When Does A House Plant Need Re-Potting?

Many indoor plants thrive happily in pots which look too small for them. In fact, the plant development you are anxious to achieve may actually be frustrated if you transfer the plant to a bigger pot before it is needed. No indoor plant should ever be given a larger container until it is positively potbound. This could be as long as one or two years after purchase, and never in the case of some specimens. Bromeliads, for example, seldom, if ever, become potbound.House Plant Need Re-Potting

The best time to check if your plant needs repotting is in late spring. Symptoms to look for are:

  • Leaves and stems grow very slowly. Regular feeding in spring and summer fail to achieve any improvement.
  • Compost dries out very quickly and watering is frequently necessary.
  • Plant roots hang from the drainage hole of the pot.

If any of these characteristics are observed a further check should then be made. Allow the plant compost to become slightly dry, so that it does not fall away from the roots as you remove it from the pot. Spread the fingers of one hand across the top of the pot and turn the pot upside down. Gently tap its rim on the edge of a bench, lifting the pot away with the other hand as you do so. The plant with its soil ball adhering will remain in one hand, the pot in the other.

Equipment For Re-Potting

A pair of florist’s scissors

These have longer handles and shorter blades than household scissors. They are very useful if root trimming is necessary when you are re-potting.

A sprayer

You will not need an elaborate one, but it must be capable of giving a mist spray. An adjustable nozzle is an asset.

How To Repot Houseplants

A powder puffer

This should be one specially designed to puff a small amount of fine powder on a tiny area of your plant when there is a cut or wound that needs attention.

A thermometer

Choose one of sensible size, say 15 cm (6 ins) preferably with both Centrigrade and Fahrenheit calibrations.

repotting techniques

A pocket knife

A slim, two-bladed pocket knife of good quality, which can be sharpened to a fine edge, is the ideal type. The main blade should be 5 cm (2 in) long. Do not buy a bulky ‘full of gadgets’ knife, they are a nuisance. Nor do you want one with a curved `pruner’ type of blade.

A kitchen fork

This is the most useful tool for breaking up the `pan’ of hard dry compost at the top of a pot when it becomes too dry.

A watering can

Choose one of the modern, plastic type in a size suitable to your plant collection. Remember that you want to be able to water accurately and to avoid marking furniture or carpets while supplying the plants with the correct quantity of water. Do not select a can that is too large, or you will find that it is heavy and cumbersome to handle.

Miscellaneous items

In addition to these basic tools there are some other items which it is useful to have on hand.

Polythene bags of varying sizes

These will preserve humidity, protect plants from draughts and radically reduce the need to water. They are useful when you need to protect a delicate plant after re-potting. If you are going away for a few days, place a polythene bag over your small plants and stand them in a shaded spot.

Liquid fertilizer

A compound, concentrated Biochemical Liquid Fertilizer for feeding indoor plants. ‘Baby Bio’ is one, there are others.

Powdered fungicide (flowers of sulphur)

You will need this in your powder puffer.

Liquid insecticide

This can be either a contact or systemic type.

Crushed charcoal

Ikg (1 lb) to mix with compost when re-potting.


Thin canes of varying sizes to support plants.


Made of cane or plastic, for use in training climbing plants.


Fine metal rings for holding stems in position when training them up the canes or frames.


A soft string which will not cut into soft stems, for tying plants.

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