Pot Odds

It is actually quite easy if you know the basics. It only takes a few minutes to give your houseplants a new lease on life. This article provides a few do’s and don’ts.

A Larger Container is not Always Necessary (or Better)

The mistake that many people make when they see roots migrating from the bottom of a pot is to buy a slightly larger container and place the overcrowded plant, root ball and all, in its new quarters.

This may be a mistake! The roots may have wandered out in search of more oxygen due to overwatering or hard-packed earth. Analyze the situation. If soil is of poor quality and you suspect overwatering, your plant may simply need more drainage and a change of dirt. A larger pot is unnecessary.

Poor Care Diagnosis?

If your verdict is ‘poor care’, make sure that the root ball of the plant is slightly moist, and then carefully remove it from the old pot. Hold your hand over the top of the soil, supporting the plant between your fingers as you tip it over. Usually a plant will dislodge easily. However, you may need to pass a sharp knife between the outside of the root ball and the pot if it is stubborn.

If the roots smell bad or appear to be rotting or discolored, you have an ailing patient!

Care and Cure

Add a 1-inch layer of gravel, broken pottery, or very small pebbles to the bottom of the pot for drainage. Very carefully loosen the roots, removing as much soil as possible with gentle shaking. A spray bottle filled with lukewarm water can be used to spray away even more soil. Cut off any roots that appear unhealthy. Make a small mound of good quality potting soil in the bottom of the pot. Position the plant gently to see how high it sits. You may need to add or subtract soil to place it at the correct level.

Next, gently fill the area around the plant with more soil, packing lightly with your fingertips or the handle of a wooden spoon to ensure that there are no large air pockets. Carefully tap the pot a few times to settle contents. Finally, water very lightly, add more soil if necessary, and place the plant in an area away from drafts and direct sunlight until it has had a chance to recover from its trauma.

Does it Just Need More Room to Grow?

If you are sure that your plant has received the best of soil, light, and watering conditions, but it definitely needs repotting, try this approach instead.

Remove the slightly moistened plant as previously mentioned. DO NOT LOOSEN THE ROOTS – you want the root ball to retain its shape. Use a very sharp butcher knife (not a serrated bread knife) – gently sawing about one inch off the bottom of the root ball. Gently loosen as much dirt as possible from the roots. Form a mound of soil in the pot and position as above, adding more soil and protecting from extremes of light and temperature for a week or so.

Spider Plants

Do not be in too big a rush to repot spider plants. ‘Spidering’ is triggered by overcrowding.

Establish a Routine




Some home gardeners repot their plants once every year, using the same treasured pots. Plants treated in this way do very well. Every potting cycle provides them with fresh nutrients. The old soil and roots can be composted and recycled.

Make Greenery a Part of your Life

Plants magically transform our homes, malls, and offices. They provide us with oxygen and filter impurities from the air. Even occupants of the tiniest apartments can protect the environment and their own health by carefully cultivating some indoor greenery.