How to Repot a Houseplant in Eight Steps

Simple Steps to Repot Your Plant with Happy Houseplants. 

Repotting can sound complicated, a quick google will give you conflicting advice and lots of opinions online. At Happy Houseplants, we want to provide you with some simple steps and tips to ensure that repotting is easy and that you and your plant are ready for success. 

Our advice is based on years of experience sourcing, growing and keeping a wide variety of houseplants in a temperate climate in the UK, but plants are living things, and there are literally thousands of ways to grow plants successfully, which is half the fun of the hobby. We take great joy in talking to our customers, growers, plant influencers, and hobbyists who share their knowledge and passion with us. 

How do you repot a plant without killing it?

We dont recommend planting directly into a decorative planter; keeping your plants in their plastic nursery pots is best. Decorative indoor plant pots can be used to upstyle your plant and cover the plastic pot. 

You will see some advocate removing plants from the plastic nursery pot and encouraging planting directly into decorative pots, which is possible with work, but for the most part, the ability to drain the plant quickly far outweighs any advantages of planting directly into a pot. 

The number one killer of houseplants is overwatering, and it is much easier to overwater if you can't drain the plant quickly. Keeping your plant in the original plastic pot makes it much easier to manage weekly watering, check for bugs, repot easily and avoid root rot. 

You will also see a discussion about growing houseplants hydroponically, the science of growing plants without using soil by feeding them dissolved mineral nutrients in the water. If you are willing to take on nature's burden and provide all the nutrients through regular feeding and monitoring, it can work well, but for most of us with a few houseplants, growing in soil is still the easiest and most natural way to keep houseplants. 

What soil do you use to repot houseplants?

Happy Houseplants recommends Soil Ninja, its full of premium ingredients and the Soil Ninja team are transparent, authentic and open as possible about their substrates/components - along with how and why they work. Check out the full range here

When to repot a houseplant

If you've had your plant for less than a year, we don't recommend you repot your plant. If you repot a new plant that's just been shipped through the mail, it will almost certainly die because of biophilic shock. A new plant needs time to settle and acclimate to its new home's humidity, temperature, light and care regime before its repotted, which can take up to a year in young plants. 

Houseplants experiencing biophilic shock will shed leaves but usually bounce back if cared for in a bright, warm spot and left to adapt to their new home. 

'Inspecting' the roots of new plants is exactly the same as repotting. Disturbing the delicate root structure of young, happy, healthy plants is terrible advice. Young plants have roots that form a dense mat beneath the plant; the roots are too fragile in a young plant to survive disturbing, inspecting or repotting and, once destroyed, put an enormous amount of stress on the young plant and combined with the shock of moving to a new home, it too much for most plants and they will fade and die. Don't kill your plants with kindness!

We also don't recommend the following:

  • Trying to repot a houseplant which is currently flowering. If it blooms, it's a happy plant - so our advice is to leave it alone and enjoy the flowers. Repot when the flowers are gone. 
  • Some plants like to be pot-bound; usually, those houseplants that have evolved to grow in tightly packed soil will be happy root bound, and dont need repotting, e.g. Peace lilies, Succulents, Cacti, and Bird of Paradise all love being root bound, and dont grow well in larger pots.
  • If your houseplant looks unwell - too much change for an unhealthy plant can be terminal. Try stabilising the plant first, then wait until new growth appears before attempting repotting. Switch up your care regime - think about how much water, light, and feed your plant gets before repotting. 

When deciding to repot your plant, knowing when and why you should repot your houseplants is essential. Typically, plants will want to be repotted every 12 to 18 months. Spring is an excellent time to repot houseplants, with a long growing season ahead (in the UK).

The main reason for repotting your indoor plant is to increase its growing and root space. Houseplants can outgrow their containers which causes crowding of the roots. Houseplants can experience stunted growth or possibly fade and die without enough room for the roots to grow. You also risk root rot if the pot does not have enough drainage. 

Soil can also become infiltrated with pests, mould and other contaminants that will affect your plant's health. Repotting your houseplant creates an opportunity to replace poor soil with fresh soil that will help provide your plant with all the proper nutrients. 

Other reasons to repot a Houseplant:

  • The soil dries out too quickly because the pot is too small and the plants are too big. 
  • The houseplant has grown and become unstable. Safe plants should not wobble or tip over!
  • The roots are growing out of the plastic pots' drainage holes. New plants that are root-bound should be left alone; the grower with decades of experience growing houseplants will know best!
  • The soil has grown stale and stopped growing; tropical plants typically need new soil every 24 months, even if you regularly feed the plant. The earth will likely have become anaerobic and stale without microfauna and worms turning over the ground naturally. 
  • The pots become broken; broken planters don't hold water very well!

Steps to Repot a Houseplant

Let your plant dry out - it will help to extract the roots and soil from the existing pot more quickly if the soil is dry.

Remove the plant from its existing plastic pot. Gently turn the plant on its side and, with one hand, support the stem while the other gently pull the plant away from the plastic pot. Tip – if you are struggling to remove your houseplant from your existing pot, do not pull the stem but gently tap the planter, the soil will become loose. 

Once the plant has been removed, inspect the indoor plant's soil and roots. Gently loosen the houseplant's roots with your hands and trim any extra long roots but leave the thicker roots at the base. Tip – if the roots are tightly coiled, use your fingers or a knife to unbind and trim them.

Pick a new plastic plant pot and ensure your plant pot is clean - usually, a plastic pot two inches larger than the previous pot is best. 

Remove all the old substrate from the roots by gently massaging the root ball. Thoroughly check the root system to ensure it's all healthy, and check for bugs and root rot. Fill your new plastic pot about a third full, then place the new roots on top and pour the new soil around the plant. Ensure your plant is sitting up straight and centred. Once you've filled the plastic pot, gently press the substrate down and tap the pot. 

For tropicals, water well until the water runs to the bottom and leave it to drain well. If you are repotting Cacti and succulents, it's best not to water for a few weeks to let the soil completely dry out. A repotted plant will not need to be fed fertiliser for the first 6 months. 

Inspect your houseplant and trim any dead leaves or broken stems. If needed, lightly prune your plant, but only a little to avoid plant shock. 

Choose a new decorative planter for your plant and update your style for the new season!  We have 100's of incredible indoor plant pots to choose from, with a vast range of colours, shapes, sizes and materials. 

Look at our blog page here to read more about guidance, advice or houseplant ideas for your home.






Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.