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How to repot a houseplant in six easy steps

Is it time to repot one of your houseplants? Does one of your beloved plants need to move to a larger pot because you’ve taken such good care of it that it’s outgrown its home?

In this episode of Ask gardenstead, Jaz and Shannon talk about repotting indoor plants while answering a few houseplant questions. And, Jaz shares her six step process for successful repotting. Hit play to get started, or read the step-by-step process below.

When to repot a houseplant

If you’re wondering when to repot a houseplant, here’s a good rule of thumb that Jaz and Shannon share — take a look at your plant’s roots! To do this, gently remove your plant and its soil/root ball from its pot (follow the tips in step 2 below) and take a good look at what’s going on.

If your houseplant looks like it’s root bound (that is, if it seems there’s not enough room for roots to expand in the pot), or if you see a lot of roots growing out of the pot’s drainage holes, then it’s time to repot. If it looks like there’s room for roots to expand, leave it be.

How to repot a houseplant

Step 1. Prepare the new pot

Get your pot ready for its new inhabitant by tossing in a few handfuls of soil (you’ll need a couple of inches of soil in the pot). Pat down the soil to compress it and tap out any air pockets.

Step 2. Remove your plant from its old pot

Depending on the size of your houseplant, you should be able to do this by yourself. But if you have a large houseplant friend that needs a new pot, you might want to enlist someone to help you (a friend of plant friends, perhaps).

Grasp the plant — we’re repotting a nice little pothos, easily done by one person — with one hand around the base of the plant. While gently holding the base, turn the plant upside down to remove it. You may need to squeeze or wiggle the old pot carefully to ease it away from the soil and roots within.

Step 3. Loosen the roots and get rid of old soil

Once your plant and its soil/root ball is removed from its old pot, use your fingers to gently loosen up the roots that would likely have been compacted against the base and sides of its old habitat.

Try to not break the roots (it’s okay if a few break, as Jaz says in the video, “it’s really not the end of the world”, and it’s really not). What’s important is to gently loosen up your plant’s roots so it can adapt to its new space more quickly.

Once you’ve got the roots nicely loosened up, give the soil/root ball a bit of a shake to get off as much of the old soil as you can. It’s okay if there’s still old soil remaining, do your best.

Step 4. Place your plant into its new pot

Pop your plant into its new pot and take a look at where it sits. Is it nearly level with the top of the pot? If not, take it out and add a bit more soil to the bottom of your new pot.

And if it sits too high, just take a bit of soil out of the bottom of the pot. What you’re looking for is for the plant’s base to be nearly level with the top of its new pot.

Step 5. Add fresh potting soil

When you’re happy with the level of your plant and have it centrally positioned, carefully hold it at the base and lift its foliage clear of the soil. Using your other hand, scoop and then tuck soil around the sides of the plant to fill in the gap between the soil/root ball and the sides of the new pot. Turn the pot as you add soil for even distribution.

Once the sides are full and the plant feels secure, lift and tap the pot gently on your work surface to tamp down the new soil and get rid of air pockets. Add soil to fill your new pot all the way to the top.

Step 6. Water and admire your freshly repotted plant

In this last step, slowly water in your newly repotted plant. Water a bit first and wait until all the water has drained from on top of the soil. Take a look at the base of the pot. If water drips out the drainage holes, your plant is nicely watered.

If you note that the watering has had the effect of reducing the soil level, go ahead and add a bit more soil to top up.

That’s it! You’re done.

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