Expert advice on repotting your plants

Whether you’ve bought a whole new raft of houseplants to green up your indoor space over the past year, or have well-established favourites, there will come a time when you’ll need to repot them.

Claire Bishop, of Dobbies Garden Centres, and Jo Lambell, founder of houseplant specialist Beards & Daisies, offer the following advice.

What time of year should you repot houseplants?
Ms Lambell says spring is the best time for repotting. “This marks the beginning of the growing season, when your plant will be thriving, flourishing and even flowering if it’s the type to produce blooms during the warmer months.”

How often should you repot them?

“As a rough timescale, you will need to repot your plant every one to two years, depending on its growth rate,” says Ms Lambell.

“Most plants will happily repot but, as always, there’s no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to care and you’ll need to consider the individual plant’s needs.

“For example, for a bird of paradise or peace lily to flower, they need to be in relatively small pots. If your plant is currently flowering, try to avoid repotting as this could lead to transplant shock.”

Read: How to make your home a houseplant haven

How do you know they need repotting?

If the plant looks a little lacklustre, or its roots are growing out of the pot (unless it’s an orchid) or is no longer growing quickly and is drying out fast, these are all signs it needs to be repotted, says Ms Lambell.

Some plants, such as sansevieria (snake plant), will throw up new pups (offshoots). Rather than repotting, you can just split those, Ms Bishop suggests.

“Cacti shouldn’t need to be repotted because they are so slow growing and don’t have heavy root structures. You won’t have to touch a large cactus for five or six years,” she says.

How should you repot them?
“Choose a new pot that is around 3-5cm larger,” Ms Lambell advises. “Try not to go much bigger than this – as a rule, don’t go beyond two pot sizes bigger – as this can overwhelm the plant with soil and water it doesn’t need.

“Once you’ve chosen the perfect pot upgrade, remove your plant from its existing pot and separate the roots, shaking off the old soil. Pack a layer of fresh soil in the new pot (your plant will love the new nutrients) and set the plant in. Surround with soil and give it a little water.”

What if you don’t want a pot-bound plant to grow too big?

You could split a plant and transplant the pieces into two separate pots, Ms Bishop suggests.

Read: Six plants that thrive indoors

“Where small growths appear on plants such as sansevieria, you just take it out of the pot and split it, taking off the smaller plants or just break the plant in half. They are really robust and will easily come back.”

Can plants die when you try to repot them?
“A lot of plants do suffer from transplant shock, so when you first repot or split them they almost sag and look like they won’t survive. But water them and put them back in the same conditions they were originally in and they should be okay,” says Ms Bishop.

“A lot of people make the mistake of repotting them and then putting them into a different room. Ideally, put them back to where they originally were.”

Which are good plants for repotting?
Peace lilies, monsteras, sansevierias, ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), marantas (prayer plants), tradescantias and philodendron.

Are any plants more difficult?
“Calatheas are trickier, more sensitive houseplants. I would repot them in a slightly bigger pot, one size up, rather than splitting them. They are happy as long as you feed them and don’t change their air conditions too much. Draughts and changes of light levels can affect them.

Read: Things you’ll only know if you’re a consistent plant killer

“Flowering plants can be tricky because if you don’t plant them at the right time you can kill the flower and cause the plant to go into shock,” says Ms Bishop.

Is there a technique to splitting plants?

“Be quite fearless,” says Ms Bishop. “I tend to split it in half to be left with two big healthy chunks. Then a lot of the nutrients in the roots aren’t damaged.”

What about compost?
“It depends on the type of plant. There’s cactus compost, there’s citrus compost. My perfect mix is a houseplant compost to which I add a bit of perlite to allow more drainage. Then, if you overwater but have that drainage in the compost structure, it could save the plant,” says Ms Bishop.

Have you had trouble repotting plants? Is it something that you do periodically? Why not share your plant successes in the comments section below?

– With PA

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Written by Hannah Stephenson



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