Houseplants forum→Repotting..

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Name: Jen
Atlantic Canada
Jan 11, 2020 6:05 PM CST
So I'm seeing a common issue is when people repot. So here is the question, when are you supposed to repot?

I typically do when I see root growth out the bottom of the pot, because in the past the roots that stick out have ended up rotting and needing clipped..

Along with this I am now also concerned I have a couple plants in too large of pots.. based on things I've read off this site. So do I repot those? Or is the damage not worth it?

Side note: this is the most helpful forum I have every joined. The past few weeks I have learned a lot. Thank you to this website, and all the wonderful people on it!
Name: Megan
RI (Zone 6b)
Jan 11, 2020 7:07 PM CST
This is a great question. I have been wondering this myself after accidentally overpotting two of my favorite plants last year. Can't wait to see what the answers are!
Name: Christine
NY zone 5a
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Jan 12, 2020 7:22 AM CST
@willc your the best at explaining this Thumbs up
Name: Rose
Colorado (Zone 5b)
Jan 12, 2020 8:39 AM CST
I don't think there's a set answer for the first question. It depends on the plant and how it's potted. My houseplants are all in ceramic or terracotta planters, so I don't really have the 'roots coming out the holes' gauge. So I repot based more on time and the appearance of the plant above ground. Most houseplants do need repotting every 2-3 years, on average. But others like being potbound, or are slow growing with shallow root systems, and need it far less often.

If you are increasing the pot size, go up no more than one size -- 2-3 inches in diameter. If you go up bigger than that, your plant may not grow for a while because it's focused on refilling the pot with roots, and you risk rot issues from the soil holding more water than the plant can drink.

If you think you have gone up too big a pot size and your plants are struggling, I would go ahead and pot them back down.
Name: Jen
Atlantic Canada
Jan 12, 2020 8:43 AM CST
Thank you Romalu for that answer!
Name: Abby B.
Michigan (Zone 5b)
Jan 12, 2020 11:37 AM CST
Completely agree that this website and its forums are invaluable in the amount of information they provide. I'm so glad I discovered it last year. Will is a great resource as Christine mentioned. He wrote a book about that very topic with lots of other plant care information that I'm sure you'd find helpful as well.
Name: Jen
Atlantic Canada
Jan 12, 2020 12:20 PM CST
My croton is one I worry about, it is growing fine, but roots are at the surface of the dirt and emerging out the bottom as well. Me being me I would repot, but after reading this I'll leave it until growth seems to slow or it looks unhappy..
Name: Will Creed
Prof. plant consultant & educator
Jan 12, 2020 1:29 PM CST
Thanks, Christine.

It is quite common for roots to grow out of pot drain holes. They are not a good indication that the plant needs a bigger pot. Such roots can be trimmed off without damage to the plant.

The purpose of a pot and soil is to provide the roots with a steady supply of water, nutrients and oxygen. As healthy roots grow and expand into the soil, there may become less and less soil to retain water and nutrients. Sometimes, a plant became so rootbound that there is no longer enough soil to retain water for more than a couple of days. So, if you find you have to water a plant every couple of days to keep it properly watered, then it is probably ready for a pot one size larger.

I find this general assessment method as the best way to take into account the particulars of most any plant, including its species, its water requirements, its existing pot size, and how rapidly the roots are expanding.

As long as the plant does not need water more than once or twice per week, then it is probably just fine in that pot regardless of root exposure, upper plant growth, season or interval since the last repotting. In fact, most potted plants grow best when moderately potbound.

Finally, I would note that when plants are kept indoors in reduced light, the root growth tends to slow considerably so repotting is not necessary very often. Many plants will live indoors in the same pot for decades.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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