What should you not do when repotting?

Why is repotting important?

Repotting houseplants is an essential part of keeping them healthy and thriving. Over time, plants will outgrow their containers and become rootbound. Repotting gives them fresh soil and more room for their root systems to expand. It also allows you to examine the roots for any problems. However, repotting can stress plants if not done properly. Avoiding common mistakes will ensure your plants recover quickly and start growing vigorously again.

When should you avoid repotting plants?

The key to avoiding stress on your plants is timing the repotting correctly. Here are times when you should not repot:

During periods of active growth

If your plant is actively producing new shoots and leaves, hold off on repotting. Active growth periods happen in spring and summer. Repotting during this high-energy time can stunt growth and set the plant back. It’s best to wait until autumn or winter when most plants enter dormancy.

When buds or flowers are forming

Don’t disrupt plants when flower buds are forming or in bloom. Repotting puts energy towards root growth rather than the blooms. Wait until flowers fade before repotting.

When the plant is showing signs of stress

Stressed plants are already weakened and will have a harder time adapting to a new container. Look for yellowing leaves, wilting, dry soil, or insects before repotting. Resolve any underlying issues first.

Right before or after introducing to a new environment

Plants need time to acclimate anytime there is a major change. Avoid repotting immediately before or after moving a plant’s environment like outdoors vs indoors. Let it get used to the new conditions for a few weeks before repotting.

What mistakes should be avoided when repotting?

The repotting process itself also requires care to avoid common mishaps. Here are things to avoid when repotting houseplants:

Using a container that is too big

Resist the urge to size up too much with a drastically larger pot. A container that is more than 2 inches wider will retain too much moisture. It can lead to root rot from wet soil. Size up gradually, only 1 to 2 inches wider.

Failing to loosen bound roots

Gently loosen up any tightly packed or circled roots before placing in new soil. Use your fingers or a blunt tool like a chopstick to tease them apart. Straightening roots encourages them to grow out into the fresh soil.

Burying the stem and crown too deep

The stem and crown where leaves emerge should sit just above the soil line. Burying this plant tissue can cause stem rot. Check the previous soil line on the plant and match that depth.

Packing the soil too tightly

Avoid pressing down too firmly when adding new soil around plant roots. Compacted soil prevents proper drainage and oxygen flow to the roots. Lightly firm the soil but avoid compacting it.

Watering too soon after repotting

Wait 5-7 days before watering newly repotted plants. Immediate watering can shock roots and lead to rotting. Let damaged roots from the process heal before reintroducing moisture.

Exposing roots to air for too long

Once a plant is out of its pot, repot it quickly to avoid roots drying out. Have the new container and soil mix prepared ahead of time. If the roots are exposed longer than 15-20 minutes, it can severely damage the plant.

Repotting in a different season than the plant’s native environment

Tropical plants, for example, grow in summer and go dormant for winter in their native habitats. Repot at the start of their growing season, in spring or summer. Repotting in fall or winter will shock tropicals adapted to active summer growth.

Using a poorly draining soil mix

Always repot into fresh, high-quality soil meant for containers. Avoid regular garden soil, which holds too much moisture. Choose a mix with ingredients like peat moss, bark chips, perlite or pumice to improve drainage. This prevents soggy soil issues like root rot.

How can you repot without shocking plants?

Follow these tips to transition houseplants to new containers with minimal stress:

Select a new pot that is only slightly larger

Upsizing 1 to 2 inches wider provides room to spread out new roots without oversizing. Plastic and glazed ceramic pots are good choices for most houseplants. Make sure the pot has drainage holes.

Water 1-2 days before repotting

Moistening the soil makes removal from the old pot easier. Dry soil tends to crumble and damage delicate roots during repotting. Pre-water to hydrate roots and keep soil intact.

Choose a potting mix for indoor plants

The ideal mix is lightweight, porous and fast-draining. Look for ingredients like peat moss, perlite, bark chips or coconut coir. Always avoid regular garden soil indoors.

Carefully remove from current container

If rootbound, lay the plant on its side and gently squeeze the sides of the pot to loosen. Slide the plant out carefully. If needed, run a blunt knife along the inside edges, but avoid cutting the roots.

Loosen and untangle any matted roots

Use your fingers or a chopstick to gently separate tightly packed roots so they grow outward into fresh soil. Prune any dead or badly tangled roots.

