Re-potting or potting-up plants is a great way to facilitate plant growth. But a very small percentage of home gardeners know the science of repotting a plant. That is to say, that they end up damaging the plant roots during the repotting process.
In this gardening guide, we will walk you through the basics of how to repot a plant properly.
But what exactly is re-potting?
Organic matter in the soil plays a crucial role in helping the plants to survive. However, it is not found in abundance in the soil.
With the due course of time, potted plants have the tendency to undergo a slow-paced growth.
This is because the soil becomes deficient in nutrients. As you water the plant, water content pulls down the organic matter towards the bottom of the pot.
And thus, with time, the soil is left with no organic matter. Therefore, the plant needs to be repotted into a bigger pot with new soil.
The process of repotting serves as a catalyst to recharge the soil with organic matter. This not only helps the plants to grow better in nutrient-rich soil but also allows them enough space to grow.
However, most of us have established an understanding that if the plant grows out of its pot, then only it needs to be repotted. This for most of us the point we are thinking about how to repot a plant. But, this is just one of the many signs that indicate the need for repotting a plant.
Read our full article about the right potting mix for houseplants.
How to Repot a Plant: When Does a Plant Need Repotting?
Here are a few common signs to help you better understand when and why a plant needs to be repotted:
- Water stands on the top and is not being absorbed by the soil.
- The roots are overgrowing through the drainage holes.
- You notice the soil is shrinking inside the pot
- The soil is disintegrating and has a dried texture.
- The plant has grown too big and the pot size is small.
- A considerable amount of salt or minerals is building upon the plant surface.
- It’s been over 12 months that you last repotted the plant.
- Plants that have grown pale or are not growing further.
In order to clarify everything about how to repot a plant, we will now have a look at the best season for doing so.
Best Season to Repot Plants
When should you ask yourself how to repot a plant, eg. what season is best? Late spring and summers come with long daylight hours. And so, this time is concerned ideal for plants to grow. The higher temperatures and exposure to direct sunlight helps plants in their early stages of growth.
Therefore, to marvel over a collection of lusciously green garden plants, it is important that you make the most of this peak growing season.
This is the perfect time to repot your garden plants, just when it is entering an active growing phase.
From refreshing the soil to transferring plants to a bigger container, you’ll be making your plants happy.
That is to say, that in this season, plants await a much-needed nutrient boost. And when given an extra space to grow, the roots will also strengthen.
Read our article about nutrients in soil and how to choose the ideal fertilizer.
The Repotting Process
Choosing the right container
You will come across a wide variety of options when choosing a container to repot your house plants. However, you must make an informed choice based on the following considerations that will guide you in how to repot a plan correctly:
- When choosing a pot for repotting the plant, be sure to pick one that is larger than the previous one. The size must be both, wider and deeper for the repotting process to benefit the plant. As the larger dimensions will allow the roots to grow well before the plant itself grows. Additionally, a strong root system is pivotal to a plant’s growth in an upward direction.
- The pot must also have a good number of drainage holes. These holes will be the gateway for access water to drain out. Of course, you wouldn’t want your plants swimming in the water, causing the roots to get damaged.
- Go for convenient materials that will not only prove best fro the plant itself but also complement the overall layout fo your garden plants. The most commonly found pot options are plastic and clay. The plastic pot may have your vote because of its light-weight outlook. But clay pots have an added advantage of reduced waterlogging. Moreover, there is a very low possibility of plants tipping over once repotted in a clay pot.
Preparing the pot
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Once you have settled with your choice of the pot to repot the plant, it is now time to prepare the pot to proceed with the repotting process.
First and foremost, you must clean and disinfect the pot. Iowa State University suggests using bleach in a concentration of 9 ratios of water to 1 ratio of bleach.
Soak the pot in this solution and then put the pot in a dish detergent and water solution.
If you are using clay pots you may have to use steel wool or brushes to clean and contaminations such as mineral deposits.
This is mostly not a step we think about when we think about how to repot a plant. This will ensure that any existing detrimental minerals on the pot are washed away so that the plant growth is not affected.
To explain this further, kindly note that minerals often dehydrate the plants, later causing the roots to dry out and the leaves to wither. Therefore, this necessitates the need to clean and disinfect the pot.
