How to Repot Your Plants The Right Way

There’s a lot of talk about root rot in this one.

Repotting plants are one of those gardening things that are so simple it’s complicated. You repot your plant, feel proud and happy for your plant in it’s new home and… you accidently killed it somehow.

Many things can go wrong while repotting a plant. One seemingly innocent action can kill the plant, and you need to take care to avoid that.

Thankfully, I am a master at messing up in gardening and helping you learn from my mistakes! I have been repotting plants from nurseries for years, so I’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t. You’ll want to read this entire article to get the most info!

Don’t forget to snag your free gardening dictionary! You’ll need it. You can learn from other gardening mistakes and suggest new blog articles on my Instagram! Now let’s get started.

Repotted pothos cuttings from above

When Should You Repot Your Plants?

Repotting plants takes a little timing. If you repot too early, you stress your plant out for no reason. But if you do it too late, then the plant will be so rootbound it will die.

You shouldn’t repot an unhealthy plant. Try to nurse it back to health first, unless the cause of your sick plant is that it is root-bound. The best time to repot your plants is when it is visibly root-bound. When you can see roots creeping out of the drainage holes or roots appearing above the soil, it’s root-bound.

You should also repot your plant after thoroughly watering it 2-3 days before. A repotted plant sitting in a soggy rootball will be a lot more susceptible to root rot. And repotting a plant in bone dry soil can cause more stress and make the roots more prone to break off.

Should I Repot Plants From The Nursery?

You should repot a plant from the nursery as soon as possible. Usually, plants from the nursery, especially the one in the 6-cell packs, can have 2 plants in one space. You would need to separate the plants by slowly pulling them apart and repotting them separately.

a girl holding small biodegradable trays

How to Repot Your Plants

Step 1: Get Your Supplies

You will need…

  • A pair of Gloves
  • A pot 2 inches bigger than the original
  • A sheet of plastic or another cover
  • A trowel
  • Garden shears [Make sure they’re sharp!]
  • Some good quality potting soil

You will need a pot that is two inches bigger to allow some space to grow, but not too much. A pot that is too small will be too cramped for your plant. On the other extreme, a plant after transplant shock won’t be able to absorb all the water in a massive pot, causing it to sit in water and accumulate root rot.

This will get messy, so it’s good to prepare a tarp or some other cover for easy clean-up! You will also need sharp garden shears to cut away any mushy roots.

Step 2: Prepare Your New Pot

Make sure that your pot has drainage holes for appropriate drainage. If the drainage holes are too big, cover them with a porous material, like coffee filters, to allow water to drain and prevent soil from falling out. You can also cover the drainage holes with a flat stone.

Fill your new pot 1/3 full with your new potting soil. Don’t pack it down. Use your trowel to make the process easier.

Close up of unrecognizable young woman repotting plants while gardening

Step 3: Gently Slide The Plant Out of The Pot

Slide, don’t pull the plant out. By pulling the plant out by its stem, base of roots, or foliage, you can easily damage the plant and snap it in two. Hold the top of the soil and gently tip the pot over its side until it slides out.

If you are having trouble with repotting your plant, gently squeeze the pot or use a trowel to separate the soil from the pot.

Plant on wooden floor prepared to be repotted

Step 4: Prepare Your Plant

The name of the game to prevent as much transplant shock as possible. So don’t disturb the roots whenever possible. Most plants get their water from the tiny delicate roots that stem from the taproots, so don’t shake or wash the soil from the roots.

If there are any mushy roots, cut them off immediately. Use shears cleaned with rubbing alcohol to prevent spread. Only cut when necessary to minimize injury and stress.

Step 5: Set Root Ball in The Center Of The New Pot

Gently set the root ball in the center of the new pot. Make sure that the rootball is around an inch below the top. Add or remove soil to adjust accordingly.

Gloved hands adjusting succulent as it's being repotted

Step 6: Pile Soil Around The Root Ball

Use your trowel to pile soil around the gaps and on top of the root ball. Lightly pack it to prevent your plant from falling over when being watered.

woman watering a houseplant with a vintage watering can

6. Lightly Water Your Newly Repotted Plant

Your new plant will be tired and need time and hydration to recover from transplant shock. However, don’t heavily water your new plant because injured roots can become rotted roots with too much water.

Succulent plants after being repotted

After Repotting Your Plants

After being transplanted, your plants will need time to recover from the shock. In tiny plants like herbs, this can take a few weeks. But for big or sensitive plants like trees, it can take months to a few years to recover. So be patient and aid it with these transplanting recovery tips.

1. Keep It Out of Direct Sunlight

After repotting your plant, grow it in indirect sunlight. Slowly reintroduce it back to direct sunlight as if you are hardening off seedlings.

2. Don’t Fertilize Your Plant Until It’s Recovered

Fertilizer can burn injured roots, so wait a few months at least until it recovers. The new potting soil should have enough fertilizer for your plant to last a few months.

3. Water Sparingly

Let the plant have a light drink of water after repotting, then leave it. Injured roots can’t soak up as much water and leave soggy soil and rotted roots.

4. Don’t Drastically Change The Growing Condition

Repotting your plant can allow the opportunity to find better growing conditions for your plants. But that transition to a new growing environment causes too much stress for the plant. So resist the temptation until after the plant recovers.

In Conclusion…

What did we learn today? Soggy soil causes root rot.

These tips and tricks will help you repot your plants the right way and minimize damage and the chance of killing your plants. To get informational articles like these straight to your inbox, along with a monthly “Plant of the Month” Newsletter and a free gardening dictionary, subscribe to my newsletter!

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That’s all for now. Happy gardening, and happy memorial day! Till we meet again.

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