How To Repot A Houseplant Without Killing It

I know, I know, you didn’t sign up to this to get your hands dirty. You’ve just had a manicure after all (I’m talking to all the houseplant dads out there obviously! 😉).

The fact is, your houseplants will grow. I hope you know this and I hope you actually want this to happen. As they grow, so do their roots. If the roots get too compacted and intertwined, the plant is at risk of choking itself.

So, you need to know how to repot a houseplant because you don’t want it to die.

Does that do the trick?

Let’s get stuck into some dirty work!

How To Repot A Houseplant

I’ve already covered how to know when to repot a houseplant, but to put it simply, check the roots. If they look like they don’t have room to grow, then you probably need to repot.

One thing you need to do is water your plant a day before you intend to repot. This will ensure that you don’t have to water it after repotting. I’ve not found that watering afterwards causes any problems in the past, but it does tend to compact the loose, new soil.

Now we can get on with the actual repotting.

Get Your Materials Together

The first step is to get everything you need out and ready to go.

I have an oilcloth sheet that I put down on the floor to catch any rogue soil (there is always rogue soil, in fact, it often seems like there is more rogue soil than soil going into pots!). If you have an easy-clean floor, then maybe you can just repot straight on the floor. You rebel, you

Potting Mix

Let’s make this as simple as possible, otherwise, I might risk losing you and your houseplant will never get repotted!

Just look for a bag of houseplant potting mix [US link, UK link] at your local garden centre or online. Amazon, of course, have what you need.

If you’re repotting a succulent or cactus, then look for a cactus and succulent potting mix [US link, UK link].


I make my own DIY potting mix, but this is simply taking your potting mix from a good 8/10, right up to an 11. It’s something you can get into doing once you’ve earned your first houseplant parenting wings!


These are quite important for repotting!

What you are looking for is the next size up from what your houseplant is currently in.

Just measure across the top of the pot.

Here are the common houseplant pot sizes:

Pot Sizes (cm)Pot Sizes (inches)
Common Plant Pot Sizes

As you can see, they roughly go up in size by an inch each time. The 6cm (2.5″) ones are often what you will find small houseplants in at garden centres. If you buy a decent sized plant from the start, it will often be in a 12cm (4.5″) pot.

When you repot a houseplant, keep the old pot so that you can use it for smaller plants in the future. Especially when your houseplant starts producing offspring!

I always use cheap, plastic pots with drainage holes to pot my houseplants in. Then I can put them in a decorative planter to make them more appealing.

If you’ve left your houseplant for a while and you’re not sure what size it needs now, just use your common sense. There is no hard and fast cut off point for which pot to use. Look at your houseplant up against each pot and choose the one that looks in proportion.

Weed Control Fabric

This one isn’t essential, but sometimes roots will grow out of the drainage holes at the bottom of a pot. This makes the plant unstable as well as making it difficult to take out of the pot for it’s next repot without breaking the root that sticks out.

You can avoid all of this by placing a small square of weed control fabric at the bottom of the pot. Water can still drain out, but the roots will stay in!

That’s all you need. Not much, right?

Repot Your Houseplant

If you have a few houseplants, it’s usually a good idea to do several at once seeing as you have all this stuff out!

So, you have your houseplant, you have the new pot, you have some potting mix. Let’s do this!

Get your new pot ready by putting a small square of weed membrane at the bottom (if you’re using this) and then a handful or two of potting mix.

Place your first and second fingers over the top of the soil in your houseplant pot, with the stem of the plant between them.

Turn your houseplant upside down and gently tease it out of the pot. Don’t make big, shaky, banging movements. Plants can get stressed by moving home, just like us. If it doesn’t need too much encouragement, don’t use it!

With your houseplant out of it’s pot, loosen up the soil a little bit but don’t try and get rid of all the soil.

There will be some soil that just falls away with a bit of prodding and there will be soil that stays around the roots. The latter is the root ball and you will place this in your new pot.

Place your houseplant in the new pot and check whether it is the right height. Once potted, the soil surface should be about a centimetre or half-inch below the rim of the pot. If you need more potting mix at the bottom of the pot to raise it up, add it now.

Then place your plant in the centre of the pot, add some potting mix around it making sure all the voids are filled and gently press it all down. You don’t want to compact it, but make sure it is firm enough to keep the houseplant upright.

You’re done!

Should I Water and Feed It Now?

You’ll get varied advice on watering after repotting. Personally, I’ve not had any issues with water or non-watering.

But your potting mix will have a bit of moisture in it and, if you watered your plant the day before, it should be absolutely fine for a while.

While repotting, you may have damaged some roots (it happens!) so giving it a week will allow any broken ends to harden. Your plant will also get a chance to root itself a little better and the soil will naturally settle.

For its first water, after about a week, give it a good soak and let the excess drain away before putting it back in its planter.

Don’t use fertiliser for about 5 or 6 weeks after repotting a houseplant. It has plenty of nutrients in the new soil. If you’re in the middle of winter, you probably don’t need to feed until next spring.

Now What?

Well, that’s about it.

Give your newly-repotted houseplant a bit of time to get used to its new home and keep an eye on it.

But otherwise, just look after it as if the repotting never happened!

If you repot a houseplant in the spring or summer then you can expect some extra growth as it finds room to expand, along with some extra nutrients in the soil.

Repotting your plant is an exciting time for a houseplant parent. Your plant has grown up and it will have another growth spurt very soon.

It wasn’t all that bad, was it?