Step-by-Step Guide: How to Repot a Plant Easily

By: Matt Slaymaker
May 9, 2024
How to Repot a Plant
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Whether young or mature, repotting a plant is essential for its health and optimal growth. This, however, can be a delicate process. Done incorrectly, it may harm or even kill your green friend! 

So, how do you repot a plant without killing it?

This how-to guide will teach you how to repot your indoor plant easily in a few simple steps. From selecting the right pot to handling your plant’s roots carefully, we'll cover everything you need to know about repotting a plant without harming it.

Let's transplant your beloved houseplant to its new home without further ado. 

Reasons for Repotting a Plant 

Reasons for Repotting a Plant

Before we dive into the repotting process, you should understand the reasons for transplanting your green companion. In addition, timing is key, so read on to learn when is best to repot a plant so that it recovers faster from potential transplant shock.

How Do You Know When a Plant Needs Repotting?

Below are the telltale signs that a plant needs repotting: 

  • Roots are showing through the drainage holes or out of the soil. 
  • Old soil seems depleted of essential nutrients.
  • There's a build-up of salts and minerals on the soil's surface.
  • The plant is experiencing stunted growth, root rot, or leaf-related issues, such as dropping leaves. 
  • Water runs through the soil quickly instead of getting absorbed by the roots.
  • The plant has become top-heavy or extremely tall.

When Should You Repot a Plant?

You should repot a plant before the new growing season or during late winter and early spring. This time of the year ‘is ideal for the plant to overcome any transplant shock issues and settle into its new, bigger ‘home’. 

Repotting a Plant: Tools and Supplies 

Repotting a Plant Tools and Supplies
Source: This Is a Plant

You'll need the following supplies for repotting a plant:

  • New planter or pot (usually 2 inches  bigger than the current one)
  • Universal organic potting mix
  • Gloves
  • Sterilized scissors or knife
  • Watering can
  • Old newspaper or protective (to cover your work area).

What Is the Best Soil to Repot Plants?

Generally, an all-purpose potting mix, rich in nutrients like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, is the best soil for repotting plants. It should also contain components that promote moisture retention and soil drainage.

Universal organic potting mix fulfills all these requirements and is ideal for any container plant. It's enriched with organic nutrients, including perlite, pumice, organic fertilizer, and earthworm castings to nourish your houseplant. 

How to Pick the Right Size Pot for a Plant

How to Pick the Right Size Pot

If your houseplant hasn't overgrown its pot and is not yet rootbound, you don’t necessarily need to move it to a bigger pot. Replacing its old potting soil with fresh may still be beneficial, however, if there are signs of leaf issues and stunted growth.

So, to pick the right pot for your plant, evaluate its size and overall health. Also, consider the following tips:  

  • If your plant is getting too big for its current pot, transplant it into a pot at least one to two inches wider and deeper than the current pot.  
  • A planter that is too big won't do any good to your plant and will lead to water accumulation and root rot. 
  • Choose a pot with enough drainage holes to let the excess water drain out of the soil. Alternatively, purchase lava rocks if your ceramic pot doesn't have drainage holes.
  • Consider using natural pots, made of terracotta or clay, which are porous and breathable, and provide sufficient drainage and airflow. You can always place the pot in a decorative eco planter for better aesthetics.

What to Do Before Repotting a Plant

What to Do Before Repotting a Plant

Before you start repotting your plant, make sure to:

  • Cover your worktable and floor with a sheet to protect them.
  • Disinfect old pots before reusing them to prevent disease spread or traces of mineral deposits harming your plant's health.
  • You can cover the pot's drainage holes with a window screen piece if the drainage holes are too big to prevent soil from falling through.
  • Water your plant a few hours before repotting to make it easily come out of its current pot. 
  • Put on your gloves if your plant is toxic to the touch.

How to Properly Repot a Plant in 5 Steps

How to Repot a Plant in 5 Steps

Follow these easy instructions to repot an indoor plant in five steps:

1. Remove the Plant From Its Old Pot

Gently take the plant from its old pot by holding its main stem with your hand and pulling the pot away with the other. You can use a knife to loosen the soil around the pot and make this easier.

2. Inspect the Roots

Inspect your plant's roots and trim dead or damaged parts with scissors. This will rejuvenate your plant and encourage new growth. Be careful not to over-prune its root system.  

3. Add New Potting Soil Mix

Add a layer of fresh potting mix into the new pot and pat it down to remove any air pockets. Fill at least one-fourth of the planter with soil for the plant to settle firmly in its new home.

4. Place Your Plant Into the New Pot

Finally, gently put your plant inside the new planter and add the remaining potting mix around it until it's covered up to an inch below the container’s rim. 

5. Take Care of Your Plant

Give your plant a couple of weeks to recover from repotting. During this time, consider watering it more frequently than usual, holding off on fertilizing until its roots have settled properly.   

Related: How to Repot a Money Tree

Plant Repotting: Aftercare Tips

Plant Repotting Aftercare Tips

A repotted plant requires more care than usual to adjust to its new home without issues.  

Why Are My Plants Not Doing Well After Repotting?

There can be various reasons why your plant isn't doing well after repotting:

  • Common mistakes during repotting
  • Incorrect aftercare
  • Dehydration 
  • Wrong placement of the pot
  • Transplant shock

What to Avoid When Repotting a Plant?

Avoid these mistakes when repotting your plant to minimize the risk of transplant shock and to ensure it adapts well to its new environment:

  • Wrong soil and pot size for repotting your plant.
  • Pot with no drainage holes.
  • Over- or underwatering the plant.
  • Placing the plant in low light or under direct sunlight.
  • Fertilizing the soil without allowing the roots to adjust.
  • Repotting at the wrong time of the year or too soon. 

How to Help a Plant Recover From Transplant Shock?

Some workarounds to help your plant recover from transplant shock include:

  • Handle the plant's roots carefully, ensuring minimal damage.
  • Give the plant plenty of water to stay hydrated and nourished in its new environment.
  • Place your plant in a spot with sufficient bright, indirect sunlight. 
  • Avoid moving the plant too often after repotting it. 

Related: How to Repot a Peace Lily

How to Repot a Plant: FAQs

Q: Should you remove old soil when repotting?

A: You should remove the old soil when repotting your indoor plant because it has absorbed all the nutrients. So, you'll want to give your plant a fresh and nutrient-rich potting mix for optimal growth. 

Q: What should you not do when repotting?

A: When repotting a plant, you shouldn't:

  • Size down the pot
  • Use a huge planter 
  • Fertilize the plant immediately after transplanting it 
  • Leave air pockets in the soil
  • Over- or underwater the plant

Q: Can you repot a plant at any time?

A: You can't and shouldn't repot a plant at any time. This may interfere with your plant's growing cycle and affect its recovery. Just before the new growing season, early spring or late winter are the ideal times to repot a houseplant. 

Q: How long will a plant be in shock after repotting?

A: Though this varies from plant to plant, most plants will recover from the transplant shock within a few weeks.

Q: How soon after repotting should I water?

A: Wait a couple of days before watering your plants, such as succulents and cactus plants, after repotting. This will enable their roots to heal and prevent rot. Moisture-loving houseplants, especially tropical varieties, can be watered immediately after you're done with repotting them. 

Related: How to Repot a ZZ plant


Every houseplant requires repotting at some point. Its roots may have outgrown the pot, salts may have built up on the soil's surface, it may be growing at a snail's pace, or its soil may have dried out quickly.  

Whatever the case with your green buddy, you can easily repot it by following this step-by-step guide. Also, follow our aftercare tips to help your plant recover from potential transplant shock.