A Guide to Repotting Your Indoor Plants

A Guide to Repotting Your Indoor Plants
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So, you want to know how to repot indoor plants? Well, you came to the right place! Many indoor plants are low maintenance and may not require much attention from you. But that doesn’t mean they can be completely ignored. Even plants that grow very slowly will eventually need to be repotted. Some slow growing plants might not require repotting for a long time. However, they will eventually need fresh soil, if not a slightly larger area to grow in.

When to Repot

As a general rule, you can repot once a year in late winter to early spring. This is typically before your plants go through their yearly growth spurts. However, this repotting schedule should not be the taken as a strict rule. Every species is different, and even every individual plant within the same species will have varying needs. It depends greatly on their environment.

Plants are great at telling us when they need something. If something is wrong, their leaves will turn brown or yellow, they’ll start wilting, getting lanky, or just stop growing. When a plant needs to be repotted, there are a few signs to look for.

When your plants get straggly, pale, or refuse to grow larger they could need fresh nutrients or a larger pot. Roots sticking out of the drainage holes is a definite sign your plant needs a new home. When the soil is dry, gently remove your plant from the pot. See if thick roots have coiled around the edges. If they have, this means your plant has become pot bound and the roots need more space to grow.

It’s important to be familiar with the species of plant you’re growing. Some plants, such as African violets, aloe, and spider plants, prefer to be root bound. Peace lilies and Christmas cactus thrive on being pot bound and won’t actually produce flowers otherwise.

Repotting Into the Same Pot

Increasing the pot size when it isn’t necessary could weaken your plants, but this doesn’t mean they don’t require repotting. Not only will the nutrients in the soil become depleted, but salts can build up from minerals in the soil. This can prevent plants from absorbing water, stunt their growth, or even burn their roots.

Adding a good fertilizer can help replenish the nutrients in the soil. Deeply watering your plants from time to time can wash some of these excess salts away too. But it’s a good idea to just give your plants some nice, fresh soil every now and then. When repotting in the same pot, be sure to wash out the pot before repotting. You want to remove all the salts, calcium deposits, and microorganisms from the inside of the pot.

Supplies Needed for Repotting

Before we go into how to repot indoor plants, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper tools. You’ll need a trowel for scooping soil, scissors for trimming leaves and roots, and gloves. You’ll also need the appropriate potting soil for your plants. Some plants, such as cacti and succulents, prefer a faster draining soil. On the other hand, water-loving plants or those in direct sunlight need an absorbent soil to retain water and nutrients. You’ll also need new pots if you’re repotting your plants to a larger size.

Choosing the Right Pot Size

Choosing a pot that’s too large will prevent proper drainage, leading to root rot and unhealthy plants. Pots that are too small will leave you with a pot bound plant, struggling to find room to grow. When going up a pot size, choose something no more than 2-4 inches larger than your current pot. For very slow growing plants, 1-2 extra inches is all you need.

Choosing the Right Pot Material

You can choose from any of the typical planter material such as clay, wood, metal, plastic, or concrete. Getting creative, you can also use any upcycled material such as an old shoe, empty egg cartons, toy trucks, or an old tea kettle. You can pretty much plant your garden in anything you’d like, but you have to keep in mind that some materials will absorb water more quickly, may have zero drainage, or may introduce harmful bacteria to your plants.

Whatever you choose to plant in, make sure you’re aware of how much water the soil can retain within that material and water your plants accordingly. For highly absorbent materials, be sure to watch your plants closely to see when they need rewatering. Plastic or metal containers that lack drainage holes should be watered very conservatively to avoid drowning your plants or creating root rot. Any plant container you choose to use, whether it’s an old plant pot or any other upcycled item, should be washed thoroughly to remove built up mineral salts or foreign bacteria that could harm your newly potted plant.

How to Repot Indoor Plants

You’ll first need to water your plant a day or two before repotting. You can also moisten the soil you’ll be repotting with if it seems dry. When you’re ready to repot, remove the plant from its old pot by turning it on its side and giving the base of the stem a few gentle tugs. If it’s a bit stuck, tapping the bottom of the pot will help release the plant as well.

Gently loosen the roots and prune any that are brown, black, or extra long. Remove about ⅓ of the old potting mix that surround the roots. Add some fresh soil to the bottom of the new pot and position your plant in the center. You can now fill the pot up with fresh potting soil but leave at least an inch of space from the top of the pot.

Water your plant and watch for the soil to settle. You may need to add a little more potting mix to fill in any empty spots created after watering. Your plant will be very sensitive in the first couple weeks after repotting so be sure to water it regularly and keep it out of direct sunlight. Don’t add any fertilizer in these first two weeks as it may burn the roots of your plant.

How to Repot Large Indoor Plants

Large plants can be a little more difficult to repot. If your plant is not root bound and isn’t in dire need of a new pot, you can give it a top dressing by clearing out an inch or two of the old soil from the top of the pot and adding a fresh layer of potting mix. This will replenish the nutrients in the soil without disturbing the large root system of any oversized houseplants you have.

If you do need to give your bugger houseplants a new home, avoid replanting when they’re actively budding or blooming as the repotting process can be a little stressful for them. Get them a pot that’s 1 to 2 inches larger and you can repot them in mostly the same way as you would a smaller plant.

They might get a little more stuck in their pots so tips for getting them out include cutting away any roots that have grown through the drainage holes, running a knife or a flat tool along the inner edges of the pot to unstick the roots, and pushing the soil up through the drainage holes with a thin tool such as a pencil. Tapping on the bottom of the pot and gently tugging on the base of the stem should help release the plant as well.

For hopelessly stuck plants, you may need to cut or smash the pot as a last resort. Once your plant is free of its old pot, repot it the same way you would a smaller plant. It’s a good idea to have someone help you with larger plants so you’ll have better control of the plant and avoid the risk of damaging its leaves and roots.

So, That's How to Repot Indoor Plants!

Your plants won’t need a lot from you, just some sunlight, water, nutrients, and the room to grow. Giving them some extra space and fresh soil every year or so will keep them healthy and strong so they can continue producing fresh oxygen and looking beautiful for you. Repotting is a great time to give them a good pruning and that little extra bit of extra love and care.

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