While I was at work during lunch, I repotted some Sansevierias in my office. If you are not a fancy plant person, Sansevieria is the Latin name for what most people refer to as snake plants. I have received questions like:
- How do I know when my houseplant needs repotting?
- How do I know what time of year to repot?
- How exactly DO I repot my plant?
Let’s get going! I do have some fun and informative images at the end of this blog, but be sure to read all of the following important information in the meantime.
How Do I Know When My Houseplant Needs Repotting?
If your houseplant requires repotting, you may see one or more of the following:
- There is a lot of root growth coming out of the drainage hole.
- There is no more soil visible at the surface. Instead, you can see a hard mat of roots.
- It appears that the rootball is all in one piece and there is little soil left around it if you remove it from its pot.
- If your plant seems unusually large for its pot, you may also notice it has either stopped growing, or is showing signs of suffering.
- In spite of frequent watering, you may notice that your soil is drying out very quickly.
- It may be time for you to repotted a houseplant if you cannot recall when you last repotted it.
What Time of Year Should I Repot My Houseplant?
It’s widely believed that houseplants should not be repotted during the winter or if they aren’t actively growing. I disagree with this wholeheartedly.
Repotting houseplants during the winter is fine in my opinion. In my opinion, it’s not ideal, but I’ve sure done it when the situation called for it.
The springtime is probably the best time to re-establish the plant’s active growth if it’s not urgent.
There are people who feel as if the plant will self-destruct if it is repotted too early or too late in the season. The best time for repotting is when the plant is actively growing, but if you are careful with watering, you can also repot during the winter if needed.
How to Repot a Houseplant
Now we’re here! There are a lot of options when you’re repotting a houseplant. Which pot should you use? A terra cotta pot? A plastic pot? A glazed ceramic pot? What size pot should you use?
Step 1: Choosing a New Pot
The type of pot you use should be determined based on the plant’s growing needs. Terra cotta pots might not be the best choice for water-loving plants. They’ll dry out too quickly.
Furthermore, if your plant needs to dry out more, then placing it in a plastic pot may not be the best choice, particularly if you go heavy with the watering can. You may want to use terra cotta pots if you tend to overwater in general.
What your houseplant requires to grow depends on how often you water it, and what kind of irrigates it! A plastic pot can also be used for a plant and then it can be slipped into more decorative pots later. It’s absolutely up to you.
When it comes to size, you will typically use the next size up from where you are now. The reason is that most plants like to be somewhat potbound, which is why if you have a 4 inch pot, use a 5 inch pot or maybe even a 6 inch pot, but no bigger.
You should also choose a pot that doesn’t have a root ball that is too large, so that the soil stays wet and eventually leads to root rot. You can see the Sansevieria in the photo below that I replanted.
You can see in the picture above that I used a broken piece of terra cotta pot to cover the drainage hole. The soil is prevented from escaping when it is watered. A mesh bottom is sometimes used to serve the same purpose. The amount of broken terra cottaware I have in my collection is enough for me to use these for crocking the bottom of a pot!
Step 2: Take Your Houseplant Out of its Old Pot
You might be able to gently pull the plant upwards if it is of a particular size, colour or other factor.
The rootball sometimes needs to be moved using a knife if it does not come easily out of the pot.
A lot of matt roots will come out of the drainage hole at the bottom, so you’ll need to just cut them off so that you can slide the plant out of the pot.
It doesn’t matter if the houseplant has healthy roots, so don’t worry about cutting them off. Plants will often survive and forget what you did to them sometimes. Keep the pot leaning over if that helps you remove the plant.
The Sansevierias that I repotted in this blog post are two Sansevierias that I repotted. The snake plant used to be called Sansevieria but now you are going to call it Sansevieria.
I am going to illustrate these two cases because they were quite challenging to remove from the pot. In the first case below, I took video of what I had to do in order to remove it from the pot.
Taking it out of the pot was too difficult, so I thought it would be safe just to hammer it! In addition, it created more broken terracotta pieces to use to cover drainage holes in new pots.
