Re-potting Houseplants

Like all living things, houseplants will grow bigger over time, and will occasionally outgrow their current pots, and need to be re-potted into larger ones. In general, most houseplants will need to be re-potted every few years. However, before deciding to re-pot a plant, be sure to research its needs, as certain plants will do best when slightly root-bound. Also, re-potting is best done before or in the beginning of a plant’s growth period so that the plant can best recover and grow into its new pot. The following are steps to take when re-potting:

  1. How to tell if your houseplant needs to be re-potted:

    The only way to tell if a houseplant needs to be re-potted is to look at the plant’s roots. To do this, hold the plant close to its base, and gently pull the root ball out of its pot. Or else using two hands, turn the plant upside down, and gently tap it out of its pot. If you see that the roots are coiled around the pot, with little soil remaining, then it is time to re-pot.

    Do not forget that even large plants may need to be re-potted. Checking the rootball of large plants may be more difficult due to their large size. When checking the rootball of a large plant with only one person, lay the plant on its side on the ground, and gently pull the pot away from the rootball. The works most effectively with two people, in which one person holds the plant up on its side, and the other person pulls the pot away from the plant.
  2. Choosing a new pot:

    There are many different pots available on the market to choose from. The most commonly available materials are plastic, glazed ceramic, and clay. Below is a breakdown of the different pot materials:

    Clay pots: are attractive, generally inexpensive, and readily available. One plus side of clay pots is that they absorb water. This makes clay pots very good for succulents and other plants that prefer to be on the dry side. Clay pots are also good for people who have a tendency to overwater as they will absorb some of the excess water. However, for plants that prefer to stay moist, clay pots may cause them to dry out too quickly.

    Plastic pots: although not as attractive as clay or ceramic pots, plastic pots are another inexpensive choice, and chances are many people probably have left over plastic pots from other plants. Plastic pots are good for a larger variety of plants, and do not cause plants to dry out as fast as clay pots. However one draw-back of plastic pots is that they are very light, and with top-heavy plants, can be tipped over easily.

    Glazed Ceramic pots: although more expensive than clay or plastic pots, ceramic pots are often the most attractive, with many different designs and colors to choose from. Like plastic pots, glazed ceramic pots do not absorb water. Ceramic pots are also heavier, and can help to anchor top heavy plants from tipping over.

    Whichever type of pot you choose, make sure that it has a drainage hole. NEVER
    Choose planters without drainage holes, as it is an invite for water-logged soil and root rot. When choosing a new pot for your plant, also make sure that it is about one size bigger than your plant’s current container. Do not choose a container that is way too big for your plant, as doing so will lead to too much moist soil around the root ball, which can then lead to root rot.
  3. Moving your plant into it’s new container:
    One can use either a professionally prepared potting mix, or else you can make your own if you know how to mix it. Just be sure to use a mix best suited to your particular type of plant.

    If the pot you are using has a large drainage hole, you can cover the drainage hole using a pebble or broken piece of pottery. Doing so prevents soil from being washed out after watering. Next add soil to the bottom of the pot up to the level of the root ball. The top of the plant should be at approximately the same level in the new pot as it was in the old pot. Very gently losen up the root ball with your hands, to encourage the roots to spread out in their new pot, then center the rootball ontop of the soil in the pot, and then fill in around the rootball with more soil.
  4. Water:

    After the plant is re-potted in its new pot, water it until the water runs out of the bottom of the plant. If the soil level goes down with watering, you can add some more soil.

Written by Adrienne Kleintop

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