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How Do I Know If My Plant Needs Repotting? (Signs & How to Do)

Just bought a plant home, and you are unaware whether it needs a new pot, or is it doing just fine in its older one? Or your plants are not doing well, and you are wondering if moving them to a new pot will fix the problem.

I know it can be tough to tell if your plant needs repotting or not. Thus, today we shall discuss all about it.

Most houseplants need to be repotted every 2-3 years by transplanting the plant to a pot 2-3” inches larger in diameter than the previous one. Roots coming out of the drainage holes, slower growth, or breakage in the pots are common signs that your plant is root-bound and needs a repotting.

Repotting the plant to a new house is a standard procedure and should be followed as and when the plant grows bigger.

There are some rules to repotting, and one should know when to repot the plants. You need not worry as we are here.

In this guide, we will talk about when do we repot the plants, what are the signs that the plants give us for repotting and how to do it.

Let us get right into it and be a master for repotting.


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Certain signs that tell us plants need repotting

Repotting houseplants might seem like a simple task, but there is always a risk factor attached to repotting. Our plants might not thrive after the repotting.

Repotting a plant without any reason or too frequently should never be followed. That is one important rule. Repotting a plant once every one or two years is a general approach for most houseplants.

We will now look into some signs that tell us that our plant requires repotting.

Some of the signs include:

  1. Roots coming out of drainage holes
  2. Leaf drooping or unhealthy plant
  3. Checking the growth of the plant
  4. Yellowing leaves/ Under Watered plant
  5. Pests/ Root rot

Roots coming out of drainage holes

Once the plant has developed the roots, it starts the upper section’s growth, which is the stems, leaves, and the fruits.

After the plant has been fully developed, the plant roots become root bound to the pot. Rootbound means that the roots will be entangled with the soil, and there is hardly any space to grow further.

If the roots are rootbound and we can notice the roots coming out of the drainage holes, it is a time to consider repotting.

At this point, the pot is smaller, and we need a pot that is one size bigger because your plant will not grow further in the same pot.

A secret to repotting will be that we should consider repotting our plants mostly during the growing season, which is from early spring to late summer.

Do not be astonished that your plants show minimal or no growth during the winters. It is typical for a plant not to flourish during the winters.

Droopy leaves or an unhealthy plant

Sometimes the plant looks sad even after all those care that you gave to the plant. The leaves of the plant are always droopy, and the plant does not show any other signs.

It is one situation wherein we will first need to check for all the other conditions before repotting a plant.

We will need to take care of the light conditions, the humidity, and the most important, the watering conditions of the plant.

As stated earlier, we cannot repot the plant frequently. This will affect the plant even more, and we might end up killing the plant.

So, be sure of all other conditions first, and if there is no positive result, we should consider a repotting.

Checking the growth of the plant

The plant needs a certain room to grow in the pot, and only after the roots have developed completely we will notice further growth.

The plant’s size and the size of the pot should be in a proper ratio for a reasonable and constant growth structure.

If the pot is too small, it might damage the roots and will stop any further growth.

Too big pots will diminish the plant growth, as the plant focuses on the roots and the most common issue of overwatering.

The perfect plant to pot ratio will be 2/3 plant to 1/3 pot. This means that, if our plant is 7-inch long, then we will need a 1-gallon pot, 2-feet plant means 3-gallon pot, and so on.

If the plant does not get enough room, then the root system will not develop and halt plant growth.



Yellowing leaves or Under Watered plant

The most under-watered plant can get back to life a few hours or days after being watered usually. However, what do we do if the plant was neglected for too long?

We do see yellowing leaves when the plant is left without water.

Even in normal conditions, the plants might give some sign that the plant needs a new home.

What happens here is that the plant needs new soil for growth because the old soil has been depleted with nutrients.

Giving the plant a new home will help with the nutrients and enhance the plant’s growth.

It is the same case with underwatering the plant. The soil becomes too crusty and does not have enough nutrients for the plant to thrive.

