Repotting Plants

Houseplants sometimes outgrow their pots, and in order for plants to continue to thrive, it’s necessary to repot them in roomier containers as they grow. If your plants are showing signs of becoming root bound, give them a little more legroom. Repotting will help them flourish and enable continual health and growth.

There’s more to repotting a plant than pulling it out of an old pot and planting it in a new one. Improper handling can damage tender roots and cause undue stress. Don’t grab your plant by the base and pull.

The following easy instructions explain how to choose new pots as well as how to properly remove and repot plants. You’ll also find valuable information on how to invigorate a plant that’s too big for repotting. Following these easy instructions and providing proper care will help your foliage continue to grow and prosper for a long time to come.

Is it Root Bound?

If the roots of a plant are growing through the drainage holes, it’s probably root bound and would benefit greatly from repotting. If the container doesn’t have drainage holes, it’s still easy to tell if it’s root bound. If the plant begins to wilt even though it’s watered regularly, it’s more than likely root bound and it might not be receiving the water or nutrients it requires.

How Often Should Plants be Repotted?

Even when plants aren’t considered root bound, they still require regular repotting. An immature plant should be repotted annually, and older ones should be repotted at least every three years for best results. It’s best to repot them in early spring when they’re experiencing new growth.

Does Size Matter?

Container size matters. Plants should be repotted in containers that are two to three inches larger in diameter than the preceding pots. This will give them plenty of breathing room, and they won’t appear to be lost in a container full of soil.

Preparation for Easy Removal

Removing a plant from a container isn’t always easy, especially if it’s root bound. Although it will be messy, thoroughly water it about an hour before attempting to remove it from the container. It will come out easier than it would if the soil were dry.


Small plants usually come out of their containers without a hitch. Simply place your hand over the soil with the stem or stems between your fingers. While turning over the pot, gently shake it or tap the edge on a hard surface until it releases.

Larger plants are a little trickier to remove. Place a larger pot on its side, and slowly turn it to help loosen the edges. If it’s extremely root bound and holding tight to the container, give it a little help by running a knife around the edges. Have someone hold onto the plant while you pull away the container.

If you plan on using a clay container, soak it in water for about four or five minutes before repotting. Cover the drainage hole with broken pieces of an old clay pot, and tamp down new potting soil in the bottom. Add enough soil so the top of the root system rests about one inch below the rim.

The next step is to place the plant in the center of the new pot, and surround it with new potting soil. Occasionally tap the container against the surface you’re working on so the soil settles appropriately.

What if it’s too Big?

If your plant is far too large to handle you can still revitalize the soil and give it a little breathing room. Replenish valuable nutrients by topdressing the soil once a year. Simply remove the top two or three inches of soil without uncovering the main root system, and replace it with new potting soil to give your plants a new lease on life.

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