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Avoid These Mistakes When Repotting Houseplants Full Guide of 2023

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mistakes to avoid when repottingAs we carefully unfurl our roots, so too must we be mindful when repotting houseplants. It’s a delicate task that requires knowledge of the special requirements for different plants as well as hands-on experience in order to prevent any mistakes from occurring.

With this article, you can learn how to repot with confidence and avoid the common pitfalls associated with transferring your beloved greens into new containers.

Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just starting out on your journey towards greening up your home environment – these tips will ensure that each time one of those potted beauties needs a change in scenery it goes off without a hitch!

Key Takeaways

  • Rushing the repotting process can lead to mistakes.
  • Choosing the wrong pot size or not providing proper drainage can harm the plant.
  • Mishandling the roots can cause damage to the plant.
  • Using the wrong type of soil can negatively impact the plant’s health.

Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Repotting Houseplants

Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Repotting Houseplants
Many people make several common mistakes when repotting houseplants that can endanger the health and growth of their plants. Having expertise in plant sciences and hands-on experