Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Repotting

Repot into Only a Slightly Bigger Pot

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Plants tend to rot when planted into too large a pot.

In general, when you repot a plant, it’s into a larger pot. Normally you should choose a pot only one or two sizes (1” to 2”/2-5 cm) larger than the previous pot. Repotting into a much bigger pot (3 sizes larger than the previous pot or more) is an open invitation to rot. That’s because the roots won’t be able to fill the newly available growing space rapidly enough. The excess soil will then tend to stay moist and even waterlogged: a very conducive environment for harmful microbes to develop, including those that cause rot.

It is not, however, always necessary to repot into a larger pot when you repot a plant. A bigger pot stimulates the plant to grow to a larger size, but that’s not always what you want. Still, after a year or two, the old soil the plant has been growing in is probably becoming compact and overly rich in potentially toxic mineral salts. If so, simply unpot the plant, knock off much of the old soil mix as possible and repot into a clean pot the same size as the previous pot. Couldn’t be simpler!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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