repotting monstera plant with soil

The Ultimate Guide for Thriving Plants: Repotting 101

Whether you're an experienced gardener or just starting to cultivate your green oasis, repotting your plants is crucial to help your plants thrive. Different plants need different treatments but in general, it’s good to repot your plants annually or every two years to allow them to get fresh nutrients, build deeper roots, and continue to grow healthy and strong. 

To repot your plants you simply need a new pot 1-2” bigger than the current pot, the proper soil, and some hands ready to get dirty. Many people fear they will hurt their plants when they repot however the risk of not repotting is too high to skip this chore.  By not repotting your plants you run the risk of stymieing your plant's foliage and growth. In this article, we will explore the importance of repotting and why it is an essential practice for maintaining healthy and thriving plants

rootbound potted plant with grow pot

Why Repotting is Essential 

Repotting is essential for four key reasons: 

  1. Nutrient Intake - As plants grow, they exhaust the available nutrients in their current soil. In addition to light, these nutrients are critical to your plant's process of plant growth & development. Repotting ensures that your plant has access to the resources it needs to remain healthy and vibrant.
  2. Room For Growth - Plants, like all living organisms, have a natural tendency to grow and expand. As they do so, their roots require more space to spread out and absorb nutrients efficiently. When plants become rootbound, the roots no longer have enough space to grow. If left in that state for too long, it can hinder growth and development. 
  3. Preventing Root Rot - Over time, the soil in a potted plant can become compacted and may not drain as effectively as it once did. Poor drainage can lead to waterlogged soil, which creates the ideal conditions for root rot. By repotting and replacing the soil, you can improve drainage and reduce the risk of root-related diseases.
  4. Enhanced Aeration - Besides better drainage, repotting your plants also improves aeration. As the soil ages, it becomes more compact, making it harder for air to reach the roots. Healthy roots require oxygen to function properly, and repotting ensures they receive the necessary air circulation for optimal growth.
  5. Fresh Start - When you repot your plant, it gets a fresh start. Remove dead or decaying roots, prune overgrown stems, and refresh the potting mix. This rejuvenation process can help your plant regain vitality, making it more resilient to pests and diseases.
  6. Upgrade Appearance - Apart from the benefits to your plant's health, repotting allows you to enhance your plant's aesthetic appeal. You can choose a new pot that complements your plant's size and shape, matches your decor, or even try out different decorative containers to refresh the look of your indoor or outdoor garden.

Choosing the Right Time to Repot 

There are a number of signs that can indicate that your plant needs a repot. Spring or early summer (~Apr - June) is the best time to repot them because it’s right at the beginning of their growth spurt. Many plants enter a period of dormancy when the days get shorter, however in more temperate climates like California, you can certainly still repot your houseplant during our mild fall or winter seasons.

rootbound zz plant in need of a repotting 

  • Root Bound: One of the most obvious signs that a plant needs repotting is when its roots have outgrown their current container. If you see roots circling the inside of the pot or protruding from the drainage holes, your plant is telling you it needs more space. When plants get rootbound,, little room is left for soil to hold water, which may lead to root death
  • Slower Growth: If your once-vigorous plant has slowed its growth, despite adequate light and care, it may be struggling to access essential nutrients. Stagnant growth can be a sign that your plant is root-bound or the soil has become depleted. 
  • Waterlogged Soil: If the soil in your pot takes longer to dry out between waterings, it might be retaining excess moisture. This can lead to root rot, which is a serious issue for your plant's health.
  • Yellowing Leaves and Drooping Stems: When your plant's leaves turn yellow or droop despite proper watering and lighting, it can be a sign of root constriction and a lack of available nutrients.
  • Potting Mix Has Degraded: Over time, the potting mix in your plant's container can break down, reducing its ability to provide essential nutrients and proper drainage.

Allowing plants with clear signs of repotting need to continue to grow in this fashion will not only stunt the plant's growth, but also it can bring about the plant's overall demise.

