Even though a plant can spend several months, even years, in the same pot, eventually its roots will become cramped. At that point, the substrate, that normally has the role of retaining water and nutrients for the plant, gets used up and virtually disappears. If you start finding that, even though you regularly fertilize your plant, its leaves start to turn yellow and fall, then your plant needs to be repotted. Young plants should be repotted every year, while your older ones need a little rejuvenation only every two to four years.
The best time to repot
The most ideal time to repot houseplants is at the beginning of the normal growing season. For most plants this means in the early spring, just as the new shoots start to appear. Avoid repotting between October and January when the plant is in its dormant stage.
Indications that the time has come to repot: the roots start poking out through the bottom of the pot, the plant starts to list under its own weight, or your plant seems to be thirsty all the time. A good look at the roots is the best way to confirm the diagnosis. Any diseased plants should be properly treated first - potting a diseased plant could cause enough stress to kill it altogether. Gently remove the plant from the pot and see if the roots have compacted into a tight ball. That will mean that repotting is in order. If, however, the soil is nice and loose around the roots then you will be able to wait a few more months before repotting.
Pots today come in all sizes, shapes and colours. Round, rectangular or square, there are two categories: standard pots and azalea pots. Standard pots are as wide as they are high. The height of an azalea pot, on the other hand, is about 3/4 of its width.
African violets, hoyas, fittonias, spiderworts and zebrinas, do particularly well in an azalea pot.
Clay pots have the advantage of being porous and so let the soil breathe. However, this means that the soil (substrate) dries out more quickly than in a plastic pot. Heavier, a clay pot is not as likely to tip over when it gets big. Clay pots that have a decorative lacquer finish means they are no longer porous. Brand new clay pot should soak in water for about 8 to 12 hours before you use it. Soak older clay pot in hot water with some liquid bleach (1 tbsp. for 4 litres of water) and then clean it out with a stiff brush.
Ideal for plants that like a dry environment like cacti and succulent plants.
While a plastic pot may be somewhat less charming than a clay pot, it is nonetheless cheaper to buy, lighter and easier to clean. Besides, plastic pots have improved greatly over the years. They now come in lots of shapes and colours. Plastic pots should be cleaned with soapy water (use dish detergent) and rinsed well.
For pots less than 30 cm in diameter, increase the pot size by only 2 to 4 cm each time you repot.
For pots bigger than 30 cm, you can increase by 5 to 10 cm.
Choosing and preparing your substrate (soil)
Your substrate (soil) has to be adapted for the type of plant you are putting in the pot. Potting mixes usually contain varying degrees of topsoil, peat moss and perlite or vermiculite. Retailers have developed a line of specialized potting mixes that are most effective.
Before putting your substrate into the pot, dampen it lightly using 3 parts soil for 1 part warm water.
Botanix Potting Mix
Specially designed to satisfy even the most discerning gardener. Ideal for most potted plants both indoors and out.
Botanix African Violet Mix
Specially designed for African violets and plants of the Gesneriaceae family (Gloxinia, Streptocarpus, Episcia, Aeschynanthus, Columnea, etc.).
Botanix Cactus Mix
Specially designed for cacti and succulent plants. Contains horticultural sand.
Specially designed for seedlings and cuttings.
How to pot
Ideally you should have lots elbow room when you repot plants. A table covered with plastic or an old tablecloth will work just fine. Before you start, assemble everything you need (soil, clean pots, pruning shears, gravel) -because your hands might just get a bit dirty...
- Water the plants several hours ahead of time.
- Hold the plant, or at least some of its stems, with one hand and, with the other hand, give the pot a good tap and gently tug it off.
- Loosen up the root ball with a fork or stick. If the roots are all tangled around the root ball, take a sharp knife and cut away about 2 to 4 cm from the bottom.
- Place about 2 cm of gravel in the bottom of the pot for proper drainage.
- Put enough soil in the bottom of the pot so that the root ball comes to about 3 cm below the top edge of the pot. Don't fill the pot to the top. Leave some room between the top edge of the pot and the substrate (soil) so that you can water your plant without the water overflowing.
- Center the plant in the pot and add soil around the root ball. Tap the soil lightly to get rid of air pockets but not enough to compact it.
- Water generously to let any air pockets escape. You don't want air pockets; they make the roots dry out.
A living element of any interior décor, chosen for their visual effects or as a reminder of a sweet memory of some past event, our indoor plants require particular care such as repotting.