How To Re-Pot Indoor Plants and 5 Reasons Why You Should
The long daylight hours of late spring (and summer, for that matter) 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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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 planter, trim up to ⅔ of the root mass starting with the bottom and sides of the plant.
- 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.
- If potting into a container with out drainage, we recommend adding a .5” layer of activated charcoal to the bottom of your pot. Some folks recommend a layer of pebbles at the base of any pot to improve drainage; however, it’s unclear whether this helps, and so long as the pot has drainage we exclude pebbles. Next, 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reminder: If your plant is stressed, wait to re-pot! For example, if it’s wilted from thirst, best to soak it and allow the plant to perk back up before re-potting. Likewise, try to avoid re-potting in extreme weather, like heat waves, which can add stress.