Repotting house plant in new pot and soil

Does it seem like your houseplants look "sick and tired"? It might be time to repot them, a simple DIY project you can do in an afternoon.

When to Repot a Houseplant

Over time, your potted plants' soil loses essential nutrients and the ability to hold water. While the soil is depleting, the plants' roots continue to grow, taking up more and more space in the pot. Soon, the plant becomes "root-bound" also known as "pot-bound." This combination of factors inevitably leads to a sick plant.

To determine a houseplant's health, pull the plant out of the pot every so often to check on its needs and the condition of the roots. Here are a few telltale signs it's time to repot:

  • The plant is "root-bound" (roots wind around inside of pot or poke out drainage holes).
  • The plant is deformed or top-heavy.
  • You notice the appearance of brown, unhealthy roots at the bottom of the root ball.
  • The bottom leaves turn yellow and drop off or leaves are pale and dull.
  • The plant wilts between normal watering.
  • Water drains quickly through the soil.

Helpful Tip

For best results, repot once a year when plants are between flowering cycles, usually in early spring or early fall.

How to Repot a Houseplant

Step 1: Choose the Right Size Pot

Select a pot or container with a drain hole one or two sizes larger than the old pot. When choosing a new pot, pick a pot with a diameter that's only an inch or two wider than the original. A pot that's too large can lead to over-watering.

If the new pot has been used previously, use anti-bacterial soap to kill any potentially harmful organisms left in the pot. Clay pots need to be soaked overnight and then scrubbed to remove the white fertilizer salts around the insides.

Step 2: Remove the Plant from the Old Pot

Take the plant out of its old pot and gently shake off the old potting soil or mix from the root ball. If the plant is kept outdoors, now is a good time to check for slugs. If the roots are tightly wound, gently slice the sides of the root ball in two or three places.

Step 3: Fill the New Pot with Soil

Fill one-third of the new pot with potting soil and insert the plant stem or root ball. Fill in around the sides of the root ball with more potting soil, pressing lightly. The plant should be at the same soil level as it was originally growing, and there should be a 1/2'' – 1'' space from the top of the mix to the lip of the pot.

Helpful Tip

When selecting potting soil, choose a mix that specifically identifies what it's made of. Avoid bags that just say "peat" or "compost". Instead, look for potting soil with specific ingredients, like "Sphagnum Peat Moss". This potting soil will be higher quality and better for your plant.

Step 4: Water, Feed and Prune

Water the plant, thoroughly soaking the potting mix. Then allow it to drain. To ensure that your plants grow healthy and strong, feed them immediately after repotting and on a regular basis. Use a liquid plant food such as Miracle-Gro Liquid All-Purpose Plant Food, available at your local True Value hardware store. Use sharp scissors to cut away browned and dead stems and tips. Let the plant rest a few days in semi-light to recover.

Repotting will not necessarily bring an unhealthy plant back to life – plants with damaged roots, fertilizer build-up, diseases or sunburned leaves may never bounce back to a healthy, leafy green. Furthermore, repotting a sickly plant may cause more stress and possibly kill it. It is best to throw out visibly unhealthy plants and replace them with healthy ones.

Good job! Your plants are now on the mend. Proper potting will help ensure your plant's continued health and growth.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.