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When should you repot your houseplant? | Repotting for beginners

Repotting can be intimidating if you are doing it for the first time, but don’t worry, it’s really easy! In this article I’ll focus more on basic stuff like when should you repot your plant and what size of pot to choose.

In a future article I’ll also cover how to repot and when to repot cuttings, but for now let’s stick to mature plants that need to be repotted.

Why should you repot your plants?

Keeping your plants root bound for too long can result in a stunted growth of your houseplant. You will see your plant start to push out smaller leaves and it will grow slower altogether.

Additionally to that, after a while, when the roots become big and dense, there will be less and less soil left in the pot.

In this situation roots start to be more exposed to salts from the fertilizer that can burn the roots, and also, your plant won’t be able to retain water and suck all the nutrients it needs from the soil.

When should you repot your houseplant?

The simplest answer to this question would be – when your plant is root bound.

Depending on the plant, some will need to be repotted sooner than others, but generally almost all plants like to become root bound.

When you see roots popping out of the pot, your plant is probably ready to be repotted into a bigger pot and receive fresh soil.

One example of a root bound plant is this one that you see in the picture on the left, especially because there’s little soil left in the pot, but if your plant’s roots look something like the one on the right, live it alone until it develops bigger and stronger roots.

Can I repot my plant in any time of the year?

The best time to repot your plant is in late winter to early spring. The reason why this time specifically is optimal for repotting is because of the natural cycle of the plant.

During spring and summer, plants go through the growing season. This means they push out new growth more often, they grow bigger roots and necessitate of more nutrition from the soil and water.

So, naturally, if you repot your plant at the beginning of it’s growing season it will have the space to develop new and bigger roots which will allow the plant itself to grow bigger.

If you repot your plant in late fall or early winter, your plant won’t start growing new roots just because you up-potted it. Basically, it will sit in the new soil until early spring.

During winter most plants go through the non-growing season and you’ll notice that during that time your plant won’t push out new growth or it’ll do it less often.

How do you repot / up-pot your houseplant?

This is now the practical part of this topic, and it’s very easy. Just be careful while you’re handling the roots and try not to brake them.

Take a new pot that is 1 to 2 sizes bigger than the current pot of the plant that you want to repot.

Then put some soil on the bottom of the pot. How much soil you’ll have to put will depend on the size of the pot.

If you’re repotting a small plant from an 8cm pot to a 10cm pot, you’ll probably need just about 1 cm of soil on the bottom of the pot. You’ll need more soil on the bottom if you have a bigger pot.

When you placed the soil on the bottom of the pot, take your plant and place it in the middle of the new pot.

All you need to do now it to fill out the sides of the pot.

Don’t worry if you put too much soil on the bottom, or if your plant isn’t in the center of the pot. You can take everything out and start over.

After I repot my plant, I water it thoroughly allowing the excess water to drain out.

And usually, when I water it, the soil level lowers, so I usually place some more soil on the top, place the plant in a bright lit (indirect sunlight) area and let it thrive!

Why it’s better to go only one to two pot sizes up when you repot your houseplant?

There’s one really simple reason why I think it’s really important not to put one small plant into a big pot filled with soil and I would like to explain it through an example.

If you take a plant from an 8 cm pot and repot it in a 20 cm pot, your new big pot filled with new soil will retain too much moisture that roots can take.

This will often lead to root rot because your plant will sit in soil that is too moist for a too long period of time! Especially if you choose to repot in a plastic and not terracotta pot! Makes sense, right?

But if you go up only one to two sizes up, roots will be able to absorb the water from the soil.