How to repot a plant without killing it: Five simple steps

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Like people grow out of clothes, plants outgrow their pots but when it comes to plants, it’s important to stay one step ahead. Leaving a plant in a pot far too small for it for extended periods of time is often more detrimental to its health than uprooting it and by following the right guidance, you’ll be able to do so with ease.

There are several signs your plant might need to be repotted, and these might include:

  • It simply looks too big for its pot (foliage more than three times the size of the planter)
  • Its roots are growing out of the drainage holes
  • Water is sitting at the top of the soil and not draining
  • Roots are pushing the plant up and out of the planter
  • The plant is growing much slower than normal

You also might just want a new decorative pot.

It’s recommended plants be repotted every 12-18 months, but it’s better for you to compare your plant to any of the above symptoms instead of following that advice as gospel, because you may have bought a pot too big for the plant initially to grow into.

Although, repotting a plant doesn’t necessarily mean changing the pot completely. It also refers to changing the soil or potting mix.

Fresh soil means new nutrients, and it’s a great way to combat a few particular symptoms, like slowing growth, without getting rid of your favourite planter.

But in all instances – from new pots to new soil – the plant removal technique remains the same and it’s important to follow guidance rather than wing it because if you do it wrong, it can lead to the untimely demise of your favourite plant.

To give your plant the best shot at survival, here are five of the best steps to repot your plant without killing it.

How to repot a plant

First, make sure you have the right equipment. This would include:

Your current pot, or a new, bigger pot if required – with drainage holes
Fresh potting mix
Gloves (sap can irritate skin)
Rocks (if your pot doesn’t have drainage holes)
A watering can

Step one: Remove the plant from the pot

To do this without causing too much harm, turn your plant sideways or upside down, hold it gently by the stem and tap the bottom of its current pot until it slides out.

You might need to gently tug it at the base of its stem, but after a few twists, you should be able to easily wiggle it out.

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If it’s not budging too easily, you can use a trowel or a knife to help separate the plant from the pot.

Step two: Loosen the roots

Next, loosen the plant’s roots. You can trim the threadlike roots that are exceptionally long, but try not to touch the thicker roots at the base.

If your plant is root bound, which means the roots are growing in tight circles around the base, unbind them as much as you can and give them a trim.

Step three: Remove and replace the potting mix

To do this effectively, remove around one-third of the old mix surrounding its roots.

Pour a fresh layer of soil into the empty pot and push it down to remove any air pockets. If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes, add a few rocks or gravel to the bottom before adding the mix.

The serves the purpose of providing additional dips and crevices for excess water to pool to prevent drowning your plant.

Step four: Place your plant in the pot

Place your plant back on top of the fresh layer of soil making sure it’s completely centre.

Add more potting mix around the plant until secure, but make sure it’s not too compact. The roots will need space to breathe.

Step five: Water

Once your plant is safe and secure in its new home or potting mix, evenly water the soil.

This will help settle the soil, as well as revitalise your plant after a few stressful minutes of uprooting.

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