! That’s a Maranta, aka prayer plant or herringbone plant.

      Best,
      Jesse

      Reply
  6. marie heter
    October 15, 2016

    I have a plant that the roots have not grown or something has nibbled them down. What should be done?

    Reply
    • Jesse
      October 20, 2016

      Hey Marie,

      What kind of plant is it? Some plants don’t develop deep root systems.

      Jesse

      Reply
  7. Jackie
    October 29, 2016

    Where do you findo offshoots and pups?? Can I damage my plant if I separate them wrong??

    Reply
    • Jesse
      January 4, 2017

      Offshoots and pups should emerge at the base of your plant, or along tendrils that the plant puts out. It should be fairly clear. Yes, take caution when separating. You don’t want to do damage to the mother plant.

      Best,
      Jesse

      Reply
  8. Segolene
    March 24, 2017

    Thank you so much for your great article. It is very well explained and displayed. I have a very big indoor plant that’s been quite happy in its big pot, and that has recently not been absorbing any water. I bought some potting soil, but it doesn’t seem to have any fertilizer in it, and seems very compact. Would you recommend to buy a certain type of soil?
    Thank you!

    Reply
  9. Charlotte Nichols
    March 30, 2017

    I have 2 long pieces of mother-in-law plants and 2 aloe plants. What do I do to make them grow?
    I enjoy your advice.
    Thank you

    Reply
  10. Harvey
    April 1, 2017

    Great how-to! This was very helpful. I just recently potted-up and realized I used in-ground soil, instead of potting soil. Will this be harmful and should I change the soil?

    Reply
  11. Dawn
    April 14, 2017

    What is the best way to repot a Coleus so that the leaves grow along the long
    stems? Is cutting the stems down recommended? it is getting too tall and spindly.

    Reply
  12. John Mahoney
    May 1, 2017

    I did not know that sometimes you had to trim the roots when repotting your indoor plants. It makes sense that doing a little homework can help you know the best way to care for your greens in order to keep them healthy. As I see it, consulting with a professional can often hep you understand your plants better and know what they need to survive.

    Reply
  13. Magda Zofia
    June 28, 2017

    Really great article! Thanks so much. I love your photos.

    About point #6 “Divide and Conquer”… might you have an article on this? I would love to know how to create little plants babies!

    Reply
    • Jesse
      July 7, 2017

      Thank you! We’ll add that to the list of future blog topics 🙂

      Reply
  14. Diana Mischler
    July 20, 2017

    Thanks for such helpful info! Hopefully it will lighten my black thumb! When I re-pot, what type of soil do you recommend?

    Reply
  15. Thomas Chai
    October 1, 2017

    I want to grow fruit trees in containers. I don’t want them to be taller than 8′. Initially, I may be able to re-pot them when they were small. What about when they are big? I want to limit my pot size to 20-gallon max. Can I just leave them in the biggest pot size I want them to be in? Thanks.

    Reply
  16. Marti
    October 5, 2017

    Hi. Thank you for the informative article. I have recently propagated cuttings from a large plant and they have all rooted in soil separately. I am thinking about reporting them together to create a fuller plant. It’s a peperomia baby rubber plant. I wanted to know if you have any suggestions when doing this in order to avoid damaging them, or if they should/shouldn’t be potted together. There are two regular sized cuttings and one baby that grew from the stem of the big cutting (the baby has sprouted 3 leafs and one baby coming in). I also know that this time of year is not ideal for reporting (NY). Any input would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
  17. Marti
    October 5, 2017

    Hi. Thank you for the informative article. I have recently propagated cuttings from a large plant and they have all rooted in soil separately. I am thinking about reporting them together to create a fuller plant. It’s a peperomia baby rubber plant. I wanted to know if you have any suggestions when doing this in order to avoid damaging them, or if they should/shouldn’t be potted together. There are two regular sized cuttings and one baby that grew from the stem of the big cutting (the baby has sprouted 3 leafs and one baby coming in – I attached a photo – it’s super cute). I also know that this time of year is not ideal for reporting (NY). Any input would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
  18. Karen
    November 18, 2017

    I have used moisturizer control soil for my FL outdoor pots and hanging baskets. Do you recommend this soil be used for indoor house plants?
    I combine African violet potting mix and perlite for my violets. I seem to get better results than just the potting mix.
    I know air can dry out roots, so don’t know if additives to a potting mix for indoor plants would be a wise choice.
    Any soil suggestions would be appreciated or a mixture of ingredients.

    Reply
  19. caroline
    November 20, 2017

    What is the name of the plant in your article? I have the same one, just wondering if I need to put any pebbles to drain the water in the new pot.

    Reply
  20. Dave
    November 24, 2017

    I just re-potted 4 coffee plants and an English ivy unfortunatly as I was cleaning-up I noticed I had used sphagnum peatmoss not potting soil mix as I had intended. Do I need to start over again? Help!

    Reply

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