In Spring everything starts to wake up, including indoor plants! The emergence of plants and new leaves outdoors means that the time to repot houseplants has arrived. Repotting houseplants is more than just changing containers—below, we will outline the best approach to repotting your indoor plants to keep them happy and healthy all year long.
Refreshing your plants’ potting soil is key to the success of your repotting efforts. Soil contains the nutrients your plants need to thrive and just the right amount of oxygen and water for them to live. Over time, the nutrients get used up and the soil becomes compacted. You may even notice that your plants sit lower in their pots than they did originally.
Salts and minerals from synthetic fertilizers and tap water can also build up in the soil, resulting in burnt leaf tips or a white “crust” around the bottom or top edge of the container.
Even if you do not need to transition your plant into a larger pot, it is still important to repot your plants with brand new soil every year or so.
Materials Needed to Repot Your Houseplants
- Gloves and drop cloth, tarp, or newspapers to minimize mess from soil
- Fresh indoor potting soil like Malibu Compost Baby Bu’s Potting Soil, G&B Organics Potting Soil, FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil, or appropriate soil mix for your plant, such as a Cactus Mix for cacti and succulents
- Slow-release fertilizer—we recommend G&B Organics All-Purpose, Joyful Dirt, or Osmocote. Learn more about fertilizing in our Fertilizing Guide.
- Small trowel or shovel for scooping soil
- Watering can and spray bottle
- Floral snips or pruning shears for light trimming of roots and leaves, and chopstick or other tool to gently untangle roots
- New indoor container for plant*
*NOTE: Make sure your new container has drainage holes! Without holes, water will sit stagnant at the bottom of your pot and cause root rot. If your container has no holes, plant into a plastic grower’s pot that can fit inside your decorative cache pot.
Step-by-Step Repotting Instructions
NOTE: Thoroughly water your plant about 2 days before repotting.
1. Remove plant from pot: Turn your plant sideways, place your hand over the top of the soil with the stem between your middle and ring finger. With your other hand, gently tap or squeeze the bottom and sides of the container until the plant slides out. A Hori Hori knife or even old kitchen knife can be used to work the soil away from the sides of the pot if it feels too tight to release.
2. Loosen roots and tidy up: Once your plant is removed from the container, use your fingertips to loosen the roots and prune any dead stems, leaves, or damaged roots. If root-bound, unbind them as carefully and gently as possible.
3. Freshen up soil: Remove about one third of the old soil and compost it or add it to your yard debris container. Pour a layer of fresh, pre-moistened potting soil into the bottom of the new planter. Mix slow-release fertilizer into your soil (optional).
4. Replant your plant: Set your plant on top of the fresh soil; make sure it is centered and at the proper height—the top should be about ½ inch to 1 inch from the top lip of the pot. Add fresh soil around the plant’s roots and side of pot until it is snug. Make sure the final soil level is ½ inch to 1 inch below the lip of the pot so there is a place for water to sit before it is absorbed into the soil.
5. Water in and enjoy: Water your plant to settle the soil with enough water to drain out the bottom. Then sit back and enjoy your happier plant! AND be cautious when watering a newly repotted plant—if you have increased container size, you may need to water less frequently because the fresh soil will hold more water.
Below are some common questions about repotting houseplants. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Our Garden Center staff is always happy to provide guidance as you repot your houseplants.
How do you know when to repot indoor plants?
- Roots are growing through the bottom drainage holes
- Roots are pushing the plant up and out of the container
- Plant is top heavy and wants to fall over
- Soil dries out very quickly or has pulled away from the container sides and become hard
- Plant grows more slowly than usual
- Signs of salt/mineral build-up on top or bottom of the container
When is the best time to repot indoor plants?
Indoor plants can be repotted any time from March through September, but the best time is early Spring, right at the beginning of the active growing season. Wait at least two days after your most recent watering so the soil holds together better when handling.
How often should indoor plants be repotted?
On average, young plants should be repotted every year. Mature plants will not need to be repotted as frequently as young, faster-growing plants.
How big should my new container be?
Your new container should be no more than 2-3 inches larger in diameter than the one from which you are removing your plant. Some plants may not need to have their container size increased, but still need their soil refreshed—follow the same guidelines as above, but remove up to half the original soil.
Many types of popular indoor plants prefer to have their roots restricted, especially those that are prone to overwatering or root rot (Snake Plants), so only a slight increase in pot size is needed. However, some fast-growing plants can be planted in pots 4-6 inches larger in diameter to accommodate and encourage rapid growth (Monsteras).