Repotting Large Plants

Repotting a large house plant can be as easy as repotting a small one, if you take it a step at a time. Here we tell you how to tackle the job successfully. Largehouse plants need repotting for the same reasons as smaller ones: to replace worn-out potting mixture with a fresh one, and to provide more room for roots. If your house plant is already in the largest convenient pot, you should still refresh the potting mixture regularly.

Have handy plenty of suitable potting mixture— more than you think you need, just in case —and a trowel. Other useful items include newspaper; a dustpan and brush; a large, sharp knife; a bamboo cane and sturdy twine.

Repotting Large PlantsWhat size pot?

Most people find a 25-30cm (10-12 inches) pot the largest size they can easily deal with, although bigger pots and planters are sold. If you have room for a larger pot, and your plant is pot-bound, use a pot 2.5-5cm (1-2 inches) larger than the present one.

Some house plants can grow huge if given larger and larger pots, and you may not want an enormous specimen. Sometimes a plant has been in its potting mixture for a long time and has not grown, in spite of being fed. In both cases, simply repot into a clean pot the same size as the present one, using fresh potting mixture.

Making a start

  • Spring is the best time to repot. You can repot at other times, but avoid repotting a plant in bud or flower. Water the plant 24 hours before repotting – not too much, or the mixture will be too messy!
  • Tie up any floppy growth loosely with twine, to reduce bulk and prevent damage. Carefully lay the pot on its side on a large table or on the floor. If possible, get someone to help you.

If the plant has a thick, single stem, a firm but gentle pull should loosen the rootball. If the pot has a large drainage hole, push from below at the same time, using a bamboo cane through the hole. Try sliding a long knife round the outer edge of the rootball, to free stubborn roots clinging to the sides. As a last resort, smash a clay pot with a hammer, or cut

  • If your plant has floppy, wide-spreading stems or leaves, tic them loosely together before starting, to reduce bulk and prevent damage.
  • Use a firm but gentle tug to remove plants with tough, single stems from their pots. A second pair of hands makes the job easier!
  • To loosen stubborn roots clinging to the L insides of the pot, run a long, sharp kitchen knife round the outer edge of the rootball.
  • Use a trowel to fill the space between the rootball and the edge of the pot. Tamp down the compost gently to make sure you fill any air a plastic pot, using strong snippers.


Once the plant is out of its pot, use the same techniques for teasing out the old compost, filling the pot, firming the compost, watering to settle and re-staking. If using a larger pot, make sure the plant is centred in the pot and upright, and that it is at the same level in the new pot as it was in the old one. If it is too low in the pot, you may need to add a layer of compost in the bottom first.


I am just about to repot my pot-bound Parlour Palm. Does it need special treatment afterwards?

All newly repotted house plants need time to recover from the shock. Water sparingly for the first 2 weeks after repotting. Wait for 2-3 months before feeding, to encourage young roots to search for food in the new compost. When repotting your palm, be sure to firm the potting mixture, but palm roots are brittle, so be careful not to damage any.

A friend of mine cut some roots off his large Weeping Fig when he repotted it. Won’t this kill it?

Root pruning can be tricky, but it may be your only choice if a pot-bound plant in its maximum size pot doesn’t respond to repotting or top-dressing. Use a sharp knife to cut 2.5cm (1 inches) thick slices of root from the outer edge of the rootball. It is a good idea to prune some of the old top growth off too.

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