How to repot houseplants in 10 steps

potted plants

When roots are actively growing in the spring, it’s an ideal time to repot your houseplants. However, your plants may need repotted before then if they are pot-bond.

How to determine if your plant is pot-bound

When a plant becomes pot-bound, meaning it is too large for its pot and its roots have circled around inside the pot, its growth becomes restricted. As roots grow, they break down the soil in the pot and expand. When there are too many roots and not enough soil, water will not be absorbed when you water the plant. Hear’s what to look for:

  • Dry soil
  • Wilty leaves
  • Stunted or slow plant growth
  • Water running out of the pot when you water
  • Water sitting in the drip tray days after the plant has been watered

Additionally, the roots will continue to look for more room to expand, so you might also see roots growing through the drainage holes of the pot.

If you notice signs your houseplant has become pot-bound, you can confirm your suspicions by removing the plant from its container and examining its rootball. To do this, turn the pot upside down and gently tap the bottom of the pot, while you try to loosen the root ball. Roots circling around the root ball and a lack of potting mix in the bottom third of the root ball are signs it’s time to repot.

Repotting your plant

  1. Deciding whether you want your plant to grow larger. Repotting doesn’t always mean moving your plant into a bigger pot. You may be content with your plant’s current size. To keep it healthy at this size, you’ll need to remove the outer sections of plant roots and replant the cutback rootball in new potting mix. Once it’s back in its pot, you might also consider cutting back some of its top growth. If you want to let your plant grow larger continue to step two.
  2. Select a new pot and potting mix. You want to choose a pot that is 10-15 percent larger in height and width. Be careful not to choose too large a pot, as you run the risk of getting root rot. As for potting mix or potting soil, you want to choose one created for potted plants with fertilizers to supply needed nutrients. Prior to repotting your houseplants, wet the potting mix to ensure it will absorb water evenly.
  3. Get your new pot ready. If it was used previously you may need to clean it. New plastic containers require no preparation. A new clay container should be soaked in water overnight before use.
  4. Water the plant in its original pot and let it sit for an hour before repotting.
  5. Cover drainage holes with a few rocks to allow excess water to drain, while preventing potting mix from doing so.
  6. Line the bottom of the pot with enough potting mix so that the top of the root ball is just below the lip of the new pot when it’s placed on top of the soil.
  7. Remove the plant from its original container and gently tease the roots, so they are no longer circling the rootball or matted together.
  8. Place the root ball in the center of the new pot.
  9. Add potting mix around the rootball and cover the top of it. Make sure there is enough potting mix to fill the container, but not so much that it restricts water and air movement in the pot. Don’t pack or press down on the root system. Leave an inch of space at the top of the container so there is room for water and plant growth.
  10. Water thoroughly and add more potting mix as needed.



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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, Ohio, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.



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