Every container gardener will one day find the need to repot their plants, it’s inevitable. The trick is to know when the best time to do so is to avoid stressing your plant and avoiding unnecessary work. In this article, we’ll look at when to repot plants, along with tips for doing so successfully. If you’re an indoor gardener, read on to learn this easy but important aspect of plant care.
Why We Need To Repot Our Plants
Repotting is an essential step for the long term health of your plant. In terms of reasons why we have to, there are a handful, each of which is important.
Firstly, for actively growing plants repotting gives them a large home to continue their growth. Most plants dislike being root bound, so you’ll need to give them enough space to grow. By upgrading their container size you give them more space to grow and thrive.
Soil also will lose nutrients and become more compact over time. If not addressed, this will mean that your plant will lack nutrients and eventually be strangled out by the compacting soil. By swapping out your existing soil for a fresh batch you avoid these problems.
That’s an important thing to note, repotting your plant doesn’t always involve moving it to a larger container. In some cases it refers only to changing out the soil and reusing the existing container. For plants that aren’t actively growing, or like to be root bound, this is often enough to keep them thriving.
How Often Do Plants Need To Be Repotted?
It varies by plant and the stage of growth they’re in, but generally most plants will need to be repotted once every 1-2 years. As noted above, this can mean moving to a larger container, but also could mean just providing fresh soil.
In general, younger, faster growing plants will need to be repotted more often. Faster growing plants use more nutrients and will outgrow their container more quickly, and therefore need to be repotted more frequently.
On the flip side, older plants that aren’t growing much won’t need to be repotted as often. An older, non-flowering or fruit bearing plant can go 3+ years before needing to be repotted.
While those are generally guidelines for when to repot, there are a couple of things you can look out for. Here are a couple of sure signs that you should look to repot your plan soon.
- Roots are poking out of the drainage holes in your container
- Roots are sticking out of the top of the soil
- Your plant is being pushed out of the soil by the roots
- Your plant is very top heavy and falls over easily
- Your plant has grown and looks too large for its current container
- The growth of your plant has slowed down outside of its dormant periods
- Your plant is getting sick or appears to be dying without any other changes in care
If you’re seeing any of the above signs then there’s a good chance that you need to re-pot your plant.
Best Times To Repot
Before we look at the actual steps to repotting let’s briefly look at when the best time to repot is. Usually, you want to do so around mid-spring right as your plant moves into its growing season. This is when your plant is at its strongest, and is best able to deal with the stress of being dug up and repotted.
Outside of that, generally anytime during the spring/summer growing season is a perfectly reasonable time to repot. Most plants are growing during this time, and have the strength to survive the stress. If you notice the above signs that your plant needs to be repotted in mid-summer, for example, it’s okay to go ahead and repot then instead of waiting until next year.
You usually want to avoid repotting during the late fall and into winter. Many plants will go dormant during this time, and this can make it more difficult for them to deal with the stress of repotting. It’s usually best to wait until spring and leave your plant to rest during the winter.
The one exception to this is certain plants that don’t have their dormancy in the winter. Saffron, for example, is a fall blooming plant so the advice above is reversed. You want to avoid repotting during your plant’s dormancy period, which just so happens to be winter for the vast majority of plants.