Intimidated by the thought of repotting your houseplants? Not sure what soil to use? Afraid you might hurt the roots? Need help picking the right pot?
While repotting houseplants can be a relaxing activity for some, for others it can be an intimidating task filled with lots of uncertainty. We want to answer all of your questions and take the fear out of repotting so you and your houseplants can thrive.
Timing matters! This sets them up for a successful growing season.
Repotting can put extra stress on plants (remember how stressed you were the last time you moved), so that's why spring is the ideal time to repot your plants - it gives them ample time to adjust and fill in during the growing season (early fall isn't bad either, especially with fast-growing plants or those you are only bumping up slightly in pot size). Fall is a common time to repot as folks are often bringing plant babies in from the porch and giving them a makeover for winter. If you wait to repot a plant till winter it may not be quite as happy, but this is not an automatic death sentence (especially if it's struggling or you just brought home a new plant from a big box store that is in 100% peat moss and never dries out!). Do try to avoid repotting after a recent watering as it will make things extra messy!
SIGNS IT'S TIME TO REPOT
- Roots are growing out of the bottom of the pot, are changing the shape of the pot (literally making it bulge), or have even busted through the pot (yes, that happened with one of our display Monsteras at the greenhouse!)
- When you check to see if it's time to water your plant, and you can barely get your finger in the dirt/it feels like mostly roots
- Your once fast-growing plant no longer seems to be thriving and no other conditions have changed
- Your plant is suddenly needing to be watered much more frequently
- Your plant is top heavy or has a disproportionately small container compared to its overall size.
- Your plant is root bound - if you remove the plant from the current pot, are roots circled tightly around the plant?
- You just brought a new plant home and it's planted in100% peat moss with no aeration? Wait at least a week, allowing it to acclimate to its new environment, then repot.
WHAT YOU NEED
You don't necessarily need to change the container - sometimes refreshing the soil is sufficient. If you're going up in pot size, try to find a new pot that is approximately 2" bigger in diameter (a few plants want significantly more space due to fast growth, and some actually like to be a bit root bound - do a quick search online to see if you can find any details about your specific specimen!).
We STRONGLY recommend using a pot with drainage. In love with a planter but it doesn't have drainage? Invest in an affordable set of ceramic drill bits and drill your own, or keep your plant in a plastic pot inside the decorative planter (this allows you to easily lift the plastic pot out, then dump old water from the exterior decorative pot, treating it as you would a drainage tray).
Terracotta wicks water, tends to be more affordable, and is a great option for many houseplants - especially if you tend to over water. (If you err on the side of being a little neglectful of your plants, you may want to think twice before you plant in terracotta - its moisture wicking properties mean plants dry out faster than in other pots.) Check out some of our favorite locally made terracotta pots here!
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SOIL:
This can be one of the most intimidating aspects of potting houseplants, and there are a million opinions out there. You want to make sure you have a well draining soil mix above all else. At Painters we sell bags of the same soil that we grow most of our plants in which is a great option, but if you have a plant wanting a little extra drainage, you may need to mix your own or purchase a cactus or orchid mix (e.g. succulents, epiphytes, orchids, citrus, etc).
To Amend or Not Amend?
Because of the importance of having a light, well draining soil for the majority of houseplants, we do recommend amending almost any soil mix you purchase. While some people have their own artisan mixes with up to 10 ingredients, we like to keep it simple and accessible. Typically if amending soil for houseplants, we recommend adding perlite and orchid bark. For most aeroids (think pothos, philodendron, alocasias, etc.), we use a 2:1:1 mix, meaning 2 parts soil to one part perlite and one part orchid bark. In fact that is our standard mix for most of our houseplants (excluding succulents, ferns, and water loving plants that dry out quickly).
Do I really need to buy these extra bags of stuff?
It's what we do at home, and so we stand by it, but there are houseplants out there growing in straight peat moss (which is very heavy and retains water) that can still thrive. Regardless of whether you choose to amend your soil, what's most important is listening to what the plant is telling you and monitoring the soil moisture to know when its time to water.
- Plan on using a moss pole or trellis to totem your plant? Be sure to have it on hand so you can secure it in the pot as you are repotting and allow extra space for it.
- If you're repotting inside your home, we strongly recommend investing in a tarp of some kind. There are lots of options out there to help you keep the mess contained!
- These scoops are a real help!
- Remove the plant from its current container. Be gentle but firm - it may take some coaxing, but never force it.
- Tease out the roots (see below video).
- Lay a layer of soil a few inches thick down in the new container.
- Place the plant where you want it, and begin to fill in the sides (it is not necessary to tightly pack all the dirt down, but you do want to make sure you are filling in all the empty pockets).
- Don't fill your new pot up to the top - leave a little bit of an edge above the soil so you can easily water your plant without things overflowing.
- Water in your plant. This is a great time to create a seal in the new pot. If done right, the water should suck the soil down, filling in any extra holes, and you can then add extra soil if needed (making sure to not pack it down too tightly).
Note: There are alternatives to repotting in a new pot such as top dressing, which we will discuss in the future!