How to repot a plant

About a year ago I was given a peace lily as a gift from a new client. I’m a consultant who works from a home office so the idea was that it might improve my living and working space. These plants are hearty, thrive in indirect sunlight and clean the air, removing up to 96% of the carbon monoxide and formaldehyde that may exist there, according to a study by NASA.

No matter what kind of indoor or outdoor potted plant you may have, eventually as it grows larger you will need to repot it. Plants that aren’t transplanted and moved to larger environments become root bound and start to die. The following steps will help you choose the right pot and successfully migrate your plant.

  • choose a pot that is larger than your current one, be sure to measure the diameter of your existing pot but also observe the width and other dimensions
  • consider the trade offs between plastic pots which are lighter vs. ceramic or clay pots that are heavier but might look nice, larger pots could become too heavy to lift or potentially break the table or platform you use to sit them on, remember that the pot will increase in weight once you have soil, drainage rocks, water and the plant in it
  • look for a pot with drainage holes in the bottom, many store bought plants come in pots that are completely sealed and therefore more prone to over watering and rotted roots, self draining pots are better for larger plants

Once you’ve chosen a pot, make sure it either comes with a drainage plate or you get one separately. I prefer pots that have detachable drainage plates because they are easier to clean. Before you buy the pot and leave the store consider also buying potting soil and some small stones for drainage if you don’t already have some at home. You should also find a small strip of synthetic fabric to use in the bottom of the pot for drainage. Synthetic fabric will filter the water as it drains but won’t rot like wool or cotton.

I also recommend using a liquid plant food with nutrients such as Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potash, Iron, Manganese and Zinc to keep your plant healthy and strong. I’ve had good luck with plant food made by Schultz which comes in a simple to use jar with a screw-on dropper. Simply add a few drops into your water jug each time you water the plant. So, once you’ve got the supplies, bring them all home, take off the tags and give the pot a quick rinse off and cleaning.

  1. create a layer of stones and pebbles in the bottom of your pot, this will help it drain naturally as you water the plant
  2. cut a square of synthetic fabric, rinse it off and make sure water can pass through it then place it in the bottom of your pot covering the drainage rocks
  3. pour a bit of potting soil on top of the stones and create a level foundation for your plant
  4. gently remove your plant from its old pot by tipping it sideways and firmly pulling at the base of the plant, this will be easier if you haven’t recently watered the plant
  5. use your fingers to break up and spread out the roots of the plant, this will help it grow into its new environment and gather more nutrients
  6. set your plant into the center of the new pot on top of the layer of soil you just created, get a friend to pour more soil around the sides of the plant to fill out the pot while you hold the plant upright
  7. leave an inch of space between the top of the soil and the rim of your new pot, this will keep water and soil from splashing out over time
  8. set the pot in its drainage plate and take both to wherever you want your plant to live
  9. using a cup or watering jug, mix a bit of liquid plant food and begin slowly and evenly water your plant
  10. as soon as you see water seeping out the bottom of the pot into the drainage dish you should stop

The amount of water and plant food details described above may vary depending on your plant but the steps should help you successfully move your plant from a pot that is too small to one that will last another couple of years. Key points to remember are water after you position your plant to its new home, this will make it lighter and easier to move, make sure you set it in a drainage dish and water slowly so it doesn’t overflow, use liquid plant food and follow the instructions that came with your plant or that you look up online to make sure you are optimizing the sunlight, temperature and watering your plant needs.