Container gardening: when and how to repot your plant

Learn tips for knowing when your plant needs repotting and learn how to do it in a way that will not harm the plant.

When to repot

Before you decide to repot a plant, let's first discuss when the time is right for repotting. First, you must keep in mind that each plant you own may have different repotting needs. Plants that need constant food or that grow and thrive heartily may need repotting as often as once each year. Other more sluggishly growing plants may only need repotting every three years. An average plant will need repotting every two years.

If you don't know when to repot, look at your plant. Have the roots of the plant grown so that they are coming through the drainage holes in the bottom of the container? This is a sure sign that the plant needs repotting. Also, check the soil. After continual re-fertilization and watering, is the soil hard compacted, crusty or dried up.

Seasonally speaking, there are better times than others to think about repotting. If you want your plant to continue flowering during its flowering season do not repot it or trim back its roots as this could and probably will slow or stop the flowering process. Repotting in the early spring before plants are flowering but while weather conditions are good for encourage continued growth is best for spring and summer flowering plants.

How to repot

Carefully dig the plant out of the soil and examine its roots. There is probably a concentration of the majority of the roots kind of balled up with a fewer number of longer roots and stray roots going in all directions from the ball. Loosen up the ball of roots a little. Does the plant have brown roots that look rotten? If so, it's best to cut those off and while you are at it, also shorten up especially long roots.

Trimming all of the plant's roots is sometimes necessary and you can do this during the repotting process but you'll want to trim the rest of the plant at the same time. It is important for the plant that its roots and the rest of the plant stay in proportion to each other.

Then replant the flower or plant in a bigger pot with fresh, dry soil. All of the plant's roots should be covered so that they are not exposed to the sun. But beware of burying the plant too deep in the soil. It's best to bury the plant at approximately the same depth as they were planted in the old pot. If you don't, the stem of the plant could rot from the shady moisture that occurs under the soil.

Having dry soil is an important part of the process; don't try to repot using muddy or freshly watered soil and do immediately water after repotting. Give the roots some time to settle in before watering. Because you are reducing the amount you water, keep the plant out of direct sunlight for the first few days as well.

Choosing a container that is the correct size is also important. Move up sizes about an inch in diameter at a time to achieve the best results. For large container plants you can double that number.

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