Fast and Easy Repotting


Need to repot? Learn how to do it the easy way! Source:

When repotting a plant, normally you would take the time to carefully inspect the roots, trim off a few dead ones, knock off a bit of old potting soil, etc. But sometimes you’re just too busy: you need to get that repotting done fast. Or maybe you’re repotting one of those plants that don’t like having their roots disturbed (clivias, amaryllis, hoyas, etc.). In both cases, there is a much easier method for repotting that leaves the rootball fully intact.

You’ll need a new pot 2 inches (5 cm ) larger than the original one, a second pot of exactly the same dimensions as the original one, some potting soil and a watering can.

Now, here’s what to do, step by step:


1. Pour potting mix into the bottom of the biggest pot and center the smaller one inside it, on top of the soil. Illustrations: Claire Tourigny, from book Les 1500 trucs du jardinier paresseux.


2. Now fill around the smaller pot and pack the mix down lightly.


3. Remove the smaller pot and you get… a perfect mold of the plant’s rootball!


4. Now remove the plant from its pot and slip it into the molded hole. Tamp the soil down a bit, water and presto: you’ve finished repotting!

Couldn’t be simpler!20180402E

How to Remove a Pot With Minimal Root Damage

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Before you can repot, you have to unpot. Source: MAD gardening tips, YouTube

The ideal time to repot your houseplants is when they start their growing season. That would be somewhere between late February and early May in the Northern Hemisphere. But before you can put a plant in a new pot, you first have to remove it from its original container.

Your goal is to get the plant out of its pot with as little root damage as possible. Grabbing the plant by the base and yanking it out of the pot is rarely a good technique. Half the time, you tear off a good portion of the roots. Here’s how to do it.

Water and Trim

First, water the plant thoroughly a day or so ahead. Think of the watering as a lubricant: it simply makes both roots and potting soil slightly more malleable and facilitates removal.

Next, if there are any roots coming out of the drainage holes, clip them off with pruning shears. Otherwise, they’ll hinder your unpotting efforts. Besides, you’re not sacrificing much, as those roots likely be damaged anyway during the repotting process.

Tip and Tap

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Turn the pot upside down and give it a hard tap. Usually this will knock the root ball free. Source: Claire Tourigny,

Now, turn the pot upside down, and, holding the base of the plant between your fingers, bang on the bottom of the pot with the palm of your hand. Give it a fairly hard knock: you want the root ball to come loose. This is usually all it takes and you can simply slip the pot right off with no effort.

For plants that are too big and too heavy to turn upside down, place the plant on its side, hit the bottom of the pot with your hand to release the root ball, then pull the pot off.

Tough Times, Harsher Methods

Sometimes this doesn’t work and the plant still clings stubbornly to its pot. If so, and if the pot has flexible sides (the case with some plastic pots), try to compress the pot with your hand in two or three places, turning the pot so you free the root ball on all sides. Now try to remove the pot.

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Running a knife around the inside of the pot will often free the root ball. Source:, and

If it’s still stuck, insert a knife between the pot and the root ball, then run it around the inside of the pot. This should free any roots that are stuck to the side of pot. Now try again to pull the pot off.


Sometimes you just have to sacrifice the pot in order to repot the plant. Such is gardening life! &

It still doesn’t work? There are situations where the pot simply will not come off. If so, more drastic actions will be needed. With a pair of metal shears (you could try pruning shears, but they’re not nearly as efficient), literally cut through the side of a plastic pot from the top to its base. Now pull it off. If the pot is clay or ceramic, take a hammer and smash it. Sure, you’ll destroy the pot… isn’t it better to sacrifice the pot than the plant?20180302B CT, 1500.jpg

If Your Tap Water is Hard…


20160228A.jpgIf your tap water is very hard, with a pH of 7.5 or higher (your municipality will be able to tell you), it would be wise repot your houseplants twice a year, in spring and early autumn, replacing almost all the potting mix each time. Hard water contains a lot of dissolved mineral salts, salts that are toxic to plant roots when they accumulate… which they will do very quickly in a pot where excess water doesn’t drain away, but remains in the saucer. By repotting twice a year and throwing the old potting mix into the compost, on the other hand, you’ll be cleaning the roots of contaminants, leading to much healthier growth from your plants.

If you can’t repot that often, consider leaching the mix every two months by letting water run through the soil and drain into the sink. Leaching likewise reduces the accumulation of mineral salts. You can find more information on leaching in the text Happy Houseplants Need Leaching.

Repot into Only a Slightly Bigger Pot


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!