When To Repot Plants After Buying – Or Should You?

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We get emails all the time asking “Should I repot plants after buying?” I don’t know why but homeowners seem to love the idea of stepping up or repotting houseplants.

Some people even downsize their new plants. I guess it is just the idea of repotting plants into a larger pot makes people think their new tropical plants is going to grow like crazy.

Many times moving a plant to a new pot is the worst thing you can do for the plant. Each time a plant is moved it must take time to regrow root hairs and began the process of absorbing nutrients from the soil.

Let me give you a word of advice, and if you follow it, your plants will probably do well.

GROW GOOD ROOTS and the foliage will follow!

Many people think plants will do better by adding potting soil or repotting a plant. When maintaining your indoor plants, most like to be on a schedule.

Introducing new pots, new soil, and disturbing the root system may cause a new plant to “react.” This reaction could be in the form of:

  • Dropping leaves
  • Drooping or wilting leaves
  • Brown tips
  • Or the plant might could grow nuts
Hands potting a plant, gardening conceptPin
Photo Credit: Instagram @thirsty_leaves

Most of the plants used indoors can grow for a long period of time in the growing containers they were growing in.

When To Repot Plants?

The best time to repot a plant is most likely as soon as you get it. But, before you start to bring out a bag of fresh potting soil, STOP for a moment.

Your new houseplant has been on a journey!

The plants at your local nursery or garden center have likely traveled hundreds or thousands of miles.

Woman repotting plant indoorsPin
Photo Credit: Instagram @greene.piece

The plant will go through a recovery period or an acclimation period. Why let the plant re-acclimate twice?

Let me take you through a brief trip of the plant as it makes its way to your home. Stay with me on this…

Plant with dense roots outside pot, indicating repotting.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @meshabean12
  • An order is received at the growing nursery. The plants are pulled from the growing area and placed on trailers or conveyors.
  • Plants are groomed and then placed in a sleeve or box. Rarely is a root-bound plant shipped
  • Plants are then reloaded onto trailers, pallets, or rolling racks, and wait for the trucking company to pick them up. Some nurseries have their own trucks.
  • The shipment is loaded onto trucks.
  • The trucking company usually strips the truck of all plants and then reloads it by their drop off points.
  • Truckers deliver to the nursery or garden center.
  • Plants are unboxed or unsleeved.
  • Garden Center then puts the plants out for sale.
  • You purchase the plant, load it up, and transport it home.

All of the above to make a point.

Potted plant with dense roots ready for repotting.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @plantlife_london

You can look up in a 10th-grade botany book, or you look at the roots of most tropical plants, you’ll find tiny root hairs. The root hairs are the things that make the plant flourish. The tiny hairs help absorb the nutrients and moisture for the plant.

Think About This For A Moment.

If someone dropped you on your head from 2′ feet in the air, would it hurt?

Now look at what happens to the root hairs from being in transit. They can become damaged, pulled off, and dried out. The root ball hairs need to be regrown.

Now let’s look at the soil for a moment. The plant is growing indoors fine. It is on a regular schedule of once a week or every other week watering.

NOTE: Some watering adjustments may be needed depending on the type of soil the plant is growing in.

Unless the plant needs watering more than once a week, generally there is no need to repot.

Repotting houseplant with visible roots, soil, and pot.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @kimberlyfisher.cf

The Plant MUST Be Repotted

It has been decided. The houseplant must be repotted.

But how and when to repot plants?

It is planted into another pot with drainage holes. The plant and fresh soil are watered really well.

The Problem: The plant was not a root bound plant. There are no “extra” roots to get rid of the excess water.

Now you need to figure out a new schedule for watering.

TIP: Avoid giving extra water to prevent root rot.

At the nursery, this isn’t a problem. The potted plant is working hard with plenty of indirect sunlight to produce food and grow into its new shoes.

Indoors, the plant’s metabolism slows down and will not be growing actively as much.

Don’t (replant or step up) your indoor plant to make it look better. Use a nice cachepot planter for decoration.

Overgrown Monstera plant with dense roots.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @feelslikehome.co.uk

If you plan on stepping up your plant into a new container, follow these guidelines when asking yourself “when to repot a plant”:

  • Does the plant really need it?
  • Is the plant easy to maintain or has good endurance?
  • Make sure the plant has a good root system.
  • Move up to the next size pot size, 6″ to 8″, 8″-10″, 10-12″ and so on.
  • Type of Pot: Use clay terra cotta pots or plastic pots with drainage holes.
  • Use a good, well-drained potting soil mix for tropicals.  (Ask your garden center for the best potting mix)

And remember when you’re shopping for plants make sure they have a good root system.

BECAUSE IF YOU GROW GOOD ROOTS the foliage – Leaves – will follow but, follow good procedures for repotting house plants and repotting indoor plants.

Image: source CC2

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