You can disinfect the pot by simply soaking it in a solution of bleach and water.
Take one part of bleach with nine parts of water and allow the pot to stand in the solution for approximately 10-15 minutes. Later on, for cleaning, dip it in a solution fo washing detergent and water.
And then rinse it with clear water.
Soaking the new pot in water
If you are using clay pots to repot garden plants, then make sure to soak the pot in water.
The pot must be allowed to soak for a good amount of 5-6 hours before you begin with the repotting process.
Clay pots or terra cotta are porous and tend to soak up water very quickly, thus your plants will need to be watered frequently.
Keep that in mind as it isn’t always just about How to repot a plant but also about what you repot your plant into.
Covering the drainage holes
Now that you have picked a pot with drainage holes, you have to make sure the soil remains intact within the pot. Only the water must be allowed to pass through.
To do so, get a porous material like a paper towel or coffee filter.
This will prevent the soil from excessive dampening. Thus, allowing the water content to drain away at regular intervals, eventually helping your plant grow better.
Add a few inches of the soil
After following the aforementioned steps, your pot is now ready. All you need to do now is out a few inches of soil at the bottom of the new pot. This soil layer will act as a base for the plant roots to grow.
Please note that at this point, don’t overfill the pot with soil and potting mix. The pot will be filled with soil later once the plant has been transferred from the old pot.
For now, just add enough so that the plant doesn’t over bulge out of the soil once repotted.
Preparing the Plant
Water the plant
Now lightly water the plant in the old pot. This will help the plant slide off easily as the rootball will get moist enough to leave the edges of the pot.
But make sure that you give ample amount of time for water to travel down through the root ball. Therefore, you must do this step hours before you plan to repot the plant.
If this process is done the right way, it will help the plant maintain its health during the repotting process.
Remove the plant from the current pot
Now to remove the plant from the pot, reach out for the plant’s stem with your thumb and index finger. Then turn the plant sideways, and hold it gently by the stems, work it to and fro until you feel that it is coming out.
However, if you notice that the plant isn’t losing after several tries, make use of a knife. Run the knife around the edges and then try again.
Pruning the rootball
Pruning plays a vital role in helping your plant settle in a new pot. Therefore, you must remove the old root balls, allowing fresh ones to come up in the soil.
If there are any roots that have turned black or smell pungent, then remove them immediately remove them. However, if a major portion of the root system is affected, then your plant has a fungal disease. That is to say, that the plant cannot be saved or repotted.
On the other hand, if the roots are healthy. You can then prune off any thin roots that are extra-long and delicate. But be sure to leave the thicker ones at the base.
And if in doing so you happen to damage a few roots, there is nothing to worry about. The soil will be pruned once repotted.
Also, if the roots are tightly coiled together, then use your fingers to loosen the coils. Do so in a gentle motion. You can also use a sharp knife to slice any tight coils that are hard to work through.
And don’t forget to cut away the rotten ends.
Repotting the Plant
Add new potting mix
Before placing the plant in the new pot, pour a layer of fresh mulch, and pat it down. This will be the soil bed for your plant to settle in.
At this point, you can add lava rocks or gravel at the bottom of your pot and don’t have any drainage holes. This will help the water drain in the absence of drainage outlets.
Moreover, make sure that the top of the rootball is at least an inch below the surface of the pot. The reason being, that when watering, the rootball may bulge out and spill.
Place plant in the new pot
Now comes the much-awaited part of the entire repotting process; placing the plant in its new home.
Set the plant that you have removed from the old pot in the new pot and spread a fresh layer of soil. Make sure the plant is placed in the right position, in the center. The plant must be equally distanced from all sides of the pot and must be in an upright position.
To check the upright position, revolve the pot around and observe the straight 90-degree angle. If you notice any tilting, then fix the placement with some soil support.
Fill the pot
Fill the pot with soil. However, you must not over pack the pot with excessive soil as this will prevent airflow to the root system.
Don’t forget, it will take time for the plant to settle in a new soil environment, so it needs some space to breathe.
Although you can stuff the pot with soil if you have planted a top-heavy plant as excessive soil gives it support to stand. But this is limited to a very few plant varieties.
