How to Repot Houseplants

When a plant has outgrown its pot, it’s time to give it more space. Follow these simple steps to safely move your houseplant to a new home.

| November/ December 2017

  • Repotting is good for a growing plant, but only if it's done thoughfully and carefully.
    Photo by iStock/-lvinst-
  • Replant your houseplants to give them room to grow.
    Photo by iStock/-lvinst-
  • Water your plant thoroughly after transplanting it to a bigger pot.
    Photo by iStock/-lvinst-

1. Find the Right Pot

First, choose a container one size bigger than your current pot. Pots come in standard sizes, labeled by diameter, usually in 2-inch increments. If your plant is in a 6-inch pot, the next size up would be an 8-inch pot, which would provide the rootball a full inch of fresh soil all the way around.

Resist the temptation to move your plant to a much bigger pot. You may think you’re saving yourself time because you won’t have to repot as often, but over-potting can kill a plant.

If you were to move a 6-inch rootball into a 12-inch pot, that would give the rootball 3 inches of fresh soil all the way around. Why would that be a bad thing? After you water a plant, the soil gradually dries out as the roots absorb water from the soil. This balance between wet and dry, oxygen and water, is crucial. Fresh soil with no roots in it will stay wet, keeping the roots wet for longer than they should be. The roots may rot, slowly killing the plant.

2. Remove the Plant

Get a bag of potting mix and a pottery shard (a broken piece of an old pot) or small piece of landscape cloth or screen. Cover the hole in the bottom of the pot with the shard or cloth to keep soil from pouring out the bottom of the pot, then add an inch or two of soil.

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Another way to loosen the roots clinging to the sides of the pot is to run a butter knife around the inside wall of the pot and then rap the pot sharply to loosen it where it clings to the bottom of the pot.

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