What is wrong with my plant?

Hands On

When your plant is looking miserable it may simply need repotting. Repotting does not always mean changing a plant’s pot, but sometimes just changing its potting mix is all it needs. Fresh soil (potting mix) holds new nutrients and much like us your plant needs nutrients to thrive.

If the roots still have room to move in the current pot and are loose within the soil you can reuse the pot. If, however, the root system looks a little tight and knotted up the plant will need to be re-potted into a larger pot. Plants thrive when their roots are not too crowded.

When you move your plant to a new pot remember to keep this size increase no more than 6 cm larger in diameter for tabletop planters and no more than 12 cm larger in diameter for floor planters.

Make sure your new or old pot has good water drainage and put something underneath to catch excess water. Depending on the plant, a few pebbles on the bottom may help with drainage. The size of the planter pot is important here, as typically when we move plants to a larger pot with more soil, we are inclined to water more often and in larger quantities. A small plant in an oversized pot with lots of soil can be accidentally over watered and you will kill your plant with well-intentioned kindness.

Signs your plant may need re-potting

If you see one or a combination of these signs, you’ll know it’s time to re-pot:

  • Roots are growing through the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot
  • Roots are lifting the plant up, out of the pot
  • The plant is growing slower than it usually does and looks a bit sick
  • The plant is really top heavy and falls over easily
  • The plant dries out more rapidly than usual, requiring additional watering
  • Aboveground parts of plants take up more than three times the pot space
  • Noticeable salt and mineral build up on the plant (visible white build up on pot)

Most plants typically need to be re-potted every 12-18 months, but some slow growers can call the same pot home for years. Early Spring is the best time to repot your house plants  before the start of the growth season.

How to Re-pot

Now you that you know when to re-pot, make sure you know how to re-pot by checking out our easy step-by-step guide below.

What you will need

  • Your houseplant, of course
  • Newspaper under the plant (for easy clean up)
  • Fresh potting mix (buy the best you can afford, it really pays off in the long run)
  • A watering can, spray bottle, or makeshift water bottle
  • Scissors or pruners
  • A planter (your choice as far as colours and materials, but be mindful of the size and remember that some pots are porous and soak up water)

9 Steps to Re-potting

  1. Water your plant thoroughly a day or two before you plan to repot. This ensures it is well watered and will help in the transition from one pot to another.
  2. Pre-dampen the new potting soil if it feels dry (optional).
  3. Softly turn your plant sideways, hold it gently by the stems, and tap the bottom of its current container until the plant slides out (you can give it a bit of help with a couple of gentle tugs on the base of the stems).
  4. If your plant is root bound – the roots growing in tight circles around the base of the plant – unbind them as best you can and give them a little trim. You may find yourself tearing them a little if you cannot gently move them apart. Try not to damage buds or stems. Be very gentle.
  5. Remove about 1/3 of the old potting mix
  6. Pour a layer of fresh, pre-moistened mix into the planter and pack it down.
  7. Set plant on top of the fresh layer of potting mix in the planter, making sure it’s placed in the centre.
  8. Add potting mix around the plant until it is secure (sitting upright). Be sure not to pack too much soil into the planter, as you want the roots to be able to breathe. Leave some space below the lip of the planter, about 2cm or so for larger planters. Avoid heaping soil all the way up to the top of the pot. You will not be able to water it properly, as water will rush off the sides of the pot without ever soaking in and you will be left with a big mess.
  9. Even out the potting soil on top, patting it down gently and making sure to leave the soil line 2 cm or so from the top. Water well and let it drain.

Move your plants to their new home, ensuring you have a container underneath to protect your indoor surfaces from stains and to catch surplus water. Indoor plants can be an important feature to accentuate your home’s decor, so have fun displaying them to their best advantage.