Repotting a plant is easy and it’s an important step for plants to grow well.
This provides space for roots to grow, and also has the added benefit of renewing organic matter that plants need.
Indoor plants are often repotted, but even outdoor plants that grow in pots or containers deserve to be regularly repotted. Typical examples are shrubs and fruit trees that grow in garden boxes.
Here is all you need to know on how to repot plants.
- Special case: repotting a bonsai
Why do potted and indoor plants need repotting?
- Organic matter present in the soil and crucial to the survival of a plant are a limited resource.
- Plants collect these nutrients and feed on them, whereas watering tends to drag them towards the bottom of the pot, effectively washing them out and making them disappear.
- Repotting serves to replenish these organic matter reserves for the plants to feed them and give them space to grow.
Best season to repot plants
The best season to repot is the beginning of spring. The plant then enters a vegetation phase – a leaf-growing phase – and will be better equipped to deal with the changing of pots.
It is also important to repot plants that have just been purchased, because they are generally sold when they have fully maximized their pot.
How to repot a plant
Prepare a larger pot than the previous one.
- Ideal but not mandatory: pour a drainage layer of gravel or expanded clay balls.
- Fill the pot with appropriate soil mix designed for the plant you are repotting.
- Prepare the clump by removing dead, wounded and fragile roots.
Use very sharp pruning shears to cut them off.
- Place the clump at the center of the pot.
- Fill to the top with soil mix.
- Press down lightly and water in the following few weeks, depending on the needs of the plant.
How to repot very large plants
The alternative for plants that have already reached a size that prohibits repotting is to regularly renew surface soil.
This means to remove as much of the old soil mix as possible, down to where the roots appear. Don’t wound them, and once done removing, simply fill the vacant space with new soil mix.
- Check if your plant is growing in situations where topdressing is recommended.
Precautions when repotting plants
Plants with toxic sap
Some plants have sap that is a bit toxic. When handling these, it’s best to wear gloves.
- If you’re planning on splitting some of the plants, glasses or goggles will keep sap from squirting into your eyes.
Protecting plants when repotting
Plants are fragile and generally don’t like to be handled too much. It may be that repotting triggers transplant shock.
- This is usually very mild when the plant was handled carefully.
- Keep an eye out, though, and check whether you need to apply some of the tricks to avoid transplant shock
- After repotting, try to increase moisture in the air around your plants, at least for a while.
- Plants will draw some of their water needs from the air directly instead of only having to rely on their disturbed root system.
Smart tip about repotting plants
One plant that particularly is fun to split & repot is Zamioculcas, since it grows thick tubers.