How to Re-pot a House Plant

Early Spring is a great time to re-pot your houseplants.  Here is a step by step guide:

  1. Make sure your Houseplants are well-watered, ideally a day or two before you plan to re-pot them.

    Growing citrus indoors

    A Citrus and a purple Oxalis ready to be re-potted.

  2. Gather your supplies.  You’ll need a good potting soil or worm compost (I’m using a package of worm castings that I bought at the garden centre.)
    potting soil, worm castings

    Pamper your Plant brand Worm Castings


  3. Un-pot your plant.  Gently support the base of the trunk or the surface of the soil with your hand, turn over the plant and give the pot a gentle whack.  The plant should fall out.

    re-potting houseplants

    Examining the roots. The Oxalis has orange tubers and fine roots.

  4. Examine the roots.  If your plant has so many tightly wound roots that it looks like it doesn’t even need a pot to hold the soil together, then it is root-bound and needs a bigger pot.  Carefully loosen some the roots with your fingers so they are facing outward. If it doesn’t look root-bound, like this plant, then you can re-pot into the same size pot.  (Pots that are too large can lead to root-rot as the soil remains too damp).
  5. Add a sheet of paper to the bottom of the pot to keep the soil from falling through the holes.  (All pots should have drainage holes, or the plant will not survive.)

    re-potting plants

    Add a sheet of paper to the bottom of the pot to prevent soil from falling through the holes

  6. Add a layer of soil on the bottom, estimating how much it will take to bring the surface of the plant’s soil up to the level of the rim of the pot.  (Some settling will occur over time.)

    re-plant house plant

    Adding soil to the pot. Note the white salts left on the pot from watering with Calgary’s hard water.

  7. Add soil to all the spaces around the plant, gently packing it down with your fingers or a small stick.  The soil should be filled to the rim.
    Re-pot a Houseplant

    Lots of airspace means we need to add more soil.

    re-potting houseplants

    Adding new potting soil to fill the spaces around the edges.

    The Oxalis now has new soil filling all the spaces, and is ready to water.

    The Oxalis now has new soil filling all the spaces, and is ready to water.

  8. Water the plant in the sink, and then return it to its regular spot.


    Freshly re-potted Oxalis

  9. Don’t over-water for the next month or so as roots re-establish themselves.  Allow the plant to dry out between waterings, especially if it has been re-potted in a larger pot.

    Thriving houseplant

    A few days after re-potting, this Oxalis is thriving once again.

How do you know your plant needs to be re-potted?  

There are many signs that a plant needs to be re-potted, and needs fresh soil for the nutrients.  If the lower leaves are yellowing, that is a sign the plant needs more nitrogen.  If the plant looks overly big for its pot, that is a sign it needs a bigger pot.  If the plant just doesn’t seem to be growing or thriving anymore, that is also a sign.  Most plants need to be re-potted at least once a year.

Does my plant need more nitrogen?

Citrus tree with yellowing lower leaves

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