How to Repot Indoor Plants Without Killing Them

How to repot indoor plants without killing them, let’s discuss. When the days get longer, our houseplants also come out of hibernation. Your plant may still be in the plastic nursery pot you bought it in, or it may not have been repotted in a while. Then this is the time to start again.

Repotting is one of my favorite things to do when taking care of my plants. An afternoon of repotting makes me really happy, having my hands on the ground, and preparing my plants for the new season. It’s a perfect time to study your plants closely and see how the roots develop underground. And the result is that your plant becomes healthier and more beautiful. In this article, you will find all the things you should pay attention to when repotting your plants and a step-by-step plan that you can follow.

What is repotting?

Repotting simply means that your houseplant is placed in a different pot, especially in a larger pot than the current one. If you buy a houseplant without a beautiful ornamental pot, you will always receive your new plant in a nursery pot from the grower. The plant can often easily stand in this pot for a while, but after a while, your plant should be moved to a larger pot.

Why should I repot my plant?

It is advisable to repot plants because the roots will become trapped in the nursery pot at some point. The roots will have grown considerably by then but will remain within the pot. In nature, the roots can go in all directions, so the plant prefers that, but that is not possible in the pot. 

By removing the plant from its current pot and transferring it to a larger pot, the roots get more room to grow. In addition, you will have to fill the larger pot with extra, fresh potting soil. The potting soil contains new nutrients that the plant needs to grow. 

Choose the right potting soil for your houseplant. You can ask for advice in the garden center for this. For most houseplants, you should use well-draining potting soil.

What is the best time to repot your plant?

After a dormant period in the winter, your plants will come back to life in the spring. New leaves will grow and your plant will also get going again under the ground. Spring is therefore a good time to repot your plants. The extra space and nutrients you give your plant will be a good boost for your plant to continue growing.

This does not mean that you cannot repot your plants in other seasons. If necessary, it can also be done during the summer and autumn. Preferably not in winter, because then it can be more difficult for your plant to recover if you damage the roots.

How often do you repot your plant?

Just because spring is the best time to repot your plants doesn’t mean you have to repot all your plants right away. Only your plants growing out of their pots need extra space. You’ll see it soon enough if roots grow out of the drainage holes under the pot. Or if your plant suddenly needs water much more often. And often a plant fresh from the garden center also needs a larger pot. It depends on how fast your plant grows, how often you have to repot it after this. You can easily leave a cactus in the same pot for years, while a fast grower needs more space every year.

But what if your plant has outgrown its pot, and you don’t want it to grow any bigger. To prevent the roots of your plant from suffocating in the pot, you can choose to repot it in the same pot. To do this, first remove the plant from the pot and remove part of the soil. If the roots had no room to grow at all, you can prune them a little. Remove a maximum of one-third of the roots and possibly also prune the plant above the ground. After this, you can put your plant back in the pot with fresh potting soil. Your plant will have new nutrients and room to grow its roots without overrunning.

Which pot do you choose?

In all your enthusiasm, do not choose a pot that is many times larger than the old pot. A pot that is too large is not good for your plant; it can cause a lot of excess water to build up at the bottom of the pot, which the plant cannot reach with its short roots. This keeps the soil wet for too long and your plant doesn’t like that. Go for a pot that is on average 20% larger than the old pot.

Plant Pots With Drainage Holes

Preferably you take a pot with holes at the bottom. This allows excess water to drain from the pot and reduces the chance of overwatering your plant. For example, you can put your plant in a plastic inner pot to put it in a beautiful decorative pot. Or choose a terracotta pot, which always has a hole at the bottom.
If you really want to place your plant in a pot without drainage holes, place a layer of hydro granules at the bottom. They can absorb some of the excess moisture and later release it back into the potting soil.

What kind of soil or potting soil do you choose?

Many plants find standard potting soil fine to grow in. You can also mix a handful of perlite into the soil to keep it a bit lighter. For cacti, it is good to use sandy soil. For this, you buy a  pre-mixed bag of cactus soil or mix some sand into the potting soil yourself. Orchids also like to be in a special mix; they do not grow in the ground, like other plants, but between the branches of trees. Orchid mix, therefore, contains a lot of tree bark and has a coarse structure.

Root health

Repotting is the time to check the health of your roots. Healthy roots are often white or brown and firm to the touch. You want to remove roots that have died, shriveled, or are sometimes even snotty. Snotty roots indicate that your plant has root rot and has probably been overwatered. Remove all affected roots, so that you can put your plant back in the pot with nice, healthy roots.

Try to damage the roots as little as possible when repotting. Some plants have a root system that forms a fine net through and around the soil. Instead of trying to remove all the old soil, it is better to knead the roots a bit loose and then place them in the pot with fresh potting soil around them. Thicker roots often give enough space to remove the old potting soil. You don’t have to remove all the old potting soil, a maximum of 2/3 is enough.

Sometimes the roots are very curled up in the pot, and you can hardly see any soil between them. Then it is important that you separate the roots a bit. This ensures that they will grow back into the depths and extra fresh potting soil will be added.

Also, pay attention to this:

Just like with cuttings from your plants, with some plants, you have to watch out for the juices that can be released if the plant is damaged. The juice of, for example, the Dieffenbachia and the Ficus can be irritating and it is better to wear gloves. The spines of a cactus can also be a challenge. Wrap your cactus in newspaper and wear sturdy gloves to avoid the thorns.

Below is a short step-by-step plan that you can follow when repotting your plant!

Repot your indoor plants in 8 steps!

  1. Choose a new pot for your plant that needs to be repotted, preferably one with drainage holes.
  2. Choose the right potting soil for your plant.
  3. Carefully remove the plant from the old pot. You can knead a plastic pot a bit, which will loosen the plant. If your plant is very stuck, cut the pot. Stone pots can be carefully turned over, supporting the plant well at the base. If necessary, first run a knife along the edge of the pot to loosen the plant.
  4. Check the health of the roots, remove dead and infected roots, and remove some of the old soil.
  5. Place a coffee filter over the drainage holes to prevent soil from falling out of the pot.
  6. Fill the pot with a layer of potting soil and place your plant on top. Make sure that the fresh potting soil is just as high as in the old pot. So don’t put your plant deeper in the ground.
  7. Fill the space around the root ball with fresh potting soil, leaving a few inches of space between the top of the soil and the pot. This ensures that the water stays in the pot when you water and does not immediately run over the edge. You don’t have to press the soil very firmly, you just want the roots to get enough oxygen.
  8. Water your plant as needed and return it to its original spot. And enjoy the new growth to come.

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