Repotting Tips from Lida Mankovskaya

Lida from Spirit Plants gives us the scoop on nestling houseplants into cozy new digs.

A corporate lawyer turned plant enthusiast, Lida loves the peace and balance that plants offer her everyday life. She's made it her mission to share that journey with others so they can see how easy it is to maintain a calming, plant-filled home. Now she's here to teach you everything she knows about safely transitioning plants into bigger pots. Let's dig in.

Repotting your houseplants when needed is a very important part of plant care. As your green babies grow larger, you'll need to check for signs of them becoming rootbound. What does that mean? Well, it's like it sounds. As a plant grows, its roots extend into the soil. Over time, those roots will grow along the inside of the plant. We call these plants rootbound because when you pull them from their pot, you'll notice that the soil is encased in roots. This makes it hard for the plant to absorb the water and nutrients it needs to grow. Luckily, there are indicators that will help you to determine when to repot a plant.

The most common sign of a rootbound plant is that its roots have begun growing out of the pot's drainage hole. If the soil is drying out faster than usual, or you see roots that are wrapped tightly along the inside of the pot, these are further indicators that it's time to transition your plant.

When repotting a plant, pot selection is key. Choose a pot that is 1 to 2 inches bigger in diameter than the current container so it has room to grow. Make sure that the pot has a drainage hole at the bottom to avoid saturated soil and root rot. Spray hydrogen peroxide inside the new pot to disinfect it before repotting.

Now it's time to select your soil. Potting mixes contain different ingredients depending on the plant type. These ingredients are necessary to promote growth, water retention, and drainage for specific plant varieties. For tropical plants, select a houseplant potting mix. If repotting succulents, use a potting mix that is specifically formulated for succulents and cacti.

Next, fill the pot one third to halfway full with soil. Remove the plant from its old pot, gently massage the roots, and place the plant in the middle of your new pot. Now fill in the sides with soil, leaving about an inch from the top for ease of watering. You can use a soil broom to clean off any dirt that drops in the process. Gently compress the soil and give your plant a nice thorough watering. Then simply place the plant back in its original spot and you're done.

What are your top tips for someone new to repotting plants?

There are a few things that are easy to forget the first time you repot a plant. Always remember to massage the root ball before setting the plant into a new pot. This loosens the roots so that they can better adjust to their new pot and draw in nutrients.

People will also often select bigger pots than they need. This can actually have a negative effect on the plant. You don't need to go too big. A pot that's 1 to 2 inches bigger in diameter gives your plant plenty of room to grow. And after repotting, make sure to give the plant a thorough watering to allow its roots to spread.

Is it okay to repot new plants? Will repotting shock the plant?

The answer depends on how rootbound the plant is. As a general rule, it's preferred to repot an already established plant so as to minimize the likelihood of shock. However, if you bring home a new plant exhibiting severe signs of being rootbound, I'd recommend repotting it before it has a chance to acclimate to your environment. Replenishing the soil and allowing the roots to spread should help the plant to recover as it gets used to your space.

What if your planter of choice does not have a drainage hole?

I strongly advise avoiding planters without drainage holes, especially for tropical plants. You can always set your plant in a plastic pot with a drainage hole and use the decorative pot as a casing.

If you put a small plant into a large container, will that help it grow large faster?

Not quite. Planting a small plant into a large container will increase the risk of root rot. I recommend only going 1 to 2 inches bigger in diameter than the current pot.

For more plant care tips and inspiration, follow Lida @spiritplants on Instagram.