Repotting A New Houseplant

Repotting A New Houseplant

It’s exciting to bring home a new houseplant, especially in the winter when we need to be surrounded by all the green growth we can get. But many wonder if they should repot their new houseplant or leave it in the plastic pot it was grown in. The answer depends on what type of plant you’ve purchased, how long you expect to have it, and how you want your houseplants to look.

Some plants aren’t expected to be long-lived, inside or outdoors. We know, for example, that pansies will flower all spring but be finished by mid-summer. We don’t expect them to last all summer because in the heat of July, they usually die. Similarly, some houseplants are purchased for their seasonal flowers not their longevity. We love the various types of primrose, for example, for bringing color and fragrance into our homes, but we accept that after they finish flowering the plant goes into the compost. They are lift-our-hearts-and-spirits for the moment plants, not grow-for-years selections. Such seasonal selections can be left in the pot that they came in, and slipped into a more decorative container if desired.

These primrose are fragrant reminders that spring will come again. They are not long-lived plants for indoors or outside, however, so we don’t need to repot.

Other plants we know (or hope!) will be with us for years to come. These may not be root bound yet, so they might not need immediate transplanting. There are good reasons for transplanting right away, however. First of all, you are already at the garden center and can select a pot that is the right size and compliments the plant you’re bringing home. Secondly, once you get that plant in its new container, you can place it in your house and enjoy its growth without worrying that it’s getting root bound. And finally, with a bit more – but not too much – root room, that plant should continue to grow well from the day you bring it home.

Here are some tips for repotting a new houseplant.

The Alocasia polly, aka African mask plant, is a dramatic houseplant that does well in bright, indirect light. It’s also a good one for adding tropical flare to bright but no direct sun porches and patios in the summer.
When transplanting any houseplant, choose a new pot that is only an inch or so wider than the current pot the plant is growing in. Deeper is fine, but if a new pot is too wide there will be an excess of wet soil on all sides, which can lead to overwatering. Better to step up the size of the pots gradually over time instead of putting it into a too big pot so that “I won’t have to do this again for several years.” In other words, imagine that you’re buying a child a new pair of shoes. You might want to get them a half-size up so that there’s “room to grow into them” but you wouldn’t buy that kid adult sized footwear. I thought that this pale clay pot complimented the light stripes on the foliage, and the tall pot echos the tall, thin growth habit of the plant.
Here is the drainage hole in the pot. Do not cover it with anything…not a paper towel, piece of screen, rock or sea shell. It’s for drainage, and needs to be left uncovered. Do not put a layer of rocks or shards in the bottom of any pot. That is an “old school” practice that’s bad for plants. Just potting soil, please.
Use a good quality potting soil such as the Espoma or Coast of Maine brands.
The roots on the Alocasia aren’t congested – no need to pull them apart or otherwise disturb the root system. I usually lay newspapers down on my table when transplanting indoors. These can be rolled up and even added to the compost bin – dirt, paper and all – after you’ve finished with the repotting.
I’m also transplanting this soft-looking Tradescantia ‘Velvet Zebra’. Tradescantias, aka spiderwort, likes to grow in an eastern or western-facing window where they get some direct sun. I thought that this gray clay pot complemented the soft green color of the leaves.
The Tradescantia roots grow quickly, and have already started to circle the bottom of the plastic pot it was grown in. These can be gently pulled out from the bottom so that they are encouraged to grow into the new pot I’ve selected.
Finished and fabulous! My new plants have root room, but not too much space to their sides. They have fresh potting soil and open drainage holes. They’re ready to bring beauty to my home and pleasure to my heart.

After repotting, water your new plant well and let the excess water drain into a sink. Then put the pot on a saucer in its new location. Wait for a couple of months before starting to apply any nutrients, as your new plant has come from the grower well fertilized.

Note that the continually popular succulents don’t need to be repotted very often, but they do look better in clay containers or other decorative pots.

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