How To Re-Pot a Houseplant

Posted by @threegardeners on
There always comes a time when you have to pot up a plant. Here's a tutorial on the easiest way that I have found to do it.

Our house plants will eventually out grow their pots (become pot bound). You'll notice signs of this happening: the roots are growing out the holes in the bottom of the pot or when you water the plant, the water runs immediately through the pot. This is especially true if your house plants have been lounging outside all summer, busily growing and blooming for you. They're also growing lots of new roots.


The photo to the left is of a root-bound plant in need of re-potting.


Over the years I've tried many different ways to get this job done. This tutorial shows the easiest method I've found.  The results will be a much happier house plant.

2011-08-25/threegardeners/b5e01e The commercial potting soil available to me is pretty much just wet mud.
2011-08-25/threegardeners/6e6f1b This time I amended with cactus soil, because I didn't have any medium orchid bark which I normally use.
2011-08-25/threegardeners/9f8f55 I added Perlite to the mix. Both of these additions help make the soil fluffier.
2011-08-25/threegardeners/d9be97 All ready to be mixed together.
2011-08-25/threegardeners/934ebf See how much nicer this soil looks? I just mix it with my hands.
2011-08-25/threegardeners/893aae Get the pot you're going to place the plant in and fill it part-way with soil. Create a well in the soil. Moist soil helps in this stage.
2011-08-25/threegardeners/e17c82 Set the plant in its old pot into the well to see if your well is deep enough. I like the well to be deep enough that when I put the plant into it, its soil level is the same as it used to be.
Now would be a good time to check your plant for bugs and remove any dead/dying leaves. This is a geranium and any leggy branches can be snipped off, left to dry for a day and then placed in potting soil to root and become new plants. We want to give it the best possible start in its new home.
2011-08-25/threegardeners/87cca9 Give your plant a good drink. I've found it easier if the root ball is wet. Place your first two fingers on either side of the stem for support like shown to the left.
2011-08-25/threegardeners/e7f3b1 With your fingers for support, and to hold the root ball, tip the plant out of its pot into the palm of your hand
2011-08-25/threegardeners/c9082e Still holding the plant with your two fingers, gently ruffle the root ball a bit. If the root ball is all roots it will help them get re-established. Otherwise, they'll just stay as they are, tightly wrapped.
Now that you've got a nice view of the roots this is a great time to check for bugs or any rotting roots. Rotting roots are a good indication that you might be over-watering your plant or that the soil is too heavy. When you water your plant always dump out any excess water that has run through and is sitting in your trays/bowls after a half an hour. On the opposite end of the scale, dried up roots might mean that you aren't watering enough.
2011-08-25/threegardeners/f58bd3 You've still got the plant supported with those two fingers! Set the plant into the well you've made.
2011-08-25/threegardeners/8c5472 Fill around it with soil using your spare hand.
2011-08-25/threegardeners/cfa205 Firm the soil gently around the stem of the plant and water well. This drink will remove any possible air pockets and settle the soil.

The poor geranium I picked on to do this tutorial wasn't root bound (roots replacing all of the soil in the pot), but it was in horrid soil and a way too small pot for its size; it was always tipping over. Now, with more room to grow, grow it will. When it's time to go back outside in the spring, it'll be bigger and even more beautiful!

Photo of potbound plant, courtesy of Shelly.

Comments and discussion:
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
orchid bark / pine bark fines / "screened mulch" by RickCorey May 18, 2014 11:53 PM 2
Thanks! by Boopaints Sep 28, 2011 9:59 AM 1

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