Repotting allows the transfer of nutrients and gives enough space for the plant to flourish again.

Also read: Underwatering vs Overwatering a plant

Pests/ Root Rot

Root rot is often severe and the worst situation for the plants. An overwatered plant might develop a root rot quickly. If not, the plant is prone to attract pests.

The pest situation or a root rot forces us to repot the plant to another pot because it is the safest way to get the plant back to life again.

In the case of pests in the leaves or the stem, we can spray neem oil solution and some other remedies, but when it’s the roots, we cannot leave it the way it is.

When the plant has root rot, we will need to remove the plant entirely from the pot, and clean the roots, once they are untangled.

Damaged roots are often trimmed off because they won’t come back to life again and will not help the plant in any way.

If we use the same pot, consider disinfecting the pot for an hour or two before taking it for repotting. This will ensure the safety of the plant.

Root rot and the pests’ situation give the plant stunted growth and severely damage the plant.

How to repot your house plants?

How To Repot Houseplants! | Repotting Houseplants

The repotting of the plant requires some prerequisites. Now, as we know when to repot a plant, we will move towards how to repot our plants.

As we had mentioned earlier that the plant might not thrive if the repotting is not done correctly. We will talk about some essential tips and tricks to repotting.

Always water the plant a day before we plan to repot our plants.
Try and repot your plants during the evening hours to prevent any shock to the plants because of the sunlight.

To begin with the repotting, we will first need to remove the root ball from the pot. To perform this, avoid pulling the root ball with force as it might damage the roots.

Gently tap the pot, in the opposite direction, on a hard surface, and try to pull out the root ball from the pot.

Remember, this is a very delicate process, and any damage to the roots might be dangerous for the plant.

If the root ball is too rootbound with the pot, then we can run a knife around the root ball, just like how you do with cakes after its baked.

Be gentle during the process.

We should never forget to use a disinfected scissor or knife for the process.

The next step is to check the root ball thoroughly for any damage to the roots or any pests that might have affected the roots.

We can also decide whether we need a root pruning or a complete repot in a larger container with this process.

Choosing a perfect container is not an art, but we need to get this step right. For a 6-inch plant, we will need a 10-inch container or a 1-gallon container, and so on.

Do check for the drainage holes and if they are appropriate. If there are no drainage holes, the plant will stand in water and lead to root rot.

We can use a mesh net or a cloth to cover the drainage holes. Remember, this step is for keeping the soil intact.

Choosing the soil

The right type of soil is essential for the growth of the plant.

The type of soil should be according to the variety of the plant.

In general, we choose a well-draining, nutrient-rich soil for the purpose.

Are we supposed to use potting soil or a potting mix?
The potting mix is mainly used for terrace gardening or container gardening and is a soil-less medium.

Potting soil is a mixture of garden soil, coco peat, peat moss, compost, vermicompost, and other material, which helps create aeration in the soil.

We can use potting soil with a mixture of perlite and pumice to make the soil rich in aeration. That will help in drainage.

The above mixture can be used as universal potting soil and is perfect for almost any houseplants we plan to repot.

Teasing the roots

We will need to get the roots out of the root ball, which can be done by teasing the roots. The teasing of the roots from the root ball promotes and speeds up the growth.

Teasing also helps in the branching of new roots from the soil.

If the plant is root bound, we will need to perform some root pruning from the bottom and the plant’s sides.

We can also use a sharp knife to perform a root ball cutting to move ahead with our root pruning.

Make sure to be very gentle during this process, as we do not want the plants’ roots to be harmed in any way.

If the plant is not rootbound, we can release the roots from the bottom and the sides of the plant so that the roots are free.

Check if there are any damaged roots on the plant and if the answer is yes, remove the damaged roots.

Damaged roots will be a little black and not like crusty white roots that appear to the best of their health.