Set in new pot and fill with soil

Place into the prepared pot, matching the old soil line. Fill around roots with new soil, firming lightly. Leave 1 inch below the rim empty to allow watering.

Hold off fertilizing for a month

Fertilizer salts can burn stressed root systems. Avoid fertilizing for 3-4 weeks after repotting to allow recovery. After a month, resume normal fertilizing when watering.

What size pot is ideal when repotting houseplants?

Choosing the best size new container comes down to the plant’s root system and growth rate:

Slow growing plants – Size up 1 inch wider

Slow growers like cacti and succulents need less frequent repotting, just when severely rootbound. Repot into a container 1 inch larger in diameter.

Average growth rate – Size up 2 inches

These plants include most houseplants like pothos, philodendron, dracaena and peperomia. Repot every 2-3 years into a container 2 inches wider.

Fast growing plants – Size up 2-3 inches

Fast growers require repotting at least annually. Increase the pot size up to 3 inches for very vigorous plants like monstera, bamboo, ficus and palms.

Consider the plant’s full grown size

Factor in the plant’s adult size, not just current size. A small new plant expected to grow large, like a fiddle leaf fig, needs a pot with long term room to expand.

What are signs it’s time to repot a houseplant?

Here are signals that indicate a houseplant is overdue for repotting into fresh soil and a larger container:

Water drains very quickly

If water pours right through the pot, the plant has likely outgrown the container. A rootbound plant prevents water from being retained. Time to size up the pot.

Roots growing through drainage holes

Visible roots emerging from the holes at the base clearly indicates root crowding. Carefully repot into a slightly larger pot to allow room for more root growth.

Soil drying out frequently

Plants in too small a container use up water faster. You’ll find yourself needing to water an overly rootbound plant more often as the soil dries out quickly.

Stunted growth and small new leaves

Restricted roots prevent plants from taking up nutrients and water. Without resources, plants can’t sustain normal growth. Repotting provides more room for root expansion.

Top heavy appearance and falling over

If the plant looks too big for its container and tips over easily, restricted roots can’t stabilize in limited space or properly anchor the plant. Time for a roomier pot.

How can you minimize transplant shock when repotting?

Follow these tips to reduce stress on plants after repotting:

Wait 5-7 days to water

Hold off on watering after transplanting to prevent moisture damage to new roots. Wait for soil to dry out slightly before watering.

Avoid hot sun

Keep freshly repotted plants out of direct sunlight for a few days. Too much sun stresses new roots. Offer bright, indirect light as they recover.

Mist leaves

Misting replaces some moisture lost through leaves and raises humidity around the plant. Higher humidity helps reduce transpiration while new roots establish.

Allow a recovery period

Don’t fertilize or propagate repotted plants right away. Give them 2-4 weeks undisturbed to adjust before resuming normal care.

Remove any flowers or buds

Redirects the plant’s energy towards root growth and plant health, rather than blooms which can further stress plants.

Provide support if needed

Stake tall or wavering plants to stabilize them while getting established in the new container.

What type of potting soil should be used when repotting houseplants?

The soil mix is a critical factor in repotting success. Look for:

Lightweight and porous texture

Good aeration and drainage prevent compacted, overly damp soil that suffocates roots and leads to rotting.

Moisture retaining properties

Ingredients like peat moss or coconut coir hold some moisture but still remain well-draining.

Nutrient content

Mixes amended with compost, worm castings or organic fertilizer supply nutrients without “hot” synthetic chemicals.

pH suitable for the plant variety

Acid lovers like orchids and blueberries prefer mixes tailored with acidic peat. Alkaline plants like succulents need more neutral to alkaline soil.


Sterilized, commercial mixes prevent diseases, fungi and pests from contaminating the plant’s new environment. Avoid garden soils.

Slow release fertilizer

Granular, slow release fertilizer provides a gentle nutrient boost as the plant establishes after transplanting.


Repotting is a vital practice for maintaining healthy houseplants but it can turn detrimental without proper care. Avoid repotting when plants are stressed or actively growing. Prevent transplant shock by gently handling roots and using well-draining potting mixes. With the right timing and technique, repotting revitalizes plants by allowing roots room to thrive in fresh soil. Monitor carefully after repotting and hold off on fertilizing or heavy watering until the plant recovers fully. Consistent plant care paired with attentive, infrequent repotting keeps houseplants flourishing for many years to come. Following these guidelines transforms repotting from a risky shock into a rejuvenating reboot.

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