You may have noticed that your potted plants are starting to look a little big for their containers. This can only mean one thing: it's time to repot. If you don't, your plants' roots are going to struggle for space, and the plants themselves will be in danger of becoming pot-bound. When roots are spread too widely inside of a pot, they become cramped and have a harder time absorbing the nutrients they need to survive. Consequently, your plant could stop growing and begin to die off. You'll want to be sure to repot your plants quickly, and more importantly, correctly.

Signs You Need to Repot

There are a few signs that will tell you it’s time to get your plant a larger pot. You may start to see a few roots escaping from its current container, either coming out of the soil on top or from any drainage holes on the bottom. Your plant may have seemed to have stopped growing altogether. If possible, try to take a closer look at the entire root system. You can usually accomplish this with smaller plants by rolling them over on their sides and slowly sliding their soil out. If you can see that the roots are coiled up towards the bottom of the pot, your plant is either pot-bound or well on its way to becoming pot-bound.

Size of the New Container

different-sized planting containers

It's easy to think that bigger is better when it comes to selecting the size of your plant's next pot, but this can actually cause some serious problems later on. A container that’s too big might end up retaining more water than your plant can absorb, meaning its roots would be left to sit in water and, eventually, rot. Oversized pots can also slow the growth of your plant's top part while its roots are setting. Instead, you'll want to pick a pot that’s about two inches deeper and wider than the one your plant was previously in. This size will leave the roots enough space to grow relatively quickly while simultaneously giving the top of the plant its fair share of breathing room. No matter what you decide on, you’ll want to make sure that your new container has at least a few drainage holes.


If you’re planning on using any secondhand pots, you’ll want to give them a good cleaning before planting in them again. Scrub them out and disinfect them to get rid of any potential diseases or microscopic pests. Use one part bleach and nine parts water to create your own disinfectant, and be sure to rinse the pot clean of this solution after letting it sit for a while.

Gentle Process of Repotting

carefully repotting a plant

Once you're ready to repot, you'll want to start by removing your plant from its current container. You may have to tap a bit on the bottom of the pot to loosen up the roots and soil. If that doesn’t free things up enough, try taking a knife or small trowel and moving it around the pot's edges. If you're going to attempt this, you'll want to be very careful not to damage the rootball in the process.

Next, you’ll want to get those roots ready for repotting. If they're coiled up near the bottom of the soil, you’ll want to pull them out gently until they're straight. You might even consider pruning the roots slightly, as it will stimulate their growth and make it easier for them to establish themselves in a new pot.

Put a small amount of potting mix in the bottom of your new container. Hold the plant in the center and add more soil around it until the pot is full. Be sure to lightly pat down the dirt near the sides. Give the plant a nice watering afterward to get your roots off to a great start and to help the potting mix settle in. You may have to add a bit more soil to the pot if the water pushes the initial amount further down.

After Care

potted plants

Your newly repotted plant has just been through a lot, and you'll have to avoid placing it under too much stress in the immediate time after this ordeal. For instance, you'll want to avoid putting them in direct sunlight for more than a short period of time and make sure their soil stays moist without becoming soggy. Wait a month before feeding repotted plants to give their root systems time to establish themselves and to avoid fertilizer burn.

Repotting your plants might sometimes seem like an unnecessary step, but your roots are eventually going to need more room for growth if you expect your plants to thrive. Once you've finished, your plants will be happy with their new homes, and you'll be happy with the bigger blooms and vibrant foliage they start to produce.