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Repot in the Spring

Spring is the Best Time to Repot Houseplants

Does it ever seem like you have only just watered your houseplants, and they are already dry a day or 2 after and need to be watered again? Does the water immediately run right through and pour out the bottom of the pot? Are the roots growing out of the drainage holes? If any of these things are happening, it could be a sign that your plants need to be re-potted. Re-potting a houseplant involves purchasing a larger pot (at least a size larger) and more soil to fill the new and larger pot. Since new growth is most likely to be active in spring time for houseplants, it is the best time for re-establishing your plant in new soil and a larger pot. Once established, a high-quality houseplant fertilizer can be used to encourage additional growth.

Choosing a Container

If you are interested in a decorative container, be sure it has proper drainage for the plant’s needs and an adequate drip tray to catch water and protect the surface under the plant when watering. There are many different decorative pots from which to choose and the material does matter with certain plants, so be sure to check your plant’s specifications/care instructions for any mention of the type of pot it may prefer.

For example, clay pots are generally inexpensive and have a classic look, so they work well with most decors. They do tend to dry out plants quicker, due to its porous material. The clay allows air and water to pass through the walls of the pot, which helps to prevent root rot. Root rot occurs when a plant is overwatered. When using a clay pot, plan on watering this plant more often.

When using clay pots outdoors, you may see some cracking during freezing weather; especially if water has been left in the pot right before the weather turns to freezing temps. If you really like clay pots for outdoor use, it is best to purchase a higher quality pot with thicker walls. These pots have been baked at higher temps when made and are more durable. Typically, these are more reddish-brown in color. There are also clay pots that are glazed on the inside for those plants that would not do well getting dried out so quickly. The glazing on the inside helps to keep some of the moisture in. Still, always be sure the plant has proper drainage in the bottom and enough air flow and it isn’t sitting directly in the ceramic pot; easier and safer watering, since the nursery pot should be removed when watering to drain out well and then returned to the decorative pot.

Once the plant has outgrown its nursery pot and can no longer fit inside the ceramic, you will have a well-preserved decorative pot for your next plant that size. If you must plant directly inside the decorative pot, be absolutely sure there is adequate drainage—even if it means drilling holes in the bottom. You will need to have it sitting on some kind of saucer or drip tray to protect your flooring or surface. Even if it is watered outside and dried off, it will still continue to drip some afterwards, sometimes ruining carpets, flooring or furniture. Adequate drainage is key to a plant’s survival. Root rot leads to disease, sometimes unrecoverable, and can easily be avoided. Plants that don’t mind additional humidity, it is sometimes helpful to add a layer of pebbles or rocks to the bottom to raise up the plant to improve drainage even more and increase air flow in the bottom of the plant.

Choosing a Container
The example on the left has taken over even the soil that was in the pot. This one definitely needed a larger pot with more soil. The example on the right has plenty of room for the roots to grow.

Deciding if Your Plant Needs to be Re-Potted

If you have answered yes to the following questions, your plant likely needs repotting:

  • 1) Are you watering more often, or just about every day? Does the water run right through the plant immediately, never absorbing into the soil?
  • 2) Are the roots growing through the drainage holes?

Checking the Roots

  • 3) When you remove the plant from its pot, are the roots in a completely circular pattern around the bottom of the plant?
  • 4) Has the growth of the plant stalled during a time when it should still be performing?
  • 5) Are there more roots than potting soil touching the bottom of the pot?

These plants below are too large for their containers.

Plants Outgrow their Containers
Image from

Choosing Potting Mix

There are mainly, 2 types of soil: Outdoor soil for use in the garden and potting mix made strictly for use in pots. These soils are specially formulated for the types of containers they are used in and the types of plants that are typically planted in pots. It pays to be sure to have the right soil for your plants, or you will likely lose your plants to disease and other pest problems. Further, it is always best to check if your plant has any special potting soil requirements. For example, orchids plants require bark and a peat mixture in order to survive. A good brand of soil will always tell you on the bag what types of plants are appropriate for the soil.

Repotting the Plant

Here are the steps:

  • 1) It is best to water and drain your plant an hour before beginning this process.
  • 2) Always make sure your pot is clean before using. A vigorous rinsing will suffice. Do not use chemicals or soapy water, as this residue may not agree with the plant. If you have any doubts about the cleanliness of the pot or if a previously diseased plant lived in the pot, it is best to discard it and start fresh.
  • 3) Next, place a small layer of potting soil in the bottom of the new pot—enough to cover the surface and provide a cushion for the roots—about an inch is usually sufficient.
  • 4) Gently un-curl and loosen the roots so that they are no longer in a circular pattern. A sharp knife works well.
  • 5) Place the plant in the new pot and be sure it stands about 1”-1 ½” below the top of the pot. This space will allow for the new soil to be placed on top and enough space for watering, where water will not spill over the rim of the pot. The soil should not come to the very top of the pot. Add potting mix as needed to the point where the plant is not moving around in the container, but not so tight it is compacted. Compacted plants will lead to root rot and disease due to decreased air flow and drainage.
  • 6) Gently pat down the soil, but do not press hard. Then water in and let drain well over sink or outside before placing in your home.

Have a houseplant you need evaluated? Drop it by our store and our horticulture experts will diagnose any problems and make recommendations. You can also click here to ASK THE FLORIST. Should you need a replacement plant, we have a decent selection of healthy houseplants in our store and online to look at for purchase or we can recommend another plant source appropriate for your needs. Looking at our plants can also help if you see what the plant should look like during a healthy growth phase. We love helping people keep their plants healthy!


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7457 Six Forks Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27615
(919) 847-3381

North Raleigh Florist