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Here’s When It’s Time to Repot an Indoor Plant

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21d2cf2ce1efdabe89236370f341358c Here's When It's Time to Repot an Indoor Plant
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Photo: santypan (Shutterstock)

Caring for houseplants might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Repotting is a simple step you can take to keep your indoor plants healthy by reinvigorating the soil and boosting available nutrients. You can also repot to transition a plant into a larger pot if it’s showing signs that it’s overgrown the one it’s in. Follow these steps to repot with confidence and tend to your indoor plants like a pro.

To start, you’ll need some newspaper or waxed paper, indoor potting mix, scissors, your plants, new pots where necessary, gloves, and a spade for scooping soil.

How to tell when it’s time to repot your plant

It’s time to repot your plants if it’s been more than a year since it’s last been repotted, if the soil looks crusty or has mineral or salt buildup, or if the roots are growing through the drainage holes in the bottom of the container, indicating that your plant needs more room to grow. You don’t need to transition to a larger container unless the last indicator is present. For plants that are fine in their current digs, repotting is done to refresh the soil, but they can go back into their original pots.

How to repot an indoor plant

To begin, it’s a good idea to spread some newspaper or wax paper under the area you plan to work to make for easier cleanup later. To unpot, hold your plant sideways and grasp it gently by the stems at the base, close to the soil. Then, tap the bottom of the pot while gently pulling on the stems. Without twisting too much, sometimes it helps to give a small wiggle to the plant to help free it. This part might take some patience if the plant is stubborn, but don’t pull too hard or twist the stems because that can damage the plant’s vascular system.

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Once the plant is free, loosen up the roots gently with your fingers, de-clumping straggly roots. Make sure that the roots can move around a little bit, and trim off extra long, threadlike roots. If the roots have begun to clump at the base of the pot, it might be time for a bigger pot. For now, you should untangle them as gently and carefully as you can to avoid the plant becoming root-bound—this condition can strangle the larger roots and cause a blockage in water and nutrients getting to the foliage.

Working with the roots probably loosened up a bunch of soil, which is fine because you will need to remove about one third of the soil for repotting. Discard the surface soil if it’s mineralized or crusty and make some room for the fresh soil and nutrients your plant needs. You can give the roots a little bit of a shake to dislodge excess soil.

Once you’ve removed some of the old soil, add some new into the pot. Put the plant back in and cover over the roots with new potting mix, gently firming it up, but not smashing the roots with your hands. Don’t fill the pot up all the way to the top because it will overflow when you water, and make sure that the soil is a little springy, allowing some oxygen to circulate. Then, you just need to roll up your paper to discard and water your repotted plant.

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