Down and dirty: Repotting plants

If you're a lucky owner of a plant and it's been with you for years, then chances are at some point it'll need to be repotted. Repotting is fairly straightforward, particularly if you have one or two plants, but as soon as you need to repot several, it can become an all-day affair. 

Admittedly I stagger a lot of my repotting duties because it would be impossible for me to repot my plants all in one go. Plus, not all of them are in need of repotting. Some, however, like in the cases below, I let them become too root-bound. A golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum), which was in a talavera pot hanging in my bathroom, was literally pushing itself up out of the pot, and its growth had halted entirely. Occasionally I'll also notice the roots coming out of the drain hole of a planter, and that is also a good indication that a plant should be repotted. Lastly, if you see a plant that's ready to tip over out of it's pot, it might be a good indication that it needs more support, perhaps both with a heavier pot as well as a stake or two. 

This golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) of mine was in dire need of a new pot. You can see how the roots were lifting itself out of its pot. 

This golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) of mine was in dire need of a new pot. You can see how the roots were lifting itself out of its pot. 

The string of hearts (Ceropegia woodii) has underground tubers that look like the beads of a rosary, hence it's other common name "Rosary vine". To propagate, you can remove one of the plant's developing tubers and place in well-draining soil and make sure it's kept somewhat moist. 

The string of hearts (Ceropegia woodii) has underground tubers that look like the beads of a rosary, hence it's other common name "Rosary vine". To propagate, you can remove one of the plant's developing tubers and place in well-draining soil and make sure it's kept somewhat moist. 

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when repotting plants:

  • Try to repot in the springtime when the plant is in its growth stage. That way it's roots can grown into the new soil you're about to put into the pot. (Note: I don't always follow this practice).
  • Water your plants thoroughly in their original pot before repotting and let sit for a while. This will help loosen up the plant within its original container, which will reduce stress in the plant when repotting.
  • If repotting in a formerly used pot, make sure to clean thoroughly to prevent any disease agents from spreading. If a new clay pot, then you'll want to soak the clay pot so that the pot doesn't wick moisture away from the plant. Plastic pots don't require soaking, but will require cleaning if they were previously used.
  • Ensure you have the right potting soil for the plant. If your plant requires well-draining soil, for instance, then make sure that's what you get.
  • Add rocks, broken clay, and charcoal to the bottom of the pot if necessary. If you have a pot with a draining hole, soil will often fall out the bottom. To prevent this, without fully blocking the hole, add some rocks or broken clay to the bottom of the pot. A dusting of horticultural charcoal is always a good practice because it prevents any bacterial buildup. 
  • Tease out the roots from the bottom of the plant. Oftentimes the root of the plant are crushed up into the soil because it was so rootbound. Gently tug at the roots the help give them some direction and room.
  • Once repotted, give the plant a little more water. After the plant is fully repotted, it's often good practice to give it a little extra moisture. Anything that it doesn't take up can be drained into the saucer below. Remove any excess water from the saucer and place in appropriate place within your house! 🌿
Repotting is a messy job. If I have them available, I'll often lay down newspaper while I'm repotting because getting your floor dirty is inevitable. And don't let me even get into your hands! Let's just say you'll always need to refresh your manicure.

Repotting is a messy job. If I have them available, I'll often lay down newspaper while I'm repotting because getting your floor dirty is inevitable. And don't let me even get into your hands! Let's just say you'll always need to refresh your manicure.