By Kathi Thistlethwaite, Colorado Master Gardener
Why Repot Houseplants?
A healthy houseplant grows above the soil as foliage and below the soil as roots. Staying in the same container too long can cause the plant to become root bound, a condition in which the roots grow out the bottom of the container or circle inside the container.
When to Repot
Most houseplants respond well to repotting when they are starting active growth in the spring, or any time the plant needs repotting. Indicators are:
- Roots coming out the bottom of the pot or encircling the root ball inside the pot
- Water runs through the pot (not enough soil to absorb water)
- Growth seems to be stalled (not enough soil to provide nutrients)
Quick check: While spreading fingers over the top of the soil, turn the plant upside down. Gently lift the pot off and look at the roots. If they form a white, circling mass, it’s time to repot.
How to Repot
Select the appropriate potting medium. Select a pot that is no more than one to two inches larger than the current pot. If a recycled pot is used for transplanting, scrub it with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water and rinse well. Also ensure there is an adequate drainage hole to prevent root rot. Don’t put a layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot for drainage. This can actually impede drainage. Roots will branch out more quickly if they are carefully pried loose and straightened. Prune the roots, if needed, to stimulate new growth. Center the plant in the container and add new soil, gently tamping it down to an inch below the rim. Keep the repotted plant out of direct sunlight for a few days. Keep the soil evenly moist to help the plant adjust to its new home.