Tips for Repotting Indoor Plants

Just as we humans need bigger clothes as we go from adolescence to adulthood, our plants need to be repotted to allow them to grow properly. But where do you start? How do you repot houseplants, and how often should you do it?

If you want to know how to repot indoor plants, this guide is for you. Here, I'll break down the best way of repotting as well as signs that your plants are in desperate need of an upgraded container! So, read along if you want to learn how to repot like a pro!

How To Repot Your Plants

Materials you'll need

Before you dive in, you'll need to gather the following equipment and materials:

  • Drop cloth, gloves, newspapers, or tarp to minimize the inevitable mess.

  • Fresh potting mix for indoor plants - I recommend moistening the soil before you add it to your container.

  • Slow-release fertilizer (optional)

  • A small shovel or trowel for scooping the soil.

  • A spray bottle and a watering can.

  • Floral snips or scissors in case you need to trim the leaves or roots

  • A chopstick or similar tool for untangling roots.

  • A new container for your plant.

  • Make sure the new pot has drainage holes! If there are no holes, the water will sit at the bottom and stagnate, causing the plant's roots to rot. If your pot doesn't have holes, just put the plant into a plastic pot with holes that will fit inside the decorative container.

Repotting houseplants step-by-step

  1. Before repotting houseplants, be sure to water them two days before.

  2. Turn the plant sideways, holding it gently by its stems. Put your hand on top of the toil and squeeze/tap the sides and bottom of the container until the plant slides out. If the plant is a bit stubborn to come out, you can gently tug on the stems to pull it out.

  3. Once the plant is free of the container, loosen the roots using your fingers and prune any leaves, damaged roots, and dead stems. If they're root-bound, gently unbind them.

  4. Remove around 1/3 of the previous soil and either compost or discard it.

  5. Pop a layer of new potting mix into the container, adding enough to ensure the plant is at the right level. Make sure the fresh soil has been pre-moistened.

  6. Add the slow-release fertilizer and combine it with soil, although this is optional.

  7. Put the plant on top of the fresh potting soil. Make sure it's centered and at the right height - the top of the fresh potting soil line should be the same as the original container.

  8. Add more potting soil around the roots and the side of the pot, so it's snug. But, make sure to leave enough room as you don't want the soil to reach the top of the pot. Leave around 1/2 inch below the top of the container, so there's room for the water to sit before the soil absorbs it.

  9. Water the plant so the soil settles - use enough water to drain out the bottom. Be cautious when you water a newly repotted plant, if you've increased the container size, you might not have to water as frequently as you did before you repotted.

  10. Sit back and admire your handiwork!

How Big Should Your Containers Be?

When picking a new container, try to choose no more than 2". If the plant you're repotting is tiny, the new planter may only need to be 1 inch bigger in diameter.

The size of the new container is essential because the bigger the container, the more we tend to water it. But, a small plant plus an oversized container equals more soil and lots of water, resulting in the plant being killed with kindness!

You don't want your houseplant to be swimming in excess soil, but it can have a bit of additional room to grow.

When Should I Repot My Houseplants?

Most plants will need to be repotted every 12, possibly 18, months. However, this depends on how quickly they grow. Certain plants, such as cacti, are very slow growers, and in fact, they could easily live in the same container for years, only needing more potting mix.

The growing season is early spring to late summer, typically the perfect time to repot houseplants. Because plants grow during this period, they'll benefit from the extra space and nutrients.

Signs That Your Houseplants Need Repotting

Overgrown roots

A classic sign of a plant in need of repotting is overgrown roots. If you notice the roots peeking out from a drainage hole or starting to sneaky up the sides and grow out the top, it's time to get your green fingers ready and repot your plants.

If you gently pull the plant out and there's a web of dense roots covering the sides, it's ready for a new home!

The roots are turning into one huge root ball

Another example of a plant needing repotting is when the roots become rootbound. When this happens, you'll notice that the roots intertwine as they grow, creating a rootbound plant.

It's taking its time to grow.

Another way of knowing whether it's repotting time is the growth of your plants. How long is it since you last repotted? If it's been more than 12 months, your plant will likely need a new pot.


Should I repot houseplants after buying them?

Only if needed (check the roots). Most plants coming from growers have recently been transferred into a bigger container, so you might not need to repot it. You should spray it with an organic insecticide and quarantine it to prevent a pest infestation.

How do I know if I've correctly repotted my houseplant?

Signs that you've repotted correctly include:

  • The roots are a healthy white or off-white

  • The plant is free from bugs

  • It's growing at a steady and consistent pace

Final Thoughts

Repotting your plants can seem daunting, but it's an essential part of keeping them healthy. Follow my tips, and you'll notice new healthy growth next time your plants need a new home! And, don't forget that choosing the right soil is equally important!