Keeping plants alive is one thing, but knowing exactly how and when to repot a plant requires a whole new level of indoor gardening knowledge.
The right gardening tools are required, of course, but it turns out you don’t necessarily need a green thumb in order to properly repot your most hard-earned indoor houseplants.
Keep your most beloved indoor plants thriving with our how-to guide that details how to repot a plant without the fuss (or mess).
1. Determine if Your Plant Needs a New Home
A surefire sign your plant needs to be repotted is the presence of visible roots. Once plant roots make their unwanted presence known along the top of the soil (or if you witness a root growing through the drainage hole on the bottom of a pot), get your gardening tools ready. “That’s a sign that your plant is root-bound and needs more space,” says Mast. Another clue that your plant babies are in desperate need of a new home: If water rushes through the pot and out the drainage hole upon giving your plants a drink. According to Mast, this means that the roots are taking up too much real estate within the pot, resulting in a less-than-stellar soil-to-root ratio.
2. Stake Out a Spot in Your Home
If you’re limited on square footage in your humble abode, opt for an open area like a basement or outdoor patio. Dirt spillage is inevitable, which is why Mast recommends laying down an old sheet instead of newspaper to help corral dirt particles and stray plant trimmings.
3. Choose a Proper Pot
When selecting a new pot, choose a vessel that’s approximately 2 inches larger in diameter than the previous planter. If your new pot exceeds the 2-inch limit, your plant may suffer, since an excess of soil can lead to wet plants and root damage down the road. Remember to choose a pot with a sufficient drainage hole and saucer, too. “A plant without drainage is much more susceptible to root rot and death from overwatering,” says Mast of the common indoor gardening mistake.
4. Add Fresh Potting Soil to the Mix
Once you’ve selected your chosen pot, fill the planter one-third of the way full with fresh potting soil. Do this by sliding the plant from its current vessel and gently shaking the plant to encourage its roots to come along for the ride. With the help of sharp scissors or pruning shears, cut back any dead, mushy, discolored, or excessively long roots. Mast notes here that you should wipe the blades with rubbing alcohol between each snip.
5. Position the Plant
Next, place the plant in the center of the new pot, taking care to position the top of its root ball (the semi-solid mass of soil and roots) one inch below the top of the vessel. Fill the pot with soil, tamping the dirt down around the roots, leaving 1 to 2 inches of room between the dirt and the pot’s rim. “This enables you to water the plant without liquid spilling over the edge too quickly,” says Mast.
6. Give Your Plant a Drink
Lastly, water your plant thoroughly—that is, until water flows freely from the bottom of the pot. Afterward, allow the plant to “rest” so all water drains from your new pot, then place the pot on its new saucer. If water begins to puddle on the saucer, allow the plant to rest off the saucer for a few minutes longer to adequately drain.