Houseplants 101: Repotting New Plants

Houseplants 101Houseplants are having a moment. And as a brand that’s built itself around a love of gardening (for indoors and out!), we're so happy to see it! Whether you’re an indoor gardener just starting out on your plant journey or one of the more seasoned green thumbs among us, there’s always something new to learn about the flora we love so much. That’s why we’ve built our Houseplants 101 series—to archive all the plant knowledge we’ve gained over the years. In this installment, we’re joined by Julie Czeck, our plant buyer, who’s sharing her expert tips on making your plants feel at home in their new pots.
terrain: Hi Julie! Thanks for sharing your plant wisdom with us! Let’s start with the basics—why do we need to repot plants out of their grower’s pots?

Julie: Hi! Some plants, like certain succulents and cacti with shallow roots won’t care, but if you want your plants to grow happily and healthily, most need room to let their roots spread so they can continue to grow. And the plastic pots most plants arrive in aren’t a good forever home because of the non-porous plastic and linear shape of the pot.

terrain: How soon after you bring a plant home should you repot it?

Julie: There’s usually no race to get the plant out of the growers pot; it can hang out there for quite some time. Generally speaking, I’d say to repot plants within the first year or when it starts exhibiting growth. After that, I’d repot it in a slightly larger pot every five years or so.

terrain: What are the tools you find essential when you’re repotting plants?

Julie: I first think about a place where I can make a mess, like outside (in the warmer months) or on a newspaper-covered table or kitchen counter. For me, the necessary tools are indoor potting soil, additional drainage medium to add into soil like lava stone or perlite (I like to mix half and half), drainage to put at the bottom of your pot (lava stone or broken terracotta bits), gloves, and a watering can (always water after transplanting, it converges the old and new soils!).

terrain: Can you walk us through the basic steps for repotting a houseplant?

Julie: Sure! First, make sure your new pot has a layer of drainage medium at the bottom that covers the drainage hole and then add a sprinkling of your new soil on top of the drainage layer. You want to have the plants’ current soil level landing about one inch below the lip of the new container, so add or reduce soil to make sure that happens Next, give your plant a little squeeze around the growers pot and then, while holding the grower’s pot, use your other hand to gently grab the base of the plant and wiggle it out of its pot. It should just come out with an intact soil and root mass. If you’re repotting something much larger, you can usually do this with the plant on its side. Next, put the plant into the prepped pot and fill in the sides with soil mix. You’ll want to gently push the soil into the side to compact it slightly. Give it some water until it drains through the bottom.

terrain: Thank you, Julie! One more thing before you go. Can you share a quick Top 5 Repotting Tips with us?

  1. Always buy planters with drainage holes in the bottom. Otherwise, you’re likely to drown the plant to death with no way for water to escape.
  2. Make sure you use an indoor potting mix. Outdoor and indoor potting mixes are often very different. Avoid fertilizer-enhanced potting mixes from big box stores!
  3. Your plant may temporarily go into shock after transplanting and that is okay and normal. Just keep your eye on it and make sure the soil dries slightly between waterings. You may need to water less initially with the larger pot and additional soil until the roots grow into it.
  4. If you are using public water from a tap, I recommend letting it sit out overnight to dechlorinate for water and for spraying. Plants hate chlorine and it will hurt the more sensitive ones like the ferns for sure.
  5. Misting your plants is very helpful especially in winter when it’s dry. It’s also a natural pest deterrent.

Check out more of our Houseplants 101 series, as we chat with Julie about caring for Aroids, Citrus, Succulents, and Ferns. Need more inspiration for expanding your indoor garden? Shop our Houseplant Collection and pick up a copy of The Terrain Houseplant Book.