Repotting Houseplants

What you’ll need

  • Container
  • Knife
  • Watering can

step 1: Check for Massed Roots and Depleted Soil

You can tell a plant has outgrown its pot by checking for compacted roots. Turn the plant on its side and gently knock the rim of the pot against a table. This will loosen the root ball enough for you to check for massed roots at the edges and bottom of the pot, which indicate a plant needs repotting.

Plants that wilt between normal waterings or grow new leaves noticeably smaller than the old ones need more space. Spindly plants also benefit from roomier pots.

step 2: Find the Right Sized Pot

Select a pot or container with drain holes that is one or two sizes larger than the old one. As a rule of thumb: select a pot that is an 1 to 2 inches wider than the original (a pot too large can lead to over-watering). If it is a previously used pot, then clean it thoroughly with an anti-bacterial soap to kill any potentially harmful organisms.

step 3: Dislodge the Plant

Remove the plant from the old pot. Gently shake off the old potting soil or mix from the root mass (if the plant is kept outdoors, you should also check for slugs). If the roots are tightly wound, gently slice the sides of the root ball in two or three places.

step 4: Plant

Fill one-third of the new pot with potting mix and insert the plant stem or root ball. (Tip: Bargain potting mixes end up costing you much more since they contain little to no nutrients for the plant—and tend to compact or compress making it difficult for roots to grow.) Fill in around the siding of the root ball with more potting mix and press lightly. The plant should be at the same soil level as it was originally growing, and there should be up to 1 inch of space from the top of the mix to the lip of the pot.

step 5: Water and Feed

Water to thoroughly soak the potting mix, then allow to drain. To ensure that your plants grow healthy and strong, feed them immediately after repotting with a premium plant food.

step 6: Care

Use sharp scissors to cut away browned and dead stems and tips. Let the plant rest a few days in semi-light to recover.