Re-potting plants are sometimes a required activity when caring for plants indoors. If your plants are thriving and are placed in appropriately sized pots, there should be no need to re-pot.

The first thing you should establish is if you really do need to re-pot your indoor plant.  Before deciding to re-pot your plant, you will want to consider first other factors that could be affecting the health of your indoor plant, such as watering or sunlight. Possible signs that a houseplant needs to be re-potted include:

  • The plant is noticeably outgrowing its pot
  • The plant is breaking the pot and a lot of roots are coming out the bottom
  • The plant was growing but has now stopped and has begun to develop yellow leaves.
  • The plant cannot be removed from the pot. This is normally because the plant has developed a lot of roots. Over time, the roots will get thicker and start to choke out the plant.

Follow these 5 steps to successfully re-pot your indoor plant. 

Step 1: Choose a new pot and add soil


Choose a plant that you want to move your plant into. Typically when you are re-potting a houseplant, you should move the plant into a pot that is a couple inches larger. You wouldn’t be moving a tiny 4-inch plant into a 17-inch pot. If you’re pot is too big, the plant will not grow very much.

Add soil to the bottom of the plant. You want to maintain the same soil level as the previous pot. If you’re moving from a 6-inch pot to an 8-inch pot, you would want about 2 inches of soil in the new pot. You want to make sure you’re using a pot that has drainage holes.

 Step 2: Pull out the plant


The re-potting process begins with pulling the plant out of the pot. If you pull out the plant and you don’t see any roots, the plant likely does not need to be re-potted.

Step 3: Slash the root


Use a share knife or box cutter to slash the roots slightly. Plants actually like having their roots slashed because it prunes the roots and stimulate new root growth. The slashing of the roots also stops the roots from growing in circles and choking the plant. You don’t want to completely destroy the roots but just give them a good trim.

For very small plants, you may just want to massage the roots instead of using a knife. If a few roots fall off, that’s OK.

Step 4: Put the plant in the new pot


When you put the plant into the new pot you should fill in the sides of the plant with soil. Again, try to keep in mind that you want to keep the soil level similar to the plant’s previous pot.

Step 5: Add water


It’s a good idea to add water to your plant while you’re adding soil in the new pot whether it is in the bottom or the sides. This will help release the air pockets from the soil and settle in place.

Water-in the soil well because new soil tends to be very dry. When you first move your plant into a new pot, you may need to water more than normal.

Re-potting Houseplants FAQs

What is the biggest mistake people make when re-potting plants

One of the most common mistakes people make is moving a plant from too small of a pot to too big of a pot. People may suddenly want a big plant and just by putting a plant in a big pot will not result in the plant growing to that size.

People forgot to slash the roots and the plant grows out of control and the roots are taking up to much space in the soil.

How often do you need to re-pot your houseplants? 

It all depends on how fast the plants grow in the pot. For many indoor plants, you will never need to re-pot. Ambius for example often recommends businesses to use plant species that do not grow very fast to avoid issues with needing to re-pot plants often.

Is it more difficult to re-pot larger plants? 

Tall potted plants like ficus trees and the like can be more difficult to re-pot and may take multiple people to lift and remove. In some instances, you may need to cut the plant off because it is so root-bound.

Can you re-pot palms? 

Be careful re-potting palms as they like to be root-bound and often do not respond favorably to being re-potted. In general, don’t re-pot palms unless you absolutely have to.

 Learn more about the benefits of indoor plants in our Ultimate Guide to Office Plants