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Repotting Indoor Plants

Date: April 1989 (Revised April 1995)

Source: NDSU Extension Service Horticulturists

Repotting is the process of transferring a plant from one pot to another pot, either a larger or smaller one. There are several reasons why you might want to repot a plant:

1. You can encourage rapid growth by moving plants into larger pots.

2. You can allow plants to resume growth that has halted due to soiled or entwined roots around the pot base. These plants need more water and food just to maintain themselves.

3. You can replace poor soil during repotting.

4. The soil volume increases when you put a plant into a larger pot. Larger volumes of soil old more water, and this cuts down on watering frequency.

5. The opposite situation can also exist. If a plant is in too large a pot, the soil may retain too much moisture, and the roots may rot. Repotting such a plant into a smaller pot is best.

Repotting is simple. First, select a pot that is clean and has drainage holes in the bottom. Generally, if you are moving a plant into a larger pot for more rapid growth, the new pot should be one inch larger in diameter than the old pot. Put a one-inch layer of drainage material in the bottom of the pot; this can be broken clay crockery, pebbles or coarse perlite. Add an inch of new soil.

To get the plant out of the old pot, place one hand on the top of the pot with the plant stem between the index and second finger. Grasp the bottom of the pot with the other hand and invert it. With the plant and pot upside down, tap the rim of the pot slightly against the edge of a table. The root ball, which should be slightly moist, should slip out in one mass. If there is a crowded network of roots around the outside of the root ball, you should repot the plant.

If roots have grown in a circular pattern at the bottom of the old pot, clip them. Break the root ball apart slightly to ensure that the root system will move into the new soil. Place the plant into the new pot, center it, and make sure that the top of the soil is about one-half to one-inch from the rim. Add new soil around the root ball and firm it slightly. Water the plant well. Stop adding water when it starts to come out the drainage holes. Keep the plant out of the sun for a few days after you repot it.

For future reference, you may want to obtain a copy of Extension bulletin PP-744, "House Plants Proper Care and Problem Solving," which is available at your county office of the NDSU Extension Service.

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