How to pot or Repot Your Houseplants

Potting is the first time you are placing a plant in a pot and repotting is when you are placing a plant in a bigger pot for example.

It means that you are taking your plant from one pot to another one that is a little bigger to help your plant grow.

Potting Indoor Houseplants

When you are potting or repotting your indoor houseplants you want to make sure that you are doing it in a way to encourage them to grow larger.  Before you begin you need to make sure that you have a larger pot, fresh potting soil for the type of plant you are potting, and garden shears.

Taking it out of the container

When you get a houseplant from a nursery or wherever they sell plants, it is usually in one of those plastic containers.  It is not very attractive but they are often big enough to accommodate some growth so they can stay in them for a while.  The soil that is in these containers is generally not top quality so that is another reason to repot the plant quickly.  When taking them out of those little pots, some will just pop out while others are hard to get out.  If you do not want to save the plastic pots to reuse for propagating cutting, you can just use scissors to cut it off.  Be careful you do not cut any of the roots of the plant.  

If they are in there tight, it could be due to the plant being root-bound.  This means that your plant’s roots have grown so much they have taken all the space that was in that little pot.  Generally, their roots are nothing more than a dense ball and are often in the shape of the container they were in.  You may even see some of the roots growing out of the drainage holes.  When a plant is root bound it means that they are not getting enough water and nutrients from the soil. 

Loosening and trimming the root ball

To do this, just use your finger to gently pull apart the roots and comb them to get some air circulation.  Once this is done you use clean garden shears to trim the roots. If you want to keep it near the size it is now, you will need to cut off more root.  This can stress the houseplant so if possible, you should do this in the spring or summer so the plant is actively growing.  It will bounce back and b healthier faster.  If you want it to get larger, just trim the roots a little.  This will be less of a shock to your houseplant.

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Time to plant

Fill the bottom of the planter with the right potting soil for the type of plant you are potting.  For houseplants, it should be a succulent/cacti mix or well-draining houseplant mix.  Just put your plant in the container and fill the pot with soil. Use your fist to knock the side of the pot.  This is to encourage the soil to fall into the crevices of the roots and help prevent air pockets.  After the container is filled, if it is not too big, pick it up and shake it to settle the soil more.  Press down on top of the soil and add some more if you need to.  Once this is done, you should give it a good watering and monitor it for a few weeks.  

repotting aloe vera

Repotting Tips


These you can find in various sizes but most you will not need to use.  Most gardeners will use the 6, 8, 13, 18, and 25-centimeter pots.  When choosing a pot always make sure that you can leave enough space between the surface of the soil and the rim of the pot.  This will be your watering space and should increase with the size of the pot.  For example, a larger pot will require more water so it needs a larger space.

Unable to repot

If you have your houseplant in a large pot and it cannot be repotted because it is so large, then you will have to top-dress the soil.  This means that you will have to remove the top one to one and a half inches of soil and replace it with fresh soil.  Make sure you do not damage the roots of the houseplant.  Leave a gap between the rim of the pot and the top of the soil so you can water the plant easier.

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General tips

  • Water your plant three or four days before you want to repot it.
  • When taking the houseplant out of the old pot place your hand over the top of the root ball and turn the pot upside down to let the plant slide out.  If it does not come out easily, you can gently run a butter knife between the root and the pot to loosen the plant.
  • Most people do their repotting outdoors because it is so messy so make sure that the temperatures are at least in the 60’s because otherwise, it may go into shock.
  • Before you put the houseplant into the new pot, put a coffee filter in the bottom, and then the soil.  The coffee filter will let the water through but will keep the soil inside.

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In addition to repotting a new houseplant, you may also have to repot a plant if they get too large for the container they are in and to keep them healthy.  When the pot is too small for your houseplant, their root system may not be able to get the nutrients and water from the soil so this could cause the plant to die, become stunted, and the older leaves could lose their color and fall off.  You do not need to repot every year but mainly do it when the houseplant has outgrown the pot.  If you are unsure whether to repot or not, look at the bottom of the planter to see if you see any roots coming out of the drain holes.  If yes, then this is a good sign it is time to repot.

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