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Repotting houseplants: Tips for changing plant containers

Keep houseplants healthy by repotting in fresh soil
Keep houseplants healthy by repotting in fresh soil
F. D. Richards

Soon, it will be time to bring the houseplants indoors for a season. At least, this is true for those in areas with cold winters. After a long, hot summer vacation outside, many of your indoor plants would appreciate a little renewal before settling down to go dormant. Repotting into fresh, healthy soil and a sparkling, sanitary container makes all the difference in the future performance of your houseplants.

Repotting an indoor plant should be done according to the plant's needs. Some plants prefer to be tight in the pot. Research your plant to learn if it likes to be root bound.. Compacted or unhealthy soil can make plants look droopy or stunted. Perhaps the drainage is not correct and you need to pot in a different soil or mix. The roots may need to be trimmed; particularly on an older bonsai or a plant with root damage.

The answer to all of the above is repotting the plant. Water the plant completely a day, or at least a few hours before putting into a new pot. It is easier, in most cases, to work with damp soil.

Choose a Container and Potting Media

Pick a container that suits the plants' overall form and height. Plant tall plants in tall containers, short plants in shorter containers. The larger the spread of the roots, the wider the container should be. It is usually best to go up only one container size when repotting.

Choose a medium that provides appropriate nutrients and drainage. Good anchorage of tall plants is important.


Get materials and container ready. If reusing a container, sterilize it with a 10-1 bleach solution.. Fill container with pre-moistened potting media, allowing room for placement of the new plant.

In an area away from new container, remove plant from pot and remove all of the old potting soil.

Remove as much soil as possible and trim any roots that are damaged or in need of pruning. Root pruning will encourage new development of the root system.

Put the plant in the center of the new container with the crown near the top. Fill in with new media to within half an inch of the top. Press in, careful not to cause compaction, gently but firmly. Water over the soil surface. This may cause soil to settle, if so add more potting mix on top.


Use an attractive mulch to retain moisture, prevent evaporation and enhance the display. Locate the plant in proper light, away from vents and drafts. Then, gradually transition your houseplants back into their indoor, winter home.

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