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Let’s talk about when and how to repot plants
When to repot:
Generally you want to repot your plants right before they are going to experience exponential growth especially if there’s not very much room left in the pot.
You can actually repot plants any time of year. Especially for indoor houseplants because, they don’t really know that it’s Winter time. So you don’t have to wait. You can repot anytime it is needed.
Standard advice is to not repot during the first 6 months of getting the plants and if you do it’s just to switch pots and use the same soil or to change all the substrate to benefit the plant.
There is an epidemic of overpotting or profusely repotting plants. This is when you are just bored and you want something to do so you go ahead and you repot a plant that you just repoted 3 months ago. Plants get really cranky and it stunts their growth if you over pot them like this. Similarly to putting them in a bigger pot or too small a pot; it can stunt their growth as well.
You also want to repot your plant if it appears to be nutrient deficient or if the substrate is clearly compacted around the soil and it is hydrophobic. It’s not a good potting media for your plant so you definitely want to repot it.
Also similarly if your plant is clearly not happy and struggling in the substrate that it is in, then you are going to want to repot it. So this is where we would deviate from the standard advice previously mentioned and repot right away.
There are lots of plants that will come in a very dense, moisture retentive, peat based, potting mix and this is generally not good. Especially for a house plant, so you may want to repot it based on that alone. A hoya in a fern substrate would be a prime example.
Repot your plant when it is showing signs of nutrient deficiency or if there is roots popping out the bottom and the pot is clearly so full of plants that it’s going to be breaking soon.
Another time to repot your plant is if there has been a year or more of no new growth whatsoever. If the plant has been completely stagnate in growth, for over a year, it definitely needs something that it is not getting in the location that it is in.
In this case my general recommendation would be to repot it, put it back in that location, and if it doesn’t produce any more new growth within the next 3 to 6 months, then move it to a new location. After that try to change up your care a little bit to. That might produce more new growth. Majority of the time though it’s just the potting mix and it needed a repot to stimulate some new growth.
Things to note before repotting:
When you pull the plant out of the pot you don’t want to disturb the roots. There will be older articles and older blogs that are going to tell you that you want to disturb the root growth as much as possible or if it appears root bound then you are going to go ahead and cut the roots. This is not the case. You want to leave those roots alone. It will figure out. It will grow by themselves. There have been scientific studies done that have proved this. Just leave it be. It’s going to bounce back a lot quicker for you.
When picking a new pot you just need to take a look at the root ball at the base of the plant and find a pot size that’s gonna be about that size.
For something that is a prolific grower like a Monstera maybe go up a size or two. But generally you want to stick to about 1 inch to 2inch bigger than what you have or the just the next size up in what you have. You do not want to go too big because then you can rot your plant. You also do not want to go too small because then you will stunt the growth of your plant. So it really just depends on the situation. Go by the root ball size, not the size of the plant.
Another thing to do before you actually start repotting your plant, is to make sure that you fully water your plant. If you fully water your plant and everything is fully saturated, your plant is able to absorb all of that moisture. Then it’s gonna be as happy and healthy as possible when you are uppotting it.
That way if any damage is done then it can heal itself and have that energy. It is not going to be sitting there trying to soak up water at the same time it’s trying to heal itself. Let’s take care of one problem before we give it another problem essentially.
Another reason to water your plant before you repot is because, when you water the plant (especially if you soak it) if the soil is compacted, then that is going to loosen all that soil up. You will do less damage to your plant when you are repotting it. Especially if you are trying to switch it from one type of media to another. You can also get this media off by submerging it in a bucket of water and that will rinse all that media off. Very useful if your are switching it from soil to leca or from a soil mix to a pon mix. If your plant was suffering some type of damage like root rot, then you want to make sure you get as much of that off as possible to.
These situations are pretty much the only time you want to disturb the roots. When there is actually a reason to do it. Otherwise, leave the roots alone.
Also note that there are plants out there that are not going to want to be watered that often and you are just going have to work around it and not disturb the roots that much. Plants like Lithops only get watered about twice a year or so depending on where you are living. They hold a lot of moisture and do not need more water. A lot of succulents are like this.
They do not need water very often, but when they need water, they need a lot of it. They are not going to want to be watered every time you are repotting them. Make sure that your plant is actually going to benefit from being watered before you are repotting it.
Step 1: Hold the potted plant by the pot at an angle.
Step 2: Squeeze around the pot gently. Do this all the way around. Especially if it is some type of plastic pot. If it is a terracotta pot or ceramic pot you might have to go around the edges with a knife to kind of loosen the roots that have become stuck to the pot.
Step 3: When you are repotting there may be some roots out at the bottom and you may have to work around those to pull them out. You want to go ahead and wiggle those roots out as much as possible and remove the plant from its pot gently.
Step 4: Place a thin layer of your potting mix at the bottom of the new pot.
Step 5: Place the plant in the new pot and then pour in whatever type of substrate you are now potting your plant in. Do not go over the baseline of the original stem with the new substrate. Most plants do not like this. They want to keep it the same or a little bit less they don’t want to be covered more because this can promote rot.
Step 6: After you’ve got the plant all nice and settled in it’s new pot, you want to go ahead and give it a good watering(provided it is the type of plant that would enjoy a good watering).
If it is a succulent, lithops, or draceana generally those are not going to want more water and if given some to soon, they will suffered some type of root rot. Generally, for those plants you want to give it a little bit of time to breathe but for the majority of plants anytime you are repotting a plant you do want to water it afterwards. That way it can grow and heal up.
That is how you repot a plant. Very simple and very easy. Just keep in mind why you are repotting and what your plants needs when you are repotting in order to have a healthy repotted plant.