Jul 19, 2023 - Things to Do

Read this before you repot houseplants

Before and after photos of repotting a Baltic Blue pothos

My Baltic Blue pothos was so root-bound that the roots were more than a foot long. In early May, I repotted the plant in a 7.5-inch terracotta pot and added a trellis so it could climb. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

In early 2022, I purchased a Baltic Blue pothos and repotted it into a terracotta pot. The plant thrived and was putting out new leaves regularly until early this year — when it suddenly stopped growing.

Between the leaves: Initially, I didn't pay it any mind because it looked healthy and the leaves were not dropping. As the year progressed with no new growth, I pulled out my supplies and removed the plant from its terracotta pot.

  • The results? It was severely root-bound.

Be smart: A plant becomes root-bound when the roots expand as the plant grows. According to The Spruce, the roots "break down the soil in the pot as they expand."

  • With nowhere to go, the roots wrap around in circles and eventually push themselves out of the pot. You'll notice them peeking out of the holes at the bottom or, in some cases, protruding at the surface.
  • Some other signs of your plant being root-bound include water pooling at the top, your plants drying out too quickly after watering, and smaller leaf growth.
  • In severe cases, the lack of soil will prevent water from being absorbed by the plant, thus leading to leaf dropping.

What I did: After trimming back some of the roots, I repotted the plant in early May in a 7.5-inch terracotta pot and gave it a trellis so it can climb. Now the plant is growing rapidly up the trellis.

Baltic Blue pothos planted with a trellis
Two and a half months later, my Baltic Blue pothos is thriving. Credit: Kristal Dixon/Axios

So, when should you repot your plant? A good rule of thumb is to check them annually to see if they need to be repotted. If you got the plant from a store, carefully check to see if it needs new soil.

  • Some people prefer to repot plants right after purchasing them. I like to wait a week or two before making any changes so the plant can acclimate to my environment and reduce transplant shock.

How it works: When repotting, carefully remove the soil and plant from the pot by tipping it onto its side. Depending on how tight the roots are, you may have to use some elbow grease.

  • Add soil about a third of the way up from the bottom of the new pot and place the plant inside the pot.
  • Add more soil and evenly distribute it around the plant until it reaches the top (I like to leave a half-inch free of soil, but that's my preference).
  • Water the plant thoroughly.

Yes, but: Do not repot your plant into a pot that's more than 2 inches bigger than what you were previously using. I know you've seen people on social media using those deep plastic planters for their houseplants and folks saying it will give plants "more room to grow."

Got a houseplant question? Send Kristal a line at [email protected].


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