Potting (Planting Houseplants)

Usually, the growing medium used for indoor plants sold in nurseries and stores is a light mix needed to reduce shipping costs for the nurseries that sell them. However, this medium does not provide a suitable environment for your plant.

When you bring your plant home, you should repot it with a premium potting mix. Do not use garden soil or backyard soil, as it is does not provide the proper nutrients and drainage of a potting medium.

Choose a pot that will provide adequate room for the plant. Read the label or plant tag, and choose a pot that is slightly larger than the size the plant will become at its peak growing size.

Over time, two things happen to your houseplants. One is that the soil, or potting medium, gets “tired” and becomes devoid of essential nutrients and loses its ability to hold water. The second is that a plant’s roots will continue to grow, taking up more and more space in the pot. As this happens, the plant becomes “root-bound.”

This combination of decomposing potting medium and cramped quarters inevitably leads to an unhealthy environment. The cure is usually quite simple: repotting the plant. Repotting provides room for healthy root development, plus fresh potting mix adds nutrients to help revitalize your plants.

When to repot

  • If the plant is “root-bound” (roots wind around inside of pot)
  • If the roots grow out of drainage holes
  • If you notice the appearance of brown, unhealthy roots at the bottom of the root mass
  • If the bottom leaves turn yellow and drop off
  • If the plant wilts between normal watering

For best results, repot once a year (early spring or early fall) and when plants are between flowering cycles. Pull the plant out of the pot every so often to check on its needs and the condition of the roots.

Our project section gives a step-by-step guideline to repotting houseplants.

It is important to know that potting will not necessarily bring an unhealthy plant back to life. Plants with damaged roots, fertilizer build-up, diseases or sunburned leaves may never return to a healthy state. Furthermore, repotting a sickly plant may cause more stress and possibly kill it. It is best to throw out visibly unhealthy plants and replace them with healthy ones.