Selecting the Right Pot

Prior to repotting, it’s great to make a gameplan. If you’re regularly repotting your plants then you can re use pots as each plant graduates to the next size. As a starting place, make a game plan for which plants need repotting and identify which pots that you’ll be able to reuse. This way if you recognize that you’re missing a key pot, you can purchase in advance of you repotting session. Your pot should have drainage holes or you can leverage grow pots inside of bigger pots with drainage holes. Using grow pots is a nice way to maintain your aesthetic while ensuring you can provide the proper care to your plant.

Each time you repot, you want to use a pot that is 1 - 2” larger than the current pto that the plant is in. you don’t want to put your plant in a pot that is too muc hbigger than the current size because then you run the risk of easily overwatring your plant which can lead to root rot and your plants health suffering. 

Selecting the Right Soil 

Every plant requires a different mix of soil to reach their optimum potential. Selecting the right soil mix for repotting your houseplants is a crucial step in ensuring their health and vitality. Different plants have varying needs, so choosing the appropriate mix can make all the difference. By following the guidelines and using the suggested soil mixes for common houseplants, you'll provide your green companions with the ideal environment to thrive, grow, and flourish in their new pots. 

Soil Type Ideal For Mix Benefits
General Indoor Plant Mix Most common houseplants like pothos, snake plants, and spider plants. A well-balanced blend of peat moss, perlite, and pine bark or coconut coir. Provides good moisture retention, aeration, and drainage. Suitable for a wide range of houseplants.
Cactus and Succulent Mix Succulents and cacti such as echeverias and aloe vera. A blend of succulent or cactus potting mix, perlite, and coarse sand. Promotes excellent drainage, preventing overwatering and root rot in drought-tolerant plants.
Aroid Mix Aroids with larger, ornamental leaves like Monstera and Philodendron A combination of peat moss, perlite, and orchid bark or pine bark. Enhances moisture retention while maintaining good drainage and aeration, perfect for these tropical beauties.
Orchid Mix Orchids like Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium. A specialized orchid mix with materials like bark, sphagnum moss, and perlite. Provides excellent aeration and drainage, mimicking their natural epiphytic environment.
Bromeliad Mix Bromeliads such as Guzmania and Neoregalia. A blend of orchid bark, perlite, and peat moss. Offers good moisture retention, air circulation, and anchorage for these epiphytic plants.
African Violet Mix African violets and other Gesneriaceae family plants. A blend of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Provides the slightly acidic and well-aerated environment these plants prefer.
    different soil materials helpful for repotting perlite, moss

    Tips for Successful Repotting

    💡Always choose a pot that is slightly larger than the current one to allow room for growth.
    💡Ensure the new pot has proper drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
    💡Gently tease out the old soil from the roots before repotting to help them adjust to the new mix.
    💡Choose a soil mix that matches the plant you’re reporting 
    💡Water your repotted plant thoroughly but be cautious not to overwater initially. Give it time to adapt.

    Step-By-Step Guide to Repotting 

    Now that you've recognized the signs and identified the right pot, it's time to give your plant a new home. Here's how to do it:

