Complete guide to repotting
Repotting your indoor plants as they grow is an important part of being a plant parent. You don’t need to do it very often and it’s usually very easy.
Just as people outgrow clothes, plants outgrow their pots. It’s a job you don’t need to do very often, but your plants will thank you for it. The main stuff you need to know about repotting:
- You don’t need to repot your plant as soon as you buy it
- Repot every 2-3 years, to give your plant’s roots more space and fresh soil
- Only size up to a pot about one or two inches bigger than the old one
- Only repot into a pot with holes in the bottom, for drainage
When we talk about repotting, we mean moving a plant from a nursery pot (the plastic one with holes in) into a larger nursery pot. Don’t pot directly into a pot with no holes, unless you’re a total expert. A plant with no drainage holes can easily drown.
Now, let’s dig a little deeper.
Why is repotting plants necessary?
Repotting has two purposes:
- It gives a growing plant’s roots more room. As your plant gets older and bigger its roots expand so it can suck up enough water and nutrients to feed itself. If its pot is too small, the roots can’t absorb what they need and your plant will suffer.
- Repotting refreshes the nutrients in the soil. In the wild, plants will take nutrients from the ground. Indoor plants live in potting compost that is enriched with nutrients, but these only last so long. Fresh soil equals happier plants.
How do you know if your plant needs repotting?
When a houseplant is too big for its pot you’ll usually see lots of roots poking out of the top of the soil or from the holes in the bottom. We mean lots, not just a few.
To check if your plant has definitely outgrown its pot gently take it out of the pot. If the roots are circling around the edge of the pot, it’s looking for more space. Time to repot.
Other signs your plant may be ready for another pot include the soil drying out very quickly or a lack of new growth.
N.B. Some plants like their roots constricted like this, especially monsteras. They can happily live in a cramped pot for a long time.
How often do you need to repot?
As a rough rule, you should probably repot every two years. Sometimes more often if your plant has obviously outgrown its pot.
Even if your plant hasn’t outgrown its pot, putting it in fresh soil will give it a new boost of nutrients. If you’re only repotting to change the soil you don’t need to move your plant to a bigger pot. Keep the same one.
What sort of soil should you use for repotting?
Always use potting soil, also known as potting compost. Don’t just use soil from the garden as it will likely be too heavy for your plants and it can contain weeds or other nasties. We encourage the use of peat-free compost, as it’s kinder to the environment.
You can find out more about what’s in potting soil here.
How do you repot houseplants?
This is best done outside or over some newspaper. It gets messy.
- Get some potting soil and a new pot (about 1-2 inches wider than the old one*)
- Carefully remove your plant from its pot. You may have to wiggle it a bit
- Loosen the roots with your fingers, so they’re not all stuck together with soil. Don’t worry if you break some.
- Put about 1-2cm of soil in the bottom of the new pot and put your plant on top
- Fill around the edges with soil, then give it a good water
Your plant may need some time to settle in, so keep a good eye on it for a couple of weeks. Don’t be tempted to overwater or feed to revive it. It just needs time.
*You only need this if your plant has outgrown its pot. If you’re just refreshing the soil, keep the old pot.
What if you don’t want your plant to get bigger?
If you’d prefer to keep your plant small, you can carefully trim some of its roots then put it back in its current pot. Make sure you also trim some of the growth above the soil. A smaller root system can only sustain a smaller plant.
Congratulations, you’re now an expert on repotting! Your plants are going to be potty about you.
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