Oct 12, 2010

How to Repot A Houseplant

Repotting a root bound plant can be very helpful to a new plant that’s outgrown its living quarters. Every two years or so, you will need to repot smaller plants (12-24 inches tall); repot larger plants less often. Plants such as African Violet or Peace Lily often need to be root bound to bloom, so repot these carefully and with caution! Spread out some papers or other type of protection for your table surface – repotting a plant can sometimes be a little messy!

1) Choose a pot for your plant. You can buy a porous clay pot like terracotta, or a glazed pot if preferred. Clay pots are susceptible to breakage if dropped, and also very heavy. Another consideration is that clay dries out very quickly, so you’ll need to water the plant more frequently. Glazed pots will dry out slowly and are nice to look at. Plastic pots are easy to clean, light in weight, and extremely durable.

2) Make sure your pot has sufficient drainage! Drainage holes allow a plant to drain excess water once it has been watered. Be sure to have a saucer or something to catch the water. If you like a special plastic pot, you can easily create your own holes using a drill or nail. This is very important: too much water will cause problems for your plant.

3)  Use good potting soil that is plant specific (i.e. cactus mix for most cacti and succulents, African Violet mix for African violets, etc). MiracleGro potting mixes are very good – I’ve had excellent results with this brand myself, so I highly recommend it!

4) To increase drainage, you might want to put some broken pottery (a coffee mug you don't use anymore, or the shards from a broken plant pot) or large stones into the bottom of the pot -- make sure they're large enough so as not to fall out the holes. Shards/stones etc. in the pot allow water to drain more freely. Put about 1" of soil into the bottom of your pot. Wet the soil slightly so it doesn’t fall out the drainage hole(s). Note: Repot the plant into its new container at the same level it was when in the original container. You may need to add more or less soil on the bottom of the pot to accomplish this.

This Dieffenbachia plant badly needs repotting, since the roots have almost completely filled the pot. Some fresh soil will be a great help to our green friend! If necessary, you can remove up to 1/3 of a plant's roots. Cutting away the bottom third of this root ball off would encourage the plant to create newer roots and promote healthy growth. Use a sharp serrated knife to do this.

5) Place the root ball of your plant into the new pot and surround it with more fresh soil. Make sure the plant is straight and well situated in the pot. Place a bit more soil on top of the root ball and press down LIGHTLY. Compressing too much soil around the roots doesn't allow them ample breathing room! Be sure to cover the roots COMPLETELY with soil (1-2 inches should be enough on top).

6) Leave about 1-inch of space at the top to accommodate for watering. You have repotted your plant!

7) Be sure to give the plant some water, so it can get used to its new home. A dry plant is a sad plant!

8) Choose a good location for your plant. Most plants thrive in a window that gets good morning or afternoon sun, but not full sun. Too much sun can sunburn leaves, so be careful!

9) To repot a plant you already have well established, you will need to knock out the rootball from the pot. This may require some muscle, so go do some weightlifting first! Just kidding...

To remove an established rootball (these tend to be a bit stubborn), place your fingers over the top of the soil with the plant leaves in between your fingers (see diagram).  Be careful not to bend or break any leaves! Next, find a table edge or corner to rap the pot against. This loosens the roots from the sides of the pot. If necessary, use a hand to further encourage the rootball to vacate -- just tap the bottom of the pot. Finally, the root ball should slide out into your hand. Then, simply follow steps 5 - 8 to repot the plant!  =)

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