    • Gather Your Supplies:
      • A larger pot with drainage holes
      • Fresh potting mix
      • A trowel or gardening spade
      • A saucer or tray
    • Prepare the New Pot:
      • Select a new pot that is 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the current one to allow room for growth.
      • Ensure the new pot has proper drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
    • Remove the Plant:
      • Gently tilt the old pot and slide the plant out, using your hand to support the base of the plant and its soil. 
      • If the plant is stuck in the pot try banging on the bottom of the pot, loosening the edges of the soil and/or poking a chopstick through the holes in the bottom of the grow pot 
    • Inspect & Prune the Roots:
      • Examine the root system for any signs of rot or damage. Trim away any dead or unhealthy roots using clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears. Unhealthy roots look may look dried, slimy, or rotted. 
      • Personally, I like to cut back roughly 20-30% of the roots to allow the roots a chance to stimulate growth 
    • Add Layer of Fresh Potting Mix:
      • Place a layer of fresh potting mix in the new pot, enough to provide a comfortable space for the roots. 
    • Repot Your Plant:
      • Make a fist sized hole in the middle of the pot and place the root ball inside. Add additional soli and press down firmly to secure the plant. Position the plant in the center of the new pot and fill in the remaining space with fresh potting mix.
      • Gently tap the pot to settle the soil, and water your plant thoroughly.
    • Maintain Care:
      • After repotting, continue your usual care routine, but be cautious not to overwater initially, as your plant may take some time to adjust to its new environment.
      • Monitor your plant for signs of stress. It is normal for your plant to take a week or 2 to get used to its new soil and pot. To minimize variables, place your plant back in the same location in the house. That way if anything does go wrong, you can localize the issue to the soil and repotting versus another factor.

    Common Mistakes to avoid

    Repotting your plants is an essential part of their care routine, but it's not always as straightforward as it seems. When done incorrectly, repotting can cause stress, damage, or even harm to your beloved plants. Below are some of the most common mistakes made when repotting plants and provide tips on how to avoid them, ensuring your green friends continue to thrive.

    Neglecting Root Health

    • Mistake: Failing to inspect the plant's roots before repotting can be a grave error. Root-bound plants with tangled or unhealthy roots may struggle to thrive in a new pot, even with fresh soil.
    • Solution: Before repotting, gently inspect the root system. If you find rotting or unhealthy roots, trim them away with clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears. Teasing the roots slightly to encourage them to spread out can also help.

    Choosing the Wrong Pot Size

    • Mistake: Selecting a pot that is either too large or too small can lead to issues. A pot that's too big may retain excess moisture, while a pot that's too small can constrict root growth.
    • Solution: Choose a new pot that is only 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the current one. This allows room for growth while preventing excessive soil moisture.

    Using the Wrong Soil Mix

    • Mistake: The wrong type of soil mix can lead to issues like poor drainage, root rot, or nutrient deficiencies. Using a generic potting mix for all your plants can be detrimental.
    • Solution: Research the specific soil requirements of your plant and use the appropriate mix. 

    Neglecting Drainage

    • Mistake: Inadequate drainage in the new pot can lead to waterlogged soil, which can cause root rot and other problems.
    • Solution: Ensure that your new pot has proper drainage holes at the bottom. You can also add a layer of small rocks or broken pottery shards to enhance drainage.

    Skipping the Acclimation Period

    • Mistake: After repotting, some plant owners might return to their regular watering routine immediately, which can be too much for the plant to handle.
    • Solution: Give your newly repotted plant some time to acclimate to its new surroundings. Water sparingly for the first week or so until the plant has adjusted to its new home.

    Overwatering After Repotting

    • Mistake: Overwatering after repotting is a common mistake that can lead to root rot. New soil can retain moisture differently, and the plant may not need as much water right away.
    • Solution: Be cautious with watering immediately after repotting. Monitor the soil moisture and water only when the top inch of soil feels dry.

    Neglecting to Groom and Prune

    • Mistake: Some plant owners forget to groom or prune their plants during the repotting process, missing the opportunity to remove dead or unhealthy growth.
    • Solution: While repotting, take the time to trim yellowing leaves, leggy stems, or any damaged parts of the plant. This not only improves the plant's appearance but also its overall health.


    Repotting your plants is not just a mundane chore but a vital aspect of plant care. It's an investment in the health and beauty of your plants. Providing your plants with more room, better nutrients, improved drainage, and a fresh start can lead to lusher, more vibrant greenery. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a novice plant parent, incorporating repotting into your plant care routine is a surefire way to keep your plants happy and thriving. So, don't overlook this essential practice—your green thumb will thank you. Happy repotting!

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