Repotting Houseplants

Fall is a good time to repot houseplants. Fresh soil and room for new root growth will help keep plants healthy through winter.

What should you consider when choosing a new container? There are several important things. Naturally, a new pot should be attractive, highlighting the plant or the surroundings. But you also should consider size, color and the material the pot is made of. These factors influence how easy the container is to move and how often the plant needs to be watered.

If you are repotting a household or other plant that has gotten root-bound, the new pot should be at least 2-4 inches larger in diameter than the previous container. That's enough space for new root growth without making the pot a great deal heavier. In general, it's best to move up gradually in pot size.

Also consider the weight and porosity of the container. Lightweight plastic or foam pots will be easier to move than heavier ceramic or terra cotta pots. Terra cotta pots are also porous, so water evaporates through the sides. While this is good for aerating the soil, it causes the pot to dry out faster than plastic or ceramic pots. Dark-colored pots situated in sunny spots also warm up and dry out faster than light-colored ones.

To repot houseplants, gently remove the plant from the existing pot. This will probably be easiest if you water the plant several days before transplanting so that the soil is moist. To remove a small plant, place your hand over the top so you can catch the root ball. Tip the entire plant upside down and tap the rim of the pot on a hard surface until the root ball releases. With a larger plant, you may have to run an old knife around the edges before the root ball can be gently pulled out. If the plant still won't come out of a clay or ceramic container, you may have to break the pot. To do so, place it in a bag or wrap it in an old sheet. Tap the pot with a hammer until it breaks.

Place enough potting soil in the bottom of the new pot so the top of the root ball is at least an inch below the rim. Put the plant in the pot and fill around the edges with potting soil. Water well. If necessary, add more soil.