Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Houseplants 101: Transplanting/Repotting

After proper watering techniques, the next most important tip for keeping your houseplants happy is to properly transplant/re-pot them.   They need new soil about once a year.  I very rarely purchase indoor plants.  Usually they are given to me so I can provide them with much-needed life support. :) Recently, a dear friend gifted me several of indoor plants before she moved out of state.

One of the first things I do when I bring a plant home is re-pot it.  Generally, even if a plant is brand new from the store, it is in too small of a pot and has been there for a while.  It is most often root bound (meaning the roots wrap around and around themselves and basically hold the shape of the pot when removed). Not good.

A general rule-of-thumb is that the root system should be as large as the above-ground portion.  Keep that in mind when choosing the size of pot you'll be planting in.

Ready?  Let's get started!

First, grab your supplies.  I highly recommend doing this project outside.  It makes clean-up much easier. During our tiny studio apartment years, I was known to re-pot plants indoors on a sheet/tarp. It's just not ideal (trust me).


Potting Soil
Perlite (optional)
New and/or larger plant pots
Steak knife (or similar) you no longer want to use in the kitchen
Adorable "helpers" (optional)

 Next, remove the plant from the old pot.  Usually this includes squeezing the sides of the pot in different directions to loosen the soil, then gently grasp the plant near the soil line and pull.

Healthy roots are light in color (not orange).  If the roots of your plant look like those above, they need help or the plant will suffer a long, slow death.  Is that too graphic?  To help loosen things up, grab your steak knife and insert a few cuts around the outside of the root system.

See the slits I made?  They are 3 inches deep (or so) and about every 4-5 inches around the root ball.

Spread the slits open by pulling the sides apart.  Don't be scared. Your plant will thank you later, promise.

While you're at it, remove any damaged or diseased branches/leaves.

This is a different plant, obviously :)

 If you are using a very large pot like the one above, fill the bottom with perlite, several inches deep.  This allows the soil to drain better as well as makes the pot lighter so you can actually move it.  (With this huge container, it still took two of us to move it).

Add a layer of potting soil, place your plant in the center of the pot and fill the rest of the way with potting soil.  Compact the soil around the root ball and water in.  Once you've watered you may need to add even more soil. Then water again.

After the plant has drained, you're ready to place the pot in your desired location.

 It looks happier already!

What other houseplant questions would you like me to answer?

More in the Happy Houseplants 101 Series:



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