Placing the plant in the new pot

After choosing the right pot size, teasing the roots finally comes the placement of the plant in its new home.

  • The steps for placing the plant in the new pot are
  • Take the pot and add some compost into the base of the pot
  • Take the root ball and place it in the center of the pot
  • Add some soil to fill up space
  • Take some handful of compost and add to the top layer of the soil
  • Gently tap the pot to fill in the air pockets
  • Level the soil on the upper layer
  • Water them thoroughly after the repot
  • Place the plant in bright indirect sunlight at least for a week

Also read: What Happens If You Put A Plant in A Pot Too Big?

Tips to care for your house plants after repotting

Repotting causes stress to the plant, and we need to provide the plant with the best of watering conditions, light conditions, and the humidity the plant requires.

Let us look at specific steps that will help you with keeping your plants healthy.

  1. Watering problems- The plant should get the watering right. The roots have been through enough and will not sustain if the watering is wrong. Keep the roots moist but not soggy.
  2. Lighting conditions- As suggested, never keep your plants directly in the bright sunlight after repotting. Indirect sunlight is preferred to prevent any shock to the plant.
  3. Humidity- The newly repotted plants should be provided with a little moisture to recover faster. We can use a humidifier to increase humidity. Misting is also suggested.
  4. Fertilizer- Never think of adding some fertilizer for at least a month. The newly moved plant will not take in the extra nutrient, which might cause fertilizer burn to the plants.

Also read: 9 tips to grow your house plants faster

Related Questions:

When should I repot my plants after buying?

The repotting of plants after purchase also depends on the question of where you have purchased the plant.

There are other factors like the plant’s size and the pot, which now we all know to check. Also, check the health of the plant.

Always allow the plant to adjust for a few days. It may well be that the plants that you have purchased were repotted a few months back.

If the plant is purchased from a local nursery or garden, allow the plant to adjust to the new environment. The plant needs to adapt to the light, temperature, and humidity.

If you have purchased the plant online, it is best suggested to repot the plant immediately because it will be in shock from all that travel.

If the plant we have purchased is not in a proper container or we feel that the soil is not appropriate, then wait for at least a week before repotting.

In the above scenario, try to take the mother soil for repotting to prevent shock and stunted growth.

To avoid any kind of shock caused to the plant, we can water the plant with Epsom salt solution once or twice a week for about a month.

Always try to repot during the evening hours.

What happens if you don’t repot a plant?

The plants repotting helps the plant develop the root system, and once the root system develops completely, the plant will see further growth.

What happens if you don’t repot your plant?

The answer to this question is easy, and you can understand by asking this simple question to yourself. Will you purchase new shoes for your baby when he/she grows up?

For sure, one will provide the baby with a new pair of shoes, which is bigger.

The same is with plants. The plant needs a bigger space, more soil, and enough nutrients to develop completely.

If we want to notice the plant to get to its desired size, we will need to repot the plants every year or two.

If our plants are unhealthy or not growing during the growing season, repotting is best suggested.

If we neglect the above scenario, this might lead to poor growth of the plant.


If you are looking to buy a lot of houseplants to brighten up your space and that too on a budget, try out Cellardoorplants. They offer a wide variety of plants, delivered right to your doorstep, and that too for every budget. If you haven't checked them yet, Try them now!


Should you water a plant after repotting?

Overwatering vs underwatering

The plants have been through enough stress already and are not ready for any more stress.

Some people suggest not to add water for a week after repotting, and others suggest to water immediately.

The plants should be watered, and the soil’s top layer should be moist but not soggy. The plants need to stay hydrated to grow effectively without stress.

It is true in the case of succulents to not water for about a week after repotting. Succulents need to callus out to avoid any root rot.

So, water your plant and keep it moist. Do not overwater them as it might harm the roots.


Sources: Pot size mattersSociety for Experimental BiologyThe Effect Of Container SizeEffects of Plant Growth Retardants and Pot Sizes on PlantsPot size matters.