The plastic pot on my Sansevieria cylindrica actually had to be cut off with scissors in the next case. I had to do this because there was a pup coming out of the drainage hole. Take a look at the pictures. Other than removing it from the pot, it would not have been safe to do so.
Just look at the roots! They are big, fleshy, and beautiful roots, once the pot is removed!
A good idea is to gently loosen the rootball after you have taken your plant out of the pot. Try gently prying the bottom of the rootball apart with both hands. Don’t rip any roots off. Just lift the root ball a little bit.
Roots that have been severely potbound will grow more easily if you loosen the roots a little bit. Other than that, they may stay tightly wound even after being repotted into the larger pot.
Step 3: Place the Plant in its New Pot
My next favorite thing to do is to insert a broken clay pot into the new pot, covering the drainage hole. A mesh screen is also used by some people, ensuring the soil stays contained in the pot when watering.
I have been using broken clay pots for all my life, and this is the method I will continue to use. Broken terra cotta pots, damaged ceramic pots, and broken ceramic pots are still easy to reuse as crocks.
Put some soil into the bottom of the pot after you cover the drainage hole. After that, place your plant you’ve taken out of the old pot in the new pot.
It’s important to place the plant at about the same depth as it was previously planted. You will also want the bottom of the pot to be about a few millimeters lower than the soil line. This is so that when you water, there will be a reservoir and no soil will wash out.
The full pot should be filled with new soil after the placement looks correct. A little scoop, your hands, or any other creative method you can think of are all acceptable.
A stiff piece of junk-mail paper was used to guide the soil into the pot in the photo below, as there wasn’t much space to work with.
The soil that you place inside the pot will need to be gently pressed down. Because you want to make sure your roots are firmly planted and there is no air in the root ball, you have to be careful.
It will stimulate healthy root growth, so don’t overdo it! Just pack the soil gently, but firmly.
Sometimes I pre-moisten the soil in larger pots (unlike the tight working conditions I had on the photo above!) before adding it to new containers.
This is because some of the new soil mixes are so dry that they take a while to sufficiently wet out. This is accomplished by filling a pot that has drainage holes with some fresh potting soil. Then water it again until the potting mix is thoroughly moistened.
Sometimes the water sits on top for a while and penetrates slowly. After it has been pre-moistened, it will be much easier to use, and it will make watering your plant so much easier since the water will penetrate the soil quickly instead of sitting on top.
When you pot your plant, you will need to make sure the soil is thoroughly moistened and you will be giving your newly potted plant a good start in its new pot.
Step 4: Water Your Houseplant
Therefore, this blog post is about repotting, but since this is the last step of repotting, I would like to give some important watering tips. Watering your plants after repotting is the last step! There is only one way to water a plant, and that is THOROUGHLY.
There are some people who will give their plants a little water at a time, and do this frequently. I do not recommend this. On the whole, it is better to thoroughly soak the soil and water it less frequently than to add small amounts of water often.
Several of my plants get watered quite deeply in the sink and then I place them back into their growing spots after the water drains away.
Even succulent plants like Sansevieria and others prefer this watering method! People may think that “oh it’s a succulent” or that “it’s a cactus” and only use a small amount at a time. If you’re doing this, your plant will suffer.
The roots may only be getting wet at the top, without any moisture at the bottom. You may not even know that your plant is dehydrating. It may have dry patches of soil, even when you watered it.
Just give your plant a thorough soak, let the water drain, and you’re done! In most cases, you will water again once the soil surface is dry to the touch. These watering tips cannot be stressed enough.
Just make sure that the plant does not sit in water in the saucer if you can’t move it to the sink since it is too big. That water needs to be drained away.
If you keep a plant in water for extended periods of time, the roots will eventually rot and you will kill the plant. Previously, when those plants were too big and awkward to move, I would remove that excess water using a turkey baster!
Happy repotting! I hope this blog post will give you more confidence in repotting your plants.
There are still many recent and interesting articles about Snake Plants..
..as well as other unique information from All Things Gardener..
For further information and other inquiries..
..you can contact us here