A guide to repotting houseplants

Improving your houseplants’ environment can help them to flourish and thrive and it’s easier than you think. You’ll be pleased to know that you don’t need to repot your houseplants often, but when you do, here are our top re-potting tips to ensure they grow vigorously and stay healthy.

What are the benefits of repotting?

There are a few benefits to repotting:

  • It gives the plant room to expand, helping them soak up enough water and nutrients, thus preventing roots from becoming root bound. The growing season, which is early spring through to late summer, is usually the best time to repot plants. This is because when plants are actively growing they’ll get the most out of any additional growing space.
  • Repotting refreshes the nutrients in the soil. In the wild, plants take nutrients from the ground. Indoor plants live in potting compost that is enriched with nutrients, but these only last so long. Fresh nutritious soil provides essential nutrients to help plants thrive and live happily in their environment.

When should I repot my houseplants?

You don’t need to repot your plant as soon as you purchase it. In fact, houseplants don’t need to be repotted very often, on average every 2-3 years is a good time frame (depending on how actively they are growing) to give your plant’s roots more space and fresh soil. When we talk about repotting a plant, we mean replacing the plastic growing pot that has drainage holes at the bottom, as well as replacing the plant soil. You can normally tell if your houseplant will benefit from being repotted if you see one, or a combination of these tell tail signs:

  • The plant looks too big for its current pot and is top-heavy, this can cause the plant to topple over easily.
  • Too many roots growing out of the top of the soil or from the drainage holes at the bottom of the growing pot. You can double-check your plant by gently lifting the plant out of its growing pot and inspecting the roots. If the roots are circling the edge of the growing pot, this is a sign the roots are looking for more space.
  • Although not dormant, your houseplant isn’t experiencing any new growth.
  • Another sign is you find yourself watering a plant far more often than normal because the soil dries out more quickly.  

What size pot should I choose for repotting?

When choosing the right size pot for your houseplants it’s important to not go too big and give the plant too much space to grow. As a rule of thumb, choose a plastic growing pot, with drainage holes, that is around 2.5 cm / 1 inch bigger in diameter and no deeper than the old growing pot. If you are repotting a larger floor planter, we would suggest no more than 5 cm / 2 inches bigger in diameter.

The size of your plant’s new home is important because the bigger the pot the more water we tend to give it, which can lead to you overwatering your plant and killing it with kindness. You want your plant to have a little more room to grow.

If you want some top tips in preventing overwatering, take a look at our ‘How to know if you are overwatering your plants’ blog.

When you have finished repotting your houseplant, why not treat yourself to a new decorative pot? We’ve got a range of styles and sizes in-store for you to choose from.

What soil do you use to re-pot a houseplant?

Repotting isn’t just about a larger pot. It’s also about refreshing the soil and providing new nutrients to help your plant grow. Always use potting soil, also known as potting compost for indoor plants.  Don’t just use soil from the garden as it will likely be too heavy or scruffy for your houseplants. Garden soil doesn’t contain the correct nutrients to encourage growth. It can also contain weeds and pests which you don’t want inside your new pot.

Another aspect of repotting to consider is different plant genus and their preferences in potting mixes. For example, some plants need special mixes to thrive such as Cacti and Succulents, which require a special mix that drains quickly. Orchids are another indoor plant that require their own special potting mix. These plants would naturally grow in the moss and leaf litter of tree branches in the rainforest, so they generally prefer a mix that can absorb some moisture but has room for air.

How do you repot a houseplant?

Repotting is not as hard as you think and becomes much easier once you’ve done it a few times. But for houseplant beginners who need a helping hand, here are some simple steps to help you successfully repot your houseplant to encourage growth and keep a plant happier for longer.

This process can get messy, so we would recommend doing this outside but if not make sure you have some newspaper to make the clean-up easier. Try not to repot your plant too late (after spring or summer), as it won’t have enough time to re-adjust to its new home. To make the repotting process easier and quicker, have the following items to hand:

  • New growing pot
  • Potting soil
  • Trowel
  • Scissors
  • Gloves
  • Newspaper (if inside)
  • Watering can

Step 1. Remove the plant from its current grow pot

Water your plant a few days before repotting to help make it easier to remove when the time comes to repot. Turn your plant sideways, hold it gently by the stems or leaves, supporting the base of the roots, and carefully tap the bottom of its current growing pot until the plant slides out. You may have to wiggle it a bit.

Step 2. Loosen the roots gently

Loosen the plant’s roots gently with your hands. You can prune off any threadlike roots that are extra long. Be careful not to remove the thicker roots at the base of the foliage when you prune. If your plant is root bound (the roots are growing in very tight circles around the base of the plant), gently untangle the plant roots as best you can and give them a little trim.

Step 3. Remove the old potting mix

Remove about one-third or more of the old potting soil surrounding the plant’s roots. You will want to give it some fresh potting mix soil, as all of the nutrients have been removed from the old.  

Step 4. Add new potting mix

Pour a layer of fresh potting soil, roughly about 1-2cm thick, into the new slightly bigger, empty growing pot and pack it down, removing any air pockets. Ensure your new growing pot has drainage holes.

Step 5. Add your plant to your new pot

Set your plant on top of the fresh layer of potting soil in the new growing pot, making sure it’s centered and sitting nice and straight. Add more soil around the plant until it is secure. Be sure not to pack too much soil into the planter, you want the roots to have space to breathe.

Step 6. Water, settle & enjoy

Give your plant a drink of water and allow it to settle inside its new growing pot. It’s worth noting that a freshly repotted plant does not need to be fed with plant fertiliser. Your plant may need some time to settle, so keep a good eye on it for a couple of weeks.  If you had your houseplant in a decorative pot or have purchased a new pot, place it inside and display it within your home.

Now that you know how to repot houseplants, you can enjoy them for even longer, all year-round.

Here at Gates Garden Centre, we have an extensive range of indoor houseplants and decorative pots, ready to buy in-store. If you would like more information and advice our friendly Plant Specialists are always on hand to help. You can visit us in-store, give us a call on 01664 454309 or email our Information Desk at info@gatesgardencentre.co.uk.

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