You just brought a new plant home. You've researched its care and are ready to give it a happy and healthy life. But the one thing you're unsure of is the next move: should you replant it or leave it as-is in its grow pot?
It's important to evaluate transplanting on a case-by-case basis; weigh the pros and cons, and look for certain signs. These tips will help you learn the proper steps to ensure the best living conditions for your new plant baby.
The first step to making a decision about replanting is to know your source. Did you buy a plant from a box store? Were you given it as a gift by a friend who's an expert gardener? Was your plant donated to you by someone who couldn't take care of it? Did you purchase it at a reputable nursery or greenhouse?
If it's from a trustworthy source and doesn't look uncomfortable in its grow pot, don't change a thing, at least initially. But if its origins are unknown or sketchy, consider repotting it in the near future.
If you're trying to save a plant's life, act immediately. Perhaps you bought a discount item from a clearance rack. Maybe you're trying to rehabilitate a friend's failed attempt. Whatever the case, provide a better living situation as soon as possible. A sickly, neglected, limp, or overwatered plant needs your help. Even a day or two could be the difference between life and death.
If your newest addition isn't in a do-or-die situation, allow it some time to get used to your home. There's a good chance the plant spent the first months of its life in a different environment, so it needs a few weeks to adjust.
Keep in mind that some plants, such as fiddle leaf figs and peace lilies, don't do well in stressful situations. If they're perky but start showing signs of distress, this isn't cause for alarm. Providing a grace period should get them back on track. The move is traumatic enough, so transplanting early on can do more harm than good.
If your plant is happy in its drab-looking grow pot, leave well enough alone. Don't switch its home just because it's not visually pleasing. Stick the whole thing in a display pot instead. They're great accessories to mix and match with home decor: you can switch to another style at whim without causing undue trauma or dealing with messy soil.
Planters are perfect for succulents, spider plants, or anything else that's low-maintenance and doesn't often require repotting. Plus, those without drainage holes act as catch basins for excess water.
Transplanting can be a shock, so only do it when the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. An otherwise healthy houseplant will tell you when it's uncomfortable. If it's top-heavy or several times the size of the container, consider an upgrade. Another outward sign is slow or no growth during non-dormant months.
Roots are another key indicator of when it's time for a switch. If you notice them snaking through the drainage holes, your plant needs a bigger container. Also, if there's no room to stretch out, bound roots in a small grow pot will push the plant up from the soil.
Soil is another visual clue that your plant needs a change. When it constantly dries out soon after watering, this indicates the roots are taking in water immediately and need more space. If the soil color appears light and has an overall lackluster look, it has reached its dirt phase: it's now devoid of the proper nutrients to sustain healthy life.
Not all plants grow in soil, however. Epiphytes like orchids live off hosts instead, requiring a potting medium such as bark chips, coconut husks, or sphagnum moss. Just as soil loses nutrients, non-soil substrates break down as part of their natural cycle. Usually when you acquire a new epiphyte, it's best to play it safe and transplant soon after you get it home.
After learning about the specifics of when and why to repot your houseplant, it's time to make a decision. If you're going to take the leap, make sure you have the proper materials before you get started.
Begin with a sterile planter that's slightly larger than the current container. Pick up some potting soil with the ideal nutrients and acidity for your plant. Make sure you have some distilled water or rainwater on hand.
Gently loosen your plant from the grow pot and carefully pull it out. If the roots are tangled around the grow pot, cut the pot away, not the roots. Using your fingers, delicately untangle the rootball. Lightly but cautiously dust off as much of the excess soil as possible.
Once cleaned, it's okay to cut off any dead, decaying, frail, or extra-long roots. Trim any dying leaves as well.
For a typical houseplant, place some fresh potting mix in the bottom of the new container. Add your plant, centering it while allowing room for the roots to spread. Loosely add more soil till the pot is about three-fourths of the way full. Gently pat it down then sprinkle in more soil.
Give your plant a bit of water, but don't go crazy: allow it time to adjust to its new home. Pay attention to lighting conditions, and test various areas till you find a space it likes. Follow the specific care for your type of plant.