An Essential Guide on How to Repot an Indoor Plant
Knowing how to repot an indoor plant is an essential part of houseplant care. Plant roots are continually developing, and if they get cramped inside their pot, it could stunt your plant’s growth and lead to other troublesome issues.
However, transplanting houseplants into new containers can be a bit of a delicate process, and it isn’t as simple as moving your plant into a bigger pot. Roots are like the circulatory system of your plant, so you gotta be careful and treat the process almost as if it was a surgery—they call it a transplant for a reason!
How to Repot an Indoor Plant in 5 Easy Steps
Step One: Carefully Remove the Plant from Its Pot
Put some newspaper down on a surface to minimize mess and make cleanup easier. Take your houseplant and tilt it sideways so you can gently ease it out of the pot. You might need to tap it on the bottom a bit to help get it loose. If it’s really in there, you can lightly pull on the stem of your plant, but be careful not to tear a piece off!
Step Two: Loosen Up the Root Ball
If the soil from the previous pot is solid and caked all around the roots like a cylinder, you can’t simply pop that into a bigger container with more soil. Water won’t drain through that mass properly, and your plant could end up dehydrated even after generously watering the pot. To make sure the roots can access moisture and continue to grow and spread, you’ll need to loosen the root ball.
Hold your plant over a grocery bag on top of the newspaper to catch the dropping soil, gently loosening up the mass and untangling the matted roots. Be delicate and try your best not to jostle those roots too much.
Step Three: Prepare Your Potting Mix
If the potting medium which your plant was in looks healthy and fungus-free, you don’t have to throw it all out. Having a similar soil composition as the previous container will make the transition a little smoother. That being said, the old soil is probably depleted of nutrients, so mixing it with some fresh soil formulated with added nutrients and fertilizer will help to boost your plant’s growth.
Keeping one-third or one-half of the original soil and mixing that in with some new stuff should leave you with a pretty healthy growing medium. If you’re repotting a succulent or cactus, be sure to look for a potting mix specially formulated for these varieties, because they prefer drier, loose mediums with optimal drainage and plenty of shredded bark.
Step Four: Get Your Plant Into Place
Ease the plant into its new pot and fill up the extra space with your potting soil. Make sure you don’t mound up the soil around the plant’s base—keep the depth consistent with how it was when initially planted. Firmly press around the soil to get the plant into place, but don’t pack it down so much that it compacts the soil.
Step Five: Water Generously
Watering after a transplant helps prevent root stress while also giving your plant the boost it needs to start growing and spreading its roots. Ideally, your chosen container should have drainage holes so excess water can flow through the bottom and rinse away mineral buildup. If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes, be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot and attract fungus gnats.
What Soil Do You Use to Repot Houseplants?
Garden soil and potting soil are two entirely different formulas. Garden soil is for amending soil outdoors, while potting soil is for container-grown plants, indoors and outdoors. Choose a potting soil that’s a suitable formula for your chosen plant—succulents and cacti will need looser, drier mediums with more bark. In contrast, tropicals and other houseplants will do best with enriched, all-purpose potting soil blends.
When Should I Repot My Houseplants?
Houseplants should be repotted every 12–18 months. Even if it’s a slow grower, repotting is an opportunity to switch out the old soil with some new, fresh potting mix full of nutrients. The best time to repot is in late winter or very early spring while your plant is still dormant.
Keep an eye out for these telltale signs that your plant needs to be repotted:
- Roots poking out the bottom of the container
- Roots emerging from the soil surface and growing upward
- The plant is drying out very quickly and needs frequent watering
- Lots of white mineral and salt buildup around the base of the container
- The plant is very top-heavy and keeps toppling over
- The top part of your plant is more than 3X the width of the container
- Unusually slow growth
Repot them in a container that’s a couple inches wider than its current container. Be careful when potting plants like cacti, succulents, and dracaena, as they don’t do well when planted in a container that’s too big.
Repotting Spider Plant Babies
One of the most common questions we hear is from folks who are unsure of how to repot a spider plant “pup.” When your spider plant matures and starts sprouting all those little offshoots, how do you successfully remove them and transfer them to their own container?
To start, you’ll want to make sure you choose a healthy pup to propagate. Spider plants tend to produce a lot of them all at once, so chances are you’ll have quite a few to choose from. Look for a little plant baby with a node on the bottom—or rather, a little nub sticking out from the base from which all the leaves sprout forth. Baby spider plants with nodes on the bottom have an easier time rooting and are more likely to succeed.
While you can plant the pup directly into a small cup of soil, most gardeners agree that you’ll have better luck by encouraging the plants to sprout roots in water first. You can do this by filling up a little shot glass with water and perching the pup on top, submerging the node in water. Or, you can keep it in a small bowl with a moist paper towel at the bottom. Keep the towel consistently wet for several days and keep it near a sunny window, and soon you’ll start to see roots sprout.
Once there are several little hairy roots poking out from the plant, repot it into a little cup of soil and water it to help it establish. Soon it will start to grow into a full-sized plant, and you can repeat the process over and over again!
If you want a little bit of assistance with potting plants, OC Succulents has a DIY potting station for customers, where you can pot up your purchased plants into cool new containers with a fresh scoop of soil. Visit us at the shop, and we’ll be happy to help! We’ve got one of the best selections of distinctive and unique houseplants in California, so if you want to start building up your collection, OC Succulents has exactly what you’re looking for.