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When to re-pot your houseplants

We love houseplants. We love having them in the kitchen, on our work desk, next to us on a bedside table. Everywhere to add a touch of green vibrancy and bring our homes and spaces to life. 

But they need to be looked after. They have different requirements and needs according to the time of year (some of them even the time of day!) and what type of plant they are. One of the biggest question marks I come across is knowing when to go through the (sometimes traumatic, hello massive monstera) process of re-potting a beloved houseplant. 

Here we’re going to chat about how to tell with confidence if your plant needs re-potting and a few tips and tricks I’ve found to help the process go smoothly. 

How to tell if your house plant really does need a repot.

First things first, the best path to success with houseplants I’ve found is to get to know them. Take a look at them every now and then (I like to check them out with a coffee in the morning) and see how they’re getting on, taking pictures is also a great way to record their progress. I came across this Skillshare video all about taking better photos of your plants!

By getting to know your plants, you’ll be able to spot potential issues quicker and respond quickly before they become big problems. Have you noticed a slow down in your plants growth? If this becomes an issue with one of your houseplants, and it’s not winter, it could be a sign your plant needs a re-pot. 

If their growth has slowed to a stop and you’ve noticed they require watering more often, this is a sure sign they could need a re-pot. To confirm this, gently lift the plant from its pot. Hold the base of the plants stems and tease it gently upwards so you can review what’s going on under the surface. If the plant is pot bound, the root ball has taken over and there is barely any soil left or the roots are growing out of the bottom of the pot, it is pot bound and needs a re-pot and new soil.

If there is still a good amount of soil and the roots aren’t growing down out of the bottom of the pot, it could be that your plant needs a feed to re-invigorate it’s growth. I always recommend Liquid Gold Leaf fertiliser. It has been a game changer for my houseplants.

The next step is to ask yourself a few questions - Does this plant like to be pot-bound? Do I want this plant to grow bigger?

Just as an FYI, these are a few plants that like to be pot bound, and grow better, either pushing out flowers or plantlets, when pot bound;

Spider Plant

Peace Lilly

Boston Fern

Aloe

Umbrella Tree

Jade Plant

Snake Plant

Christmas Cactus

If the plant in question isn’t one of these, ask yourself, Do I want this plant to grow bigger? This all depends on personal preference and the space you have to grow your plants. I have grown a monstera to be so massive, my husband has started complaining about it taking over! 

If the plant is already large, you’re best option to give it a re-fresh and cheer it up, is to top dress it. Carefully remove the top 5-10cm of soil from the pot and replace with fresh good stuff. Including some worm castings in this top dressing mix can really help give your plant a boost of nutrients.

If the plant is a smaller size and you don’t want it to grow any bigger, you can cheer it up but keep the size in check by refreshing the soil with a re-pot into a pot the same size. During the re-pot, replace about a quarter of the soil for a fresh mix and trim away outer dead roots. Once the plant is re-potted, trim parts of the top growth of the plant.

If you’ve got this far, and you still need to do a full re-pot, here are a few tips to make the process a success;

  • Use a high quality compost mix. This means a mix with plenty of aeration, provided either by perlite or larger pieces of mix such as orchid bark. We stock Coco & Coir soil bricks which are a great solution for you and your plants. As they come in a small block they are easy to store and simply hydrate when you need to. The Coco & Coir create a happy mix for your houseplants and added perlite in the larger pack gives good aeration to promote healthy roots and growth.
  • Pot up only a few sizes bigger. If you leap from a 10cm pot to a 20cm, you run the risk of growing your plant as the ratio of roots to soil means the moisture retention in all that soil could cause your roots to rot.
  • Whatever your potting into needs to be clean. Whether it’s a plastic pot nursery pot, a ceramic pot or a terracotta pot. Make sure it is clean so no buggies are transferred.
  • I personally like to re-use plastic nursery pots to pot on my plants. They have a lot of benefits when it comes to watering your plants and keeping them happy, and by re-using the plastic pots I am reducing waste and creating a more sustainable, circular system.
  • Once you remove the plant from its old pot, gently tease out any of the outside roots, being careful, and trim away any dead/rotten roots. The most important thing here is to be as careful as possible not to damage the main root ball.
  • Place the old pot inside the new pot to determine if you need to add layer of soil to the bottom of the new pot to raise everything to the right level.
  • Place the plant inside the new pot and gently fill around the edges with the compost mix, tapping as you go rather than pushing, to help the compost settle.
  • Gently firm the new compost so it is the same level as the plant. This doesn’t need to be hard packed, just a gentle firming.
  • Tap the pot firmly 2-3 times onto the table to really help the compost to settle in.
  • Water the plant thoroughly, allowing the water to drain away completely. 
  • Keep the plant in a neutral spot (similar to a quarantine station, no bright light and no drafts) for a few days to give it chance to adjust and make sure it’s not too shocked by the move.
  • Move back to it’s growing spot and chat with your plant as normal :)

And my all time favourite tool for the job of repotting is a Hori Hori. This beautiful Japanese tool is a must when it comes to tackling a re-pot on a pot bound or larger houseplant. I'd never heard of one either, until I had, and I used it, and I've never looked back! This tool will help with everything from mixing up your compost to releasing your plant from its pot and trimming any roots. It's a must. Let me know when you've used one and fallen in love ;)

Head to the Time to Re-pot section of the website if you need tools and pots to complete your re-pot. And as always, if you have any questions send me a DM on Instagram or if you’d like a call to run through or have me on hand whilst you complete your repot, book a call here!

 

Happy re-potting,

 

Rosanna

How to know when to repot your houseplant