Even out the soil on the top before you start giving your plant, it’s well-loved essential, water!
Watering will help the plant’s root to absorb the staple nutrients from the soil. And it will also facilitate the plant in getting used to the new pot. When watering, please keep the following pointers under consideration:
- Refrain from fertilizing the plant immediately after repotting.
- Keep it away from sunlight and humid conditions after watering.
- Keep some extra soil ready to fill in empty spots once the soil settles down after watering.
Be sure to water your newly potted plant generously. Wait until the soil gets moist evenly and excess water drains away and alas! You have successfully pulled off the repotting procedure.
Care Tip for Repotted Plants
Repotting a plant is an entirely unsettling experience for the plant itself during the first few days. This is because the plant was pulled out of its comfort zone and placed in an entirely new environment, something a lot more unfamiliar for it. Therefore, you must be accommodating during this period of a shock for the plant.
Here are a few basic tips to assist you,
- You might have to water them at short intervals in the beginning. But for the first week, don’t water the plant as you have to allow the damaged roots to heal back.
- Also, make sure that you have placed the reported plant at a cool place with more shady hours and no direct sunlight for long hours.
- Furthermore, prevent over-fertilizing the soil, as the potting soil already has an ample amount of fertilizers to get started with. So, wait for a few more weeks before you work in extra fertilizers.
- After repotting, try to increase moisture in the air around your plants, at least for a while.
- For the first few weeks, give your plants an all-purpose, water-soluble plant food.
One common problem your repotted garden plant will undergo is a transplant shock. And it is normal for plants to suffer from this shock once their root system has been disturbed and they have been moved from one place to another.
To treat plants undergoing transplant shock, sprinkle some sugar and water solution.
This might sound out of context and insane, but researches have shown that grocery bought sugar when dissolved in water, helps prevent transplant shocks in reported plants.
Moreover, you must also keep the roots moist at all times. This is a good way to help the plant overcome the shock phase soon.
Frequently Asked Questions About Repotted Plants
How often should plants be repotted?
Large plants that have grown well, should be repotted every 20-24 months. While young plants that are still undergoing their growing phase must be repotted at least once a year. This will nurture their growing process while allowing them to maintain a healthy outlook.
Can we repot the plant in the same pot?
To repot a plant in the same pot, you have to follow a thorough cleaning process. Wash off the pot with hot water and soap. Leave it soaked in a detergent-based solution for a few minutes to disinfect any harming minerals. Then rinse it off to use.
How can we know our plant needs to be repotted?
You can easily tell when your plant needs to repotted if the roots are growing out of the soil or if your plant has stopped growing.
Moreover, if the soil starts absorbing water too quickly or too late, then it’s a sign that your plant should be repotted.
What soil works best for potting?
Soil that is specially made for potted plants must be used when you repot a plant. This soil is often referred to as a potting mix. It includes a peat-based mix and a composted mix.
Can you kill a plant by repotting it?
Repotting comes with easy to follow instructions. And it doesn’t always mean you pull it out of the stem and change the pot. You can also work in new soil and potting mixture to help the plant grow better in the same pot.
When should I repot my plants after buying?
Repot a plant right after you have purchased it from the local nursery. You never know how long the plant has been sitting in the same pot. So, it’s better to repot it immediately so that it moves out of the recovery period at its earliest.
What happens if you don’t repot a plant?
If you don’t repot a plant, you are gradually contributing to decreasing the plant’s life. Plants that are root bound, will be deprived of essential nutrients as the soil eventually gets poor.
Therefore, repotting a plant one a year is crucial for a plant’s health.
Repotting a plant comes with its own pros and cons. But what home gardener’s fear the most is killing the plant during the repotting process. This is why I wrote this handy guide for all of us.
I personally was often very unsure when to repot a plant and what needs to be done to keep the plant happy and healthy.
I was really worried in the beginning that my plants might day and often preferred to not repot, even when I needed to.
However, repotting plants is easy and must be practiced if you wish for your plants to grow well and your garden to bloom.
So, do what works best for you. And don’t forget to experiment with new planting methods as you explore the vast horizon of the gardening world.
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Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.