It’s a job any beginner houseplant parent will go to great lengths to put off, but it will often produce amazing results if you actually do it.
Repotting a houseplant can encourage a growth spurt, help bring a plant back to good health after a pest infestation or even just make it look more in proportion.
But how do you know when to repot a houseplant?
Let’s just get this out there. You will need to repot your houseplants at some point. There is no getting away from this fact.
It’s simply one of those things you sign up for as a good houseplant parent. Having said that, it doesn’t have to be a chore. You don’t have to do it very often and it gives you an opportunity to get your hands dirty and really get to know your houseplants.
How Do You Know When To Repot A Houseplant?
The first, and easiest way to know when to repot a houseplant is to ask yourself when (or if) it was last repotted.
If it was over two years ago, then you probably need to repot your plant!
There are a few exceptions, such as the Snake Plant which prefers its roots to be fairly squashed up. In this case you can stretch it to 3 or 4 years before repotting.
Generally a houseplant will be fine in a pot for up to two years. The danger is that the roots will encircle each other and form a tightly-packed ball. When this happens, the plant is considered to be ‘root bound’ and it can slowly choke itself to an unhappy ending.
It’s best to avoid this happening at all by repotting your houseplant when it becomes too big for its pot.
Signs that your houseplant needs repotting include:
- Roots poking out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
- When you lift the plant gently out of its pot, there are lots of roots around the outside of the root ball, following the shape of the pot.
- When you poke a chopstick into the soil, it does not go in easily.
- When you soak the soil of a houseplant, it takes a long time for excess water to drain out the bottom.
- Your plant is growing slower than normal (it will do this naturally in winter, but if it’s doing it in summer then check the roots).
Now, repotting is not always about putting your houseplant in a bigger pot. It could just be about refreshing the soil that it is sitting in.
That is why a regular (at least every 2 years, sometimes less for certain, faster-growing plants like a Pothos) repotting is needed, even if your plant isn’t outgrowing its pot.
If your plant is suffering from poor health or is being attacked by pests, deal with the underlying problem and remove any pests first and then think about repotting. Simply repotting will not solve the problem, but it might be necessary to refresh the soil to get your plant back to full health afterwards.
What Time of Year Should I Repot My Houseplant?
It’s all very well knowing when a houseplant needs regular repotting, but what time of year is best to do it?
Ultimately, if you’re simply sticking to a regular repotting routine, then do it in the spring so that it will be at its strongest. It will be taking in lots of sunshine and putting out new roots so it’s always going to be the best time to repot.
A big change, such as repotting, is always going to be a shock to a plant, but if it’s at its strongest and getting lots of good light then it will hardly notice.
However, if you’ve recognised that your houseplant really needs repotting because of some of the signs listed above then go for it, no matter what time of year.
If you’re in the middle of winter, just be careful not to give the plant too much water after repotting as it will not be using as much of it.
So, to summarise when to repot a houseplant:
- If there are roots growing out of the drainage holes.
- If the soil is really dense, or if the roots are too dense.
- If the plant isn’t growing much in the growing season.
- If you haven’t changed the soil in two years or more.
If any of these signs are there, then you should be considering repotting your plant. If you have a lot of plants, it can help to do a few of them at once while you’ve got all the tools and materials out.
You’re a proud houseplant parent now. You’re just going to have to bite the bullet and get your hands dirty!
Repotting a houseplant is an essential part of their care. Most of the time you’ll only have to do it once a year, maybe even once every two years.
As soon as you get into the habit of doing it, it will become second nature.