9 mistakes you make when repotting a plant
Houseplants are a great way to bring the outdoors in, and they can really beautify your home. But if you’ve been struggling to keep them alive, (despite your best efforts!), you might be making these mistakes when repotting a plant.
Repotting a plant may seem simple enough, however, one mistake can ‘shock’ your plant, possibly even killing it. As the name suggests, transplant shock occurs when the plant shows signs of distress, after it has been uprooted and moved to a new pot. Typical signs to look for include yellowing or dropping leaves, wilting, damaged roots, and if there is no apparent new growth.
That’s why it’s important to know how to repot a plant the right way, to ensure it can enjoy a long and healthy life. What’s more, you want to avoid the process Saving a dying plant Before it’s too late!
So if you want happy, healthy houseplants, avoid these nine common mistakes when repotting a plant.
1. Choosing the wrong soil
While it may be tempting to use the same soil for the garden, never use this to repot houseplants. Using the wrong soil can cause fungus or bacteria to grow, which can affect and kill your plants.
Instead, always use good quality potting soil or houseplant compost. Unlike gardening soil, potting soil or compost contains the nutrients needed for your plant to grow. Moreover, the blend of ingredients like algae and pine bark is perfect for retaining moisture. Perlite in particular is best for houseplants, as it allows for easier drainage, and also reduces the risk of waterlogging and root rot.
2. Using the wrong size bowl
Another common mistake is moving your plant into an oversized pot. While some may think that a larger pot will be enough space for the plant to grow faster, this will actually cause some plants to grow more slowly.
There is also the danger of over-watering, and once the over-watered soil retains too much water, the roots become weak and prone to rotting. Experts recommend always using a pot 2-4 inches larger in diameter, 1-2 inches deeper than the plant’s current pot.
In general, the best potting materials are earthenware, earthenware or ceramic pots, which allow more oxygen. While plastic is not porous, it tends to reduce the amount of oxygen or moisture that gets to the plant.
3. A pot without drainage holes
Once we get our pretty pots, we often forget to put drainage holes in the bottom. These holes are essential to allow proper drainage of water from the soil, encourage good air circulation, and also expel salts from the soil.
If your container doesn’t have holes in it, just drill a few into the base of the container. Then place the pot on the drip tray to collect the excess water. Just be sure to empty it after watering so it doesn’t stay in it for too long.
Other ways to improve drainage is to place a layer of rocks or gravel on the base of the pot before adding soil. Again, this will absorb excess water until the plant draws it from the roots.
4. Drowning plants
We might think that plenty of water is necessary for houseplants to survive, but this can actually do the opposite. And if you’re wondering why your plants are suddenly wilting, despite giving them water, this could be the reason.
Soggy soil can limit airflow around the roots, stimulating the growth of fungi and bacteria that may cause root rot, effectively killing the plant. As a general rule, never overwater when the top layer of soil is still wet. You can either test the low levels of the soil with your finger to determine moisture levels, or invest in a soil moisture meter such as the XLUX Soil Moisture Sensor Meter ($14, Amazon) (Opens in a new tab).
In any case, always check plant care labels for instructions on how often to water it.
5. …or underwater plants
Likewise, not watering enough, or watering only when it shows signs of wilting, is another mistake. If your plant isn’t getting enough water, it won’t have all the elements needed for healthy growth. Furthermore, once soil is left dry for extended periods, it will eventually become compacted — making it difficult for water to properly reach the roots. Additionally, wilted plants will certainly benefit from the water, but once they show signs of shock, you may be waiting too late.
In extreme cases, experts suggest watering from the bottom to allow the soil to absorb as much moisture as possible. This also ensures that the roots are completely saturated, with no dry areas.
6. Mistaking “low light” for “no light”
A plant’s classification as “low light” does not mean that it can survive without any light at all. Plants still need a fair amount of light to grow and thrive, and if they are placed in a dark room or corner, your houseplant is very likely to die.
Aim to move these plants to a brighter spot in the room and away from direct light. As a general rule, low-light plants require at least 1,000 lux of light (100 foot candles), on a standard day. That’s enough light to keep them healthy, and for them to last longer.
7. Put the plants in direct sun
Likewise, when leaving houseplants out in the middle of the day, direct sunlight is a common replanting mistake. While most plants can handle direct sunlight for an hour or two, once they’re left out for hours in the midday or afternoon sun, it can irreparably damage the leaves.
Instead, leave the plants in the gentle early morning sun to get enough light, but for no longer than 2 hours. During the summer months, when the weather is very intense, it’s best to keep them out of the sunlight completely.
8. Over-fertilizing plants
Fertilizer is another essential part of plant care. And while many people assume that applying more will equate to faster growth, this is not the case.
In fact, too much fertilizer may burn the plant rather than make it grow, due to the extra salts in the soil. It is always recommended to use fertilizer sparingly and according to the care instructions on the package. Experts also suggest using the fertilizer at half strength if your plants are healthy and doing well, and the full dose only when they need a boost.
9. Repotting too early
Not every plant needs repotting, and it’s important to avoid repotting too soon. If you repot the plant when it is not necessary, it will literally shock the plant, causing it to wilt or die.
Usually, the first sign of repotting is when you see roots growing through the drainage holes, or pushing the plant up — almost out of your pot. Other signs that your plant may need reporting include wilting and stunted growth. So if you notice that your plant is growing much slower than usual, it might be time to repot it!
More Tom’s guide
Before you begin, you’ll need one of the best gardening gloves to make repotting easier.
If you want more houseplant tips, check out How to re-plant succulentsAnd How to care for a spider plantor How to care for an orchid And make it bloom all year long. In addition to these 5 houseplants that help prevent mold in your home.
Or if you have faux plants, check out these 7 ways to make fake plants look more realistic.