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Repotting Guide

When to repot

Spring is an ideal time to check your plants to see if they need repotting. This time of year they are putting on new growth, so they'll quickly recover. Your plants could need doing yearly, if young or fast growing or every 2-3 years depending on the variety.

Repotting, plant roots circling the base
Signs your plant needs repotting

Signs your plant needs repotting

  • Are roots coming out through the drainage holes, circling at the base or pushing up through the surface? (Some plants do like their roots constricted, especially Monstera's)

  • Are you finding the you're having to water more regularly than usual because the roots have expanded to fill the pot?

  • Your plant is growing more slowly or seems to have stopped growing and it's not due to winter dormancy?

  • Your plant is top-heavy, may fall over and the foliage is more than 3 times the size of the pot?

What you'll need:

  • Something to put down to contain the mess, like newspaper, or do it outside if warm enough!

  • A new pot with drainage holes, the next size up and no larger than 2 inches bigger than your plant's current pot.

  • Peat-free houseplant compost and if needed, extra drainage materials, like perlite, grit or orchid bark (check your plants soil requirements).

  • Gloves, if you're handling a plant with irritating sap, like a ficus, or a spiny cactus.

  • A watering can, ideally with rainwater.

Step by step guide to repotting

  • Remove your plant from its current pot. Turn it sideways and gently hold the lower stems or leaves. Press the bottom of the pot, you may need to squeeze the sides to loosen the soil. If it's proving really tricky, you could slide a thin knife round the edge and gently tug the stems.

  • Loosen the roots. Tease the roots apart. Don't worry if you break some. If your plant is root bound, so the roots are growing in very tight circles around the base, try to unbind them, you could give them a trim. Prune off any extra long thin roots, ensuring you leave the thicker roots nearer the surface. For extremely root-bound plants, you can cut away the bottom quarter of the old roots to help regenerate healthy growth.

  • Remove the old potting mix. Remove about a third or more of the old potting mix around your plant's roots. It will have used up the nutrients in the current compost, so you'll want to give it fresh potting mix.

  • Add fresh compost. Put a layer of potting mix in the bottom of the new pot. Make sure there is enough soil so that the root ball will sit on the soil at about a centimetre or two below the rim of the pot. Make sure that the crown of the plant—where the plant stem meets the roots—is at soil level. Once centred, add compost around the sides of the plant until it's secure. Make sure soil gets into all the gaps between the rootball and sides of the container. You may need to give it a tap or push your fingers down the sides of the pot and make sure you have filled all the voids. While you need to fill the gaps beware not to pack the soil too tightly so the roots can breathe.

Water and Enjoy!

  • Water well, until it runs out of the drainage holes but don't leave it sitting in water after.

  • You won't need to feed your plant for at least a couple of months, as the new compost will have all the nutrients your plant needs.

What if you don’t want your plant to get bigger?

  • If you’ve reached the largest pot you're happy to go to and you don't want your plant to grow larger, you can carefully trim some of its roots then put it back in its current pot. A smaller root system can only sustain a smaller plant.

  • You can also top-dress the soil of plants in large pots without repotting to add fresh nutrients, simply remove the top inch or two of compost and replace with fresh.

A 10 litre bag of Fertile Fibre Original Peat-free Houseplant Mix
Fertile Fibre Peat-Free Houseplant Compost

Need some houseplant compost?

I use Fertile Fibre compost, which is designed specifically for use with indoor plants. It's 100% organic and peat-free, contains certified sustainable coir and added nutrients - ensuring roots are never too dry or wet.

£8 for a 10 litre bag.

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