Tips For Repotting Houseplants

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Tips For Repotting Houseplants

In order to keep your houseplants healthy, they will need to be repotted once and a while, and spring is the best time to repot houseplants. Generally houseplants won’t need to be repotted very often, in fact many won’t need to be repotted for several years. But when a houseplant grows in the same pot for a long time, it can become pot-bound (or root-bound) and will usually need to be repotted.

If you put your houseplants outside during the summer, they will probably outgrow their pot faster and will need to be repotted more often. Some plants like to be pot-bound, but most houseplants will start to show signs of distress if they become pot-bound.

Houseplant Needs To Be Repotted

Houseplant Needs To Be Repotted

Signs that a houseplant needs to be repotted:

  • The soil is always dry and doesn’t seem to hold moisture for very long
  • There are roots growing out the bottom of the pot, or over the top of the soil
  • The pot looks as if it’s ready to bust open
  • The plant has grown so tall that the pot keeps falling over
  • The plant is slow to grow or seems to have stopped growing

If you’re unsure, turn the pot on its side and gently remove the rootball from the pot. If it’s a dense mass of roots with very little soil left in the pot; or the roots are circling around the inside of the pot, that means the plant is pot-bound. If a plant won’t slide out of the pot and seems to be stuck, that’s also an indication that the plant is pot-bound.

Potbound Rootball On Houseplant

Pot-bound Rootball On Houseplant

Tips for repotting houseplants

Once you determine your houseplant needs to be repotted, it’s a good idea to water it a day or two before you plan to repot it. This will make it easier to remove the plant from the pot, and help the plant recover faster afterward.

Choosing a new pot:
When repotting houseplants, choose a new pot that’s only one size larger than the original pot (i.e.: move the plant from a 4″ pot to a 6″ pot). If you’re reusing a pot, make sure to scrub it with soap and water before putting a new plant into it. This will prevent the transfer of any disease or houseplant pests.

Related Post: How To Clean Terracotta Pots

I recommend always using a pot that has drainage holes because it helps prevent over watering. To keep the soil in, while still allowing the water to drain out, cover the drainage holes in the pot with a piece of screen material or landscape fabric.

Cover Drainage Hole In Pot

Cover Drainage Hole In Pot

If you want to use a decorative pot that doesn’t have drainage holes, add drainage material to the bottom of the pot before adding soil. You can use pieces of broken pottery or pebbles, I like to use chunks of styrofoam because it won’t add extra weight to the pot. Better yet, you could repot the houseplant into a pot with drainage holes, and then drop it into the decorative container.

Hide Ugly Pot With Decorative Pot

Hide Ugly Pot With Decorative Pot

Potting Soil:

General purpose potting soil can be used for most houseplants. (Note: some houseplants may require different types of soil, or medium – for example orchids require a special orchid potting mix, and succulents prefer a quick draining succulent soil mix. If you’re unsure of what type of soil to use, it’s best to look up the specific potting medium recommend for your houseplant.) Always use fresh, sterile potting soil when repotting houseplants. If there’s any loose soil left in the old pot after removing the houseplant, it’s fine to dump that into the new pot. But don’t reuse soil from one houseplant to another; and never, never use garden soil.

How To Repot A Houseplant:

If there are roots growing out of the bottom of the pot, trim those off before attempting to remove the plant from the pot. Gently tease the plant out of the pot, you may need to tap on the side of the pot to loosen the rootball. If the plant is stuck in the pot, use a knife or hand trowel and gently run it along the inside of the pot to loosen it up.

Once the plant is out of the pot, inspect the roots and trim off any that are damaged or look unhealthy. Healthy roots are firm and whitish in color. If the roots have grown in a circular pattern, gently tease the roots to straighten them out. This will break the circular growth pattern and help to stimulate new growth.

Loosen Roots On Potbound Houseplant

Loosen Roots On Pot-bound Houseplant

Place the plant in the new pot so that the top of the rootball is at the same level as it was in the old pot. If there was root growth over the top of the soil, you can place the plant slightly deeper in order completely cover the roots with soil. Center the houseplant in the new pot and fill potting soil in around it, lightly packing the soil down as you go.

Repotting A Houseplant

Repotting A Houseplant

When you’re done repotting the houseplant, water the plant to moisten the rootball and allow the soil to settle. You may need to add more potting soil once the houseplant has settled into the new pot. Give your houseplant a couple of weeks to recover before fertilizing it. Once your houseplant has recovered from being repotted, you can start fertilizing it regularly. I recommend using an organic fertilizer rather than chemical fertilizers. I use (and highly recommend) fish emulsion or an organic compost solution on all of my houseplants – they work better than chemical fertilizers and are much healthier for the environment.

Repotted Houseplant

Repotted Houseplant

Repotting houseplants into a larger pot will stimulate new growth, allowing the plant to stay healthy and grow larger. If you have a houseplant that needs to be repotted, but you don’t want it to get any bigger, read my blog post about repotting a large houseplant.

Click here to read more about the basics of how to care for a houseplant… Houseplant Care

Do you repot your houseplants in the spring?



  1. says

    Your picture of the pot-bound spider plant roots reminded me of my own experience.

    I grow miniature sinningias, which are incredible plants for small spaces. I've grown them for years, and I am absolutely amazed how big their tubers can get.

    It is easy to forget that there is at least as much going on below the soil as that which we see above.

    Thank you for

  2. says

    Hi Petite Plants – Thanks for your nice comment. Sinningias look like they would be a beautiful plant, are they easy as a houseplant or are they more for the garden? It always amazes me how quickly some plant can become pot-bound.

  3. says

    Sinningias are houseplants. And very rewarding ones!

    I like how small they are. Sometimes the large plants become almost an architectural feature that we tune out.

    The little ones, though, can grab your focus, draw you down in to their scale, and give you a kind of a "stop and smell the roses" moment.

    (I don't mean to imply they are fragrant – I

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