How to Repot and When to Repot

How to Repot and When to Repot

Are you thinking about repotting your sweet little plant babies?

Whether you're unsure of how to go about the process or still scratching your head wondering if your plants even need to be repotted at all, this guide will teach you everything you need to know!

Repotting an indoor plant might feel intimidating at first, but we've got your back boo! Just stick with our guide and you'll be a bonafide plant papi in no time (;


Should I Repot my Houseplant?

Whether it's an Orchid or a Pothos, moving your plant from its comfy home can be stressful. It is essential that you practice proper plant care leading up to repotting. If you don't, your plant might suffer - especially hanging plants and air plants.

Let's start by seeing if your plant needs to be repotted. Your plant will need a bigger pot if its roots have filled its current pot and need more room, your plant has grown top heavy and falls over easily, or if you see roots emerging from the bottom of the pot. These are all indicators that the roots of your plant have run out of room to grow in the soil.

You may also need to repot your plant to refresh its soil. If your plant has languished in the same pot for years it likely needs some fresh soil. Signs it's time for new soil include white salt buildup on top of your soil near the bottom and sides of the pot, degraded and dissolved soil that has lowered in level over time often exposing the plants roots, and soil that has depleted over time and has no nutrients left in it. Depleted soil will cause your plant to grow slowly and be less green than it used to be.

Of course there is also the option that you found an amazing new pot and want to move your plant into it! A new pot can transform a plant and greatly improve the looks of a room.

These are all excellent reasons to repot your plant. If you are still left unsure if your plant needs some new digs, remember this process is easy and even if the plant does not desperately need new accommodations, the change up can help spur new growth and healthier leaves! 


A Simple Guide to Repotting Houseplants 

Start by choosing a pot for your plant. If you want to refresh your soil you can also reuse the existing pot. It is a good idea to repot house or office plants in fresh soil about every two years.

When you want to move your plant into a larger pot you should choose one that is 2-3 inches larger than the current pot. It is also important to note if your pot has holes at the bottom or not.

Pots without a hole have less airflow to the roots and can collect water at the bottom which can cause root rot. (You definitely don't want that root ball suffering!) If you are using a pot without a hole consider putting down a 1-2 inch layer of gravel at the bottom.

This will allow some room for water to drain below the roots of your plant. If your pot has one huge hole at the bottom you can put an irregular shaped rock over it to keep your soil from falling out, and this will still allow water and air to pass through. 


Here are the things you will need to repot a plant:

  • The plant you want to repot. (You can also follow these steps to pot a new plant)

  • A pot, this can be a fancy new pot or the same pot if you want to refresh the soil. Just make sure it has plenty of drainage holes!

  • Some new potting mix or fresh potting soil. Store bought is fine if you don't have homemade.

  • A work area you can make a mess in. This can be a table or simply on the ground.
    Consider putting down a cloth or some plastic to catch any debris, and expect to make a mess.

  • Something to put the old soil into once you remove it.

  • Some rocks or gravel if your pot lacks holes.

  • Watering Can


Now to Get Down and Dirty

To start you need to remove your plant from its current pot. This can be done by carefully holding the plant at its base where the stem touches the soil and taking both the pot and plant together and turning them upside down. 

Gently pulling on the plant should allow the soil to loosen from the pot and separate. Often you will find the soil is held together with the plant as one large clump. If you have a huge pot you can do this by lifting the plant out of the pot with the pot on the ground.

Once separated from your current planter, you can turn your plant upright and inspect the current situation. Look for any signs of rot, unpleasant smells, or any damage to the plant. If you have decorative moss or any kind of top cover you can remove it now and set it aside for later.

 Often you will see that the roots are wrapped around the soil and holding it together as a big clump. This is a definite sign your plant has been needing a bigger pot. Gently remove the soil and loosen the roots by squeezing the clump.

You want to remove some of the old soil and free the roots so that they move freely. Don't worry if you are not able to get all of the soil loose, some will remain, what is important here is loosening up the roots to get them ready for some new soil. You may lose some roots in this process, which is totally common so chill, take a breath, and move on!

If your new pot doesn’t have holes at the bottom, put down a layer of gravel and then put down about an inch of fresh soil, gently pat this soil down to make sure it sits even but do not over compress the soil. 

Now you can set your plant on top of this soil, carefully center the plant and to spread the roots out evenly around the pot. Slowly fill in the soil around your roots, gently packing the soil as you go.

As you get close to filling the pot, make sure the base of your plant sits slightly lower than the edge of the pot. You can fill the pot with soil, it may seem too full at first but after watering the soil should slightly compress and leave about an inch of space between the level of the soil surface and the edge of the pot. 

