Spring is settling in here in the Pacific Northwest, and it is one of our favorite seasons! Emerging flowers and lengthening daylight hours lead to us spending more and more time outdoors, but when seasonal showers chase us back inside, we can continue to garden by repotting our houseplants! Repotting indoor plants is best done during the active growing season (March through September).
Repotting doesn’t just mean changing containers, but also includes refreshing the potting soil within. Soil contains the nutrients your plant needs to thrive and just the right amount of oxygen and water for it to live, but eventually the nutrients get used up and the soil becomes compacted—you might even notice that the plant sits lower in the pot than it did originally. Salts and minerals from our synthetic fertilizers and tap water can also build up in the soil, resulting in burnt leaf tips or a white “crust” around the bottom or top edge of the container. This is why it is so important to repot your plants with brand new soil every year or so. We are going to answer some initial repotting questions you may have and then we’ll walk you through repotting your houseplants, step-by-step.
How do you know when it’s time to repot?
- Roots are growing through the bottom drainage holes
- Roots are pushing plant up and out of container
- Plant is top-heavy/wants to fall over
- Soil dries out extremely quickly or has pulled away from the container sides and become hard
- Plant grows more slowly than usual
- Signs of salt/mineral build-up on top or bottom of container
When is the best time to repot your plant?
Early spring, right at the start of the active growing season, is often the best time for most plants. We like to suggest waiting about 6 weeks before repotting any new plant so it can adjust to its new environment without too many other change factors such as new container or different soil.
How often should I repot my indoor plants?
On average, mature plants should be repotted less frequently than young, faster-growing plants. Young plants may need to be repotted every 12-18 months, yet older plants that grow more slowly may be repotted every 2-3 years, or as needed.
How big should my container be?
It’s best to keep your new container no more than 2-3 inches larger in diameter than the one from which you are changing. Some plants may not need to have their container size increased, but may still need their soil refreshed; in this case, you will want to remove about ⅓ to ½ of the old soil, loosen and lightly trim roots, and add fresh soil to the bottom of the same or similar-sized container before replacing the plant in the pot and filling in the rest with fresh soil. Many popular indoor plants prefer to be in slightly small containers, especially those that are prone to overwatering or root rot (snake plants), however some fast-growing plants can be planted in larger pots to accommodate/encourage rapid growth (monsteras).
- Gloves, drop cloth, tarp, or newspapers to minimize mess
- Fresh indoor potting mix (we recommend Malibu Baby Bu’s Potting Soil, G&B Potting Soil, or appropriate soil for your plant); it’s helpful to pre-moisten soil before adding it to the container
- A slow-release fertilizer (we recommend G&B Organic All-Purpose, Joyful Dirt, or Osmocote)
- Small trowel or shovel for scooping soil
- A watering can and a spray bottle
- Scissors or floral snips for light trimming of roots or leaves
- New container for plant*
*Make sure your new container has drainage holes! Without holes, water will sit stagnant at the bottom of your pot and cause root rot. If your container has no holes, plant into a plastic pot that can fit inside your decorative container; use styrofoam or another material to prop up container so it sits near the top of the outside pot (not too deep inside).
- Thoroughly water your plant about 2 days before repotting.
- Turn your plant sideways, hold it gently by the stems or place your hand over the top of the soil, and tap/squeeze the bottom and sides of the container until the plant slides out. Use the base of the stems to gently tug if it doesn’t easily pop out.
- Once your plant is out of the container, use your fingers to loosen the roots and prune any dean stems, leaves, or damaged roots. If root-bound, unbind them as carefully and gently as possible.
- Remove about ⅓ of the old soil (discard or compost).
- Pour a layer of fresh, pre-moistened potting soil into the planter, adding enough to keep plant at proper level.
- Add slow-release fertilizer and blend with soil.
- Set your plant on top of the fresh soil; make sure it is centered and at proper height (top of new soil line is same as in original container).
- Add fresh soil around the plant’s roots and side of pot until it is nice and snug. Make sure to leave room; you don’t want the soil to go all the way up to the top of the pot; leave about a ½ inch before the top edge of the container so there is a place for water to sit before it is absorbed into the soil.
- Water your new plant to settle the soil with enough water to drain out the bottom.
- Sit-back and enjoy!
Note: Be cautious when watering a newly repotted plant—if you have increased container size, you may not need to water as frequently as you did before repotting!