Plants can be just like us. When they’re forced to move, they experience stress. While plants don’t have to hire movers, find roommates, and pay that dang security deposit, relocation doesn’t always sit well with them. This reaction to a change of scenery is known as transplant shock. It can occur when you bring a plant home from a greenhouse, or even when switching them from one planter to another.
Luckily, there are techniques to moving plants that minimize potential harm to our foliage friends. It’s important to be careful, gentle, and very deliberate when uprooting and repotting. It’s also important to take advantage of uprooting so that once you’ve re-planted, you don’t have to dig your plant out for a long time. Soon, you’ll be a master mover, and your indoor plants will feel comfortable enough in their new pots to join the local HOA.
Why Would You Re-Pot Your Houseplants?
There are several reasons why it may be time to uproot your house plants. For new gardeners, it’s perhaps a moment you’ve been dreading. But those with more experience know it’s a natural part of house plant care. Sometimes, you need to get your hands dirty!
Your Plant Needs a Bigger Pot
The first reason is simple—growth. If your plant is getting plenty of sun and nutrients, there’s a good chance that it will outgrow its original pot. There are a few signs that your plant may need to be moved to a bigger pot.
- Roots are growing out of the bottom of your drainage holes.
- The plant is tilting, or even toppling over.
- Roots are clumped up in a tight ball.
- It isn’t growing as quickly as it used to.
- The soil is no longer absorbing water.
- Leaves are wilting or turning yellow.
All of these symptoms may mean that it’s time to find your plant a bigger home. It’s sick of its studio apartment and wants a second bathroom.
Many of the above signs are indicators that a plant is pot-bound, which means the roots have started circling around the pot, and growth is restricted. Becoming pot-bound is detrimental to a plant’s roots, and that affects every aspect of growth and health. So if you’re trying to diagnose what’s wrong with your Dracaena, it might be time to look under the hood—um, soil. When upgrading to a larger pot, you’ll want to make sure it’s at least two inches larger in diameter than the current planter.
Change Up Your Soil
Sometimes, you’ll need to re-pot your plant in order to get some fresh soil in there. Repotting does not have to mean switching pots completely. It can also mean up-rooting, and then re-potting in the same planter.
One of the most important factors in good soil is proper drainage. If you notice that your soil is compacted, or always seems dry no matter how often you water it, you’ll want to think about replacing it. Good soil is sort of a contradiction.
It should be dense enough to hold your plant, yet permeable enough for air and water to pass through, yet dense enough to retain moisture.
If you’re looking for new soil to re-pot your plant in, we recommend getting the good stuff. Potting mixes with many organic ingredients should help your plants thrive, along with accessories like Lava Rocks, which can be mixed into the soil in order to help absorption.
Has your plant been begging for stem implants for years? Probably not, but there’s a chance it may still need surgery. If a plant has a disease, you’ll often need to uproot it to fix the problem.
Root rot, one of the most common problems for indoor plants, is caused by overwatering. If your plant shows signs of root rot, you may have to extract it from its soil and remove the infected roots in order to keep your plant alive. If your plant has a root disease, you’ll also want to replace the original soil.
Consider using a moisture meter to avoid overwatering in the future.
The only thing better than one Snake Plant is two Snake Plants. But before you click over to Rooted for a second sansevieria, consider propagation. Propagation is simply the process of creating new plants, and it’s something we gardeners can do ourselves.
One of the ways to propagate a plant is called division. All you have to do is uproot your house plant, find an area in the roots that seems like a natural place to divide, and carefully separate your plant into two. Then, re-pot half the plant in its original container, and the other half in a brand new container. Boom! Two plants for the price of one! Be careful—if you don’t propagate properly you’ll end up with zero plants for the price of one.
Upgrade Your Planter
There are several reasons (besides being too small), that you may choose to upgrade your current planter.
The first and most important reason is a lack of drainage holes. Without proper drainage, excess water can build up in your pot, and suffocate or drown the roots, leading to plant death. Another reason could be that your pot is cracked, broken, or in some other way not doing its job. And finally, it may just be an ugly pot. We know, this one’s for your sake, not your plants’ sake, but we don’t judge! Get that Silver Sword into something sexy. Or maybe consider trying a hanging planter.
How To Move Your Houseplants
Okay, that was the why, now comes the how. As with all things gardening, becoming a master re-potter takes practice, so don’t get discouraged if at first it’s a literal and figurative mess. We’ll get through it together.
- Water Your Plant: You want your plant to be hydrated before you uproot it. This will help prevent the plant from going into transplant shock.
- Choose Your New Pot: As we mentioned earlier, if your plant is outgrowing its pot, you’ll want your new one to be at least two inches larger in diameter. If your plant needs a lot of water, consider anti-absorbent material for your pot, while absorbent material like terracotta is good for desert plants.
- Prepare The New Pot: Get your new pot ready by filling it with a few inches of fresh soil or potting mix. This will allow the roots to continue to grow down once planted. Some people like to put a layer of rocks under the soil to catch excess water, but if your planter has drainage holes, this isn’t necessary. Before filling your planter with soil, place a paper towel under the drainage holes to catch leaking soil.
- Remove Plant From Pot: Grab your plant near the base, and pull it carefully out of the pot. If it doesn’t come out, wiggle it around slowly to break it free, or else use a knife to cut into the soil and free up your plant. But be delicate with those roots!
- Tend To The Roots: Brush the soil off your plant so you can clearly see the roots. Break up clumps of roots, pull tangled roots apart, and use pruning shears or a knife to cut off any dead or rotting roots.
- Place Plant In New Pot: Carefully set your plant inside the new pot. If you’re using the same pot again, make sure you wash it thoroughly before you use it again. And do not use the same soil. Once your plant is set in the middle of your pot, fill the pot with soil so the plant feels firmly in place.
- Water Once More: In order for the new soil to properly settle, you’ll need to water the newly watered plant, even if you watered it shortly before repotting. Keep it out of the direct sun for a few days, as your newly repotted plant may be weaker than usual.
Time To Relax
Now it’s time to kick back, knowing you’ve successfully moved your plant to a new home! Now all you have to do is set up the wifi. Remember, your plant may show signs of stress at first (falling leaves, yellow color), but as long as you give it a little love, it should bounce back in no time. Check out Rooted to find some large plants perfect for XL size pots, like the Philodendron, Majesty Palm, or Yucca Cane.
Transplant Shock: Disease or Cultural Problem? | University of Kentucky
Avoid Transplant Shock | Cornell | College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Pot-Bound Indoor Plants | University of Maryland Extension
Indoor Plants – Soil Mixes | Clemson University | Home & Garden Information Center
Plant Propagation -The University of Maine