Re-potting container plants
It is not unusual that a plant owner will have a plant for a year or two, during which time the plant thrives and looks great, only to be shocked and confused when the plant starts to fail for no reason. Most times this is because the plant’s roots have filled the container and this often reduces growth. Sometimes this is not necessarily a bad thing as slightly stressed plants can still be attractive and the slower growth reduces maintenance needed. However, eventually, the plant will need to be moved to a bigger container, or the compost refreshed in the same pot, as compost lose their structure over time. Shrubs and trees that stay in a pot for years are especially vulnerable unless re-potted, and root-bound plant that is no longer receiving adequate nutrition from the soil (because there is hardly any left). Sooner or later repotting houseplant becomes necessary.
How do you know if a plant needs repotting?
Plants should be moved into larger containers as they grow. Unless more space is provided for the plant’s roots, they can become bound. That is the roots of the plants becomes cramped and form a tightly packed mass that affects growth.
Old Potting Soil
Most potting soils are based on peat, which breaks down over time and becomes more acidic. As peat breaks down, it becomes harder for water and oxygen to penetrate and fully infuse the roots, so the plants will slowly starve, even of nothing else changes (e.g. your watering schedule). The best solution is to repot when the plant needs it.
How do you know a plant needs repotting?
The most obvious sign is when you see roots on the surface of the soil or emerging from the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. If the plant seems to stop growing or has slowed growth, it has likely become pot-bound. If it’s a small plant, turn the pot on its side and ease the plant out of its container. Take a look at its roots have they coiled in the bottom of the pot? If so it’s definitely time to repot. Offsets produced by plant can become crowded in the pot and need to be separated and propagated in their own containers.
Other telltale signs include soils that dries out quickly, or has become degraded: roots tightly packed within a pot or protruding from drainage holes: and water sitting on the soil surface too long after watering. Often a plant simply looks top-heavy or as if it might burst out of its pot. Most healthy container plants eventually outgrow their pots. A good way to re-invigorate a root bound plant is to re-pot it.
When to repot
Young actively growing houseplants should be moved into slightly larger pots with fresh potting mix once a year. Repotting houseplants that are large like ficus, or slow growing plants can be done every two years or when they seem to outgrow their pots or look top-heavy. If a plant is thriving, you can assume it is happy in its pot.
The best time to repot most plants is when they are actively growing. However, plants can usually handle repotting whenever the situation demands it.
Ready for a little repotting? It is not difficult even if it’s your first try at repotting a plant. Use the following steps as a guide:Before you remove a plant from it’s pot, always make sure you have enough potting mix on hand.
How to choose a container
The new pot should be no more than 2inches wider at the rim or two inches deeper than the old pot why? A pot that’s much large gives the roots too much space to grow into. The top of the plant won’t grow until its roots begin to fill the container. A too large container will also hold too much water and can cause root rot. And while on the subject, be sure to choose a container that has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Scrub used pots before planting to remove any diseases. You can disinfect a pot by soaking it in a solution of one part chlorine to nine parts water. Rinse well with clear water. If you are using a terra cotta pot soak it in water for a few hours. New terra cotta is so dry that it will rob moisture from the soil leaving the plants thirsty. Some house plants can grow huge if given larger and larger pots and you may not want a huge specimen. Sometimes a plant has been in its potting mix for along time and has not grown, in spite of being fed. In both cases, simply repot into a clean pot the same size as the present one, using fresh potting mix.
A day or two before you plan to repot, give your plants a thorough watering because they are easier to report when the growing medium is moist.
Pour some potting mix into a bucket or bowl and add an equivalent amount of warm water, then blend thoroughly.
Most soilless potting mixes are somewhat water repellant when dry, so you need to stir them. Aim for consistency a little drier than a baking dough. If mix is too dry, add more water: too liquid, add a bit more medium. Adding a drop or two of liquid soap to the water also helps the mix to absorb moisture more easily. You can seal leftover mix in a plastic bag or container and save it for your next potting session. To remove the plant from its old pot, slip your hand over the top of the pots, holding the plant’s stem between your fingers, and turn the pot upside down.
Tap the rim of the pot firmly a hard surface such as a table, and then gently pull the pot upwards to remove the plant.
If plant refuses to budge, top the pot against the hard surface a few more times and try again. It may take two pairs of hands (one pair pulling on the pot while the other holds the plant) to remove big plants from large pots. You may also have to run a knife blade around the inside of the pot’s rim to remove the plant or first cut away pots extending from the drainage holes. If that doesn’t work, you may actually try to break the pot to remove the plant,
Examine the root ball
If the root ball is less healthy or if the plant has been in the same pot for more than two years, you must do some cleaning up before repotting it. If some of the roots appear dead, damaged, or rotten (or circle the inside of the pot, indicating probably under potting), you need to prune them off. If thick roots totally encircle the plant, cut away ½ to 1 inch (2 -3 centimeters) slice of roots and soil with a sharp knife-not only all around the pot, but also from the bottom.
Don’t cut away healthy roots of plants that don’t like being repotted. If you intend to repot the plant into a pot of the same size or smaller, prune back even more harshly. You can remove up to one-third of the old roots (or one-third of the root ball) without harming the plant.
Remove about one-third of the old potting mix from the root ball, loosening it gently with your fingers, bamboo cane, a pencil or a chopstick inserted down into the roots. To remove the plant from its old pot, slip your hand over the top of the pot, holding the plant stem between your fingers, and turn the pot upside down
Tap the rim of the pot firmly against a hard surface, such as a table, and then gently pull the pot upwards to remove the plant. If the plant doesn’t budge, tap the pot against the hard surface a few more times and try again. It may take two pairs of hands (one pulling on the pot while the other pair’s holds. Add the potting medium until the roots are well covered, and then even out the soil mix with your fingers or a spoon. Leave some room at the top so the pot can hold enough water with each watering to thoroughly moisten the soil.
Water well, let drain, and you’re done!
These Steps will Ensure Success Re-Potting into a Larger Container:
When moving plants to a larger container, one size larger at each stage
Remove a little of the old compost, slide the plant out and tease out roots, cutting them if necessary
When it is no longer convenient to repot them every year into a bigger pot, they should be repotted in the same pot at least every other year. Replace one-third of existing compost and roots with fresh compost.
In years when repotting is not carried out, top-dress by removing 5cm (2ins) old compost from the top of the pot and replacing with fresh compost.
However, if your plants are too old, take cuttings and re-plant)
After Repotting House Plant Care Tips
One important thing to note before you actually repot the plant:
Don’t waste the already limited space in an average pot with a layer useless potshards. Use a good potting mix from top to bottom. Studies show that so- called drainage layers don’t actually drain better when the potting mix is evenly packed in the pot.
Repotting house plants is stressful for them and they need time to recuperate, so do not expose directly to sun light right away, because sun can be too harsh, leave it in a shade area for a week or two before re-introducing it to its permanent location.
Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. If you notice that leaves are limp, the plant is not getting enough water. If the leaves turn yellow, it’s getting too much water.High humidity sometimes helps newly repotted plant recovers.
Never fertilize a newly repotted plant. Its roots have likely been cut and can suffer from fertilizer burn. Wait at least a month before fertilizing when its roots system is better established.