Repotting cacti in small terracotta pot

How to Repot Plants

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Key Tip: Change the soil of a plant every 1-2 years especially if it doesn’t seem to be growing.

 

Repotting is the moment to take a look at the roots and soil in order to decide how you can improve your plant’s home for the following year or two. It’s best to repot when your plant is actively growing and not in dormancy. Usually this will be during the spring or summer when conditions will be better for the plant to recover from the stress of a new pot and soil.

Two Terms to Know:  REPOT & POT-UP

Repotting: Removing and replacing old soil then putting the plant back in the same pot.

Potting-up: Putting the plant in a larger pot, therefore allowing more room to grow. Depending on the size of the root ball, you may or may not need to increase the pot size. Consider how fast the plant is growing before deciding to pot-up.

 

When to repot / pot-up:

  • Multiple roots are coming through the hole at the bottom of the pot
  • Watering becomes too frequent
  • Plant has stopped growing

Do not repot / pot-up if:

  • The plant is dormant. You’re asking for trouble!
  • Plant is flowering. Flowers mean the plant likes the current condition or is in a flowering period so repotting will disrupt it. If your plant flowers year-round, then this isn’t a factor when choosing to repot.

 

REMOVING THE PLANT FROM THE POT

Lay down some newspaper to save spilled soil and keep things tidy.

For most plants plants, just grab by the base or trunk and tip over slowly shaking the plant out of the pot.

 

How to Remove a Cactus From a Pot

1. Get a piece of newspaper and roll it up

2. Flatten and wrap the roll around the cacti and grip both sides of the newspaper

3. Gently lean the cacti and pot on its side

4. Gently pull the cacti from the pot using the roll as a handle

 

How to Remove a Hanging Plant From a Pot

1. Place it on the ground and organize leaves in one direction

2. Slide fingers through the base of the plant like hair and hold the base of the plant

3. Turn the pot and plant on the side

4. Slowly separate the pot from the plant away from the leaves

 

Removing Soil From the Roots

When repotting, remove as much soil as possible from the roots. The nutrients in this soil has been used, and your plant will prefer new soil. You can do this by gently squeezing and brushing the root ball, getting rid of loose soil. Next, untangle roots as much as you can while being gentle. Use extra care with the fine white roots at the tips which feed the plant! Gently loosening up the roots will encourage outward growth and can be done with care. Try not to leave the bare roots out too long; mist the roots if you’ll be longer than 15- 30 minutes. If your plant isn’t so healthy, it’s best to just leave the roots alone.

You may find that the plant has a ton of roots! When the roots have wrapped around the entire pot taking up the majority of space, this is called a rootbound plant.

 

PUTTING THE PLANT IN A POT AND ADDING NEW SOIL

  1. Do not cover the drainage hole with anything besides a mesh screen, piece of coffee filter, or paper towel. Usually the soil will clump together and won’t fall out of the drainage hole eventually.
  2. Add soil, filling the bottom of the pot.
  3. Add plant to the middle of the pot, then add soil around the sides. Adjust plant position and height while soil is loose.
  4. You want to cover just a tiny bit of the trunk and the top roots with soil. Don’t put the plant too low in the pot, as this can contribute to rot.
  5. Don’t pack the soil down with your hands. Just lift and drop the pot a few times to settle the plant in.

Next, you should likely give your plant a watering. Sometimes it’s good to not water cacti and succulents right after repotting (depending on the last time you watered). New soil can be damp enough for drier climate plants. 

 

COMMON MISCONCEPTION: PLACE A LAYER OF ROCKS AT THE BOTTOM OF A POT TO HELP WITH DRAINAGE

This is a widely spread incorrect tip. For pots without a drainage hole, excess water accumulates at the rock layer making it hard to wick back up through the soil and evaporate. The water stagnates and often rots the bottom roots and plant. It also takes away growing space for the plant. Rocks look great in terrariums but do not help with water drainage!

 

Need a new pot? Check out this post

Want to re-use soil? Don’t know what soil to buy? Check out this post.

 

Want to learn the basics of indoor gardening? Check out these posts:

Everything You Need to Know About Water

Everything You Need to Know About Light

Everything You Need to Know About Soil

Everything You Need to Know About Fertilizer

Everything You Need to Know About Plant Pots

How to Repot Plants

How to Get Rid of Pests Naturally