Lightly water your plant and allow the soil to compress. Overwatering can do more harm than good so make sure your plant is adjusted to its new home before diving into the normal feeding routine.

If you have some surface decorations or moss you can replace them on the soil surface now. If you are repotting a succulent or other plant that has low nutrient soil consider placing some slow release fertilizer pallets.


Some Tips to Pot Like a Pro:

  • You can use the old pot like a bucket to collect the potting soil off of your roots. This makes it for less of a mess and for easy cleanup of the old soil.

  • Discard the old soil to your yard, in a compost pile, or simply discard it into a yard waste bin.

  • Placing decorative rocks, moss, or even ornaments on top of your soil can be both decorative and also aid in retaining moisture in the soil.

  • You don't have to have one plant per pot, you can repot several plants together in a group planting for dramatic flair. Make sure to pick plants that like similar conditions and that will not crowd each other out when they grow larger.

  • If you are unsure what kind of soil to use, don't be ashamed to look up your plant to find out. It is all too common to lose a care tag for a plant and only need to know the preferred soil years later when repotting. Many garden supply stores have experienced staff that can also help. There is no one size fits all soil and It will be well worth it to get the right soil for the job.

  • It is best to repot plants in early spring. Repotting in spring will help spur growth and repotting before the growing season begins will avoid damaging any emerging delicate shoots.

  • It is a good idea to refresh the soil in most potted plants after about two years. Most soils degrade over time and provide less airflow and nutrients to the plant. Some house plants such as cacti and succulents can stay potted much longer if they are in mineral based soils that don't readily degrade.


Solutions for Plant Parent Nightmares

There comes a point in every plant papi's life when the manure hits the fan. Maybe you messed something up with your repotted plants or maybe your soil mix isn't cutting it. 

Whether it's your new planter giving you issues or you just can't seem to put down the shears and give your baby a haircut that's too close for comfort, we've got you covered. Check out these spooky but common issues and let us teach you how to keep your plant happy (:


My plant is leaning after watering!

This is nothing to be too concerned with, there are three main things that could have gone wrong-- Your plant doesn't have many roots so it cannot hold itself up, the soil is packed too loosely allowing the plant to fall over, and lastly you picked a new pot that is a bit too large. 

In most cases you can gently upright the plant and repack the soil down to fix this problem. You may have to add more soil back in if compressing the soil lowered the level. Your plant should anchor itself better over the next few weeks as it grows new roots and will stop falling over in the process.


The soil level went down when I watered my plant! 

This is normal, new soil compresses down when it's wet for the first few times. You can expect the soil level to slightly fall for the first couple of weeks of watering as it compacts and removes all of the air gaps in the pot. If your plant falls too low with the soil, you may need to readjust it and add some more soil to get the desired height in the pot.

Some plants dislike having their roots disturbed, and sometimes you will break some roots when removing the soil from them. This is common and usually not something to be concerned about. Make sure the soil is moist and that the plant is in its preferred conditions. After a few days your plant should perk back up as it recovers.


There is brown water coming out of the pot! 

It is common to see a brown coloration to the water as a kind of potting-soil-tea is made when fresh soil is first watered. This should reduce over time as the soil settles and the small particles are dissolved out. 

If the brown water is unsightly in the drip tray of your pot, wait a week or so for the water to run clear and then clean the tray and it should not fill with brown water anymore.  


There is a rotting smell coming from my plant!!!

Healthy soil should smell earthy and fresh. If you have a smell that is sulfur like, rotten, and unpleasant it is an indicator that there is root rot. This happens when the soil is too wet and when there is no air available to the roots. This often happens when a plant is potted in a pot with no holes at the bottom.

If this happens to your plant consider repotting into a pot with a hole or repotting so that there is an ample amount of gravel at the bottom to allow room for the water to drain away from your plants roots. 

Using a looser soil may also help as it allows more air to reach the roots. Lastly if you are not able to change the pot you can water your plant less and monitor the wetness of the soil carefully to make sure it never remains wet.  


Closing Notes

Following this guide should give you confidence in potting and repotting plants. Repotting is an essential part of caring for houseplants and with proper care and occasional repotting a houseplant can be enjoyed for many years. 

There are no hard rules as to when and how to pot plants. Knowing what's covered in this guide helps to build an understanding of basic signs to indicate when repotting is needed and some of the easily solved problems that come up when repotting.

Basically, you are now a bonafide plant repotting master! (In theory)

We should start giving out merit badges...


Shop now and treat yourself to the sweet little plant baby you deserve!