Repotting your plants can sound tricky, but we have a few tips to make it a success.
First things first: repotting does not necessarily mean changing a plant’s current planter, but rather, changing its soil or potting mix. Fresh soil means new nutrients. This is great news if you love your current planter, but if you’re looking to purchase a new one, or your plant has visibly overgrown its current vessel, that’s fine, too.
When picking out a new planter, try to keep the size no more than 2" larger in diameter for tabletop planters, and no more than 4" larger in diameter for floor planters. If you're repotting a very small plant, your new planter might only need to be an inch larger! The size of your plant's new home is important because the larger the planter, the more water we tend to give it... Small plant + oversized planter + lots of soil + lots of water = accidentally killing with kindness. You do not want your plant to be swimming in soil, but rather, have a little extra room to grow into during the months ahead.
Plants typically benefit from being repotted every 12 to 18 months, depending on how actively they are growing. Some slow growers, like cacti, can call the same pot home for years, but will just require a soil replenishment. The growing season, early spring through late summer, is usually the best time to repot your plants. Because your plants are actively growing during this time, they’ll get the most out of additional space and fresh nutrients!
Not sure if you need to repot your plants? If you see one or a combination of these signs, you'll know it's a good time to re-pot:
1. Roots are growing through the drainage hole(s) at the bottom of the grow pot or planter
2. Roots are pushing the plant up and almost out of the planter
3. The plant is growing much slower than normal (and it's not due to winter dormancy)
4. The plant is extremely top-heavy, and may fall over easily
5. The plant's potting mix dries out more quickly than before, requiring more frequent waterings
6. The plant's foliage is more than three times the size of its current planter
7. There's noticeable salt and mineral build-up on the plant or planter
8. It's been over a year since you last repotted your plant
Here's what you'll want handy:
— Your current plant or new plant, of course
— The planter you're potting into (if reusing a planter, make sure to give the interior a good rinse!)
— Fresh potting mix
— Lava rocks or similar, if your planter does not have a drainage hole
— Gloves, if you're handling a plant with irritating sap like a Ficus elastica or a prickly cactus
— A watering can, water bottle, or sink faucet
— A potting tarp, newspaper, or surface you can easily clean
Simple Steps to Repot Your Plant
1. Remove the plant from its current planter or grow pot
Turn your plant sideways, hold it gently by the stems or leaves, and tap the bottom of its current vessel until the plant slides out. You might need to give it a bit of help with a couple of gentle tugs on the base of the stems.
2. Loosen the roots
Loosen the plant’s roots gently with your hands. You can prune off any threadlike roots that are extra long, just make sure to leave the thicker roots at the base of the foliage. If your plant is root bound—the roots are growing in very tight circles around the base of the plant—unbind the roots as best you can and give them a trim.
3. Remove the old potting mix
Remove about one-third or more of the old potting mix surrounding the plant's roots. As it grew, your plant removed some or all of the nutrients in the current mix, so you'll want to give it fresh potting mix or soil.
4. Add new potting mix
Pour a layer of fresh potting soil into the empty planter and pack it down, removing any air pockets. If your planter doesn’t have a drainage hole, layer the bottom with lava rocks or similar (rocks, gravel, etc.) before adding the potting mix. The goal is to create crevices for the extra water to pool into, away from your plant’s roots.
5. Add your plant
Set your plant on top of the fresh layer of mix in the planter, making sure it's centered, then add more potting mix 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.
6. Water and enjoy
Even out the potting soil on top and water well! It's worth noting that a freshly repotted plant does not need to be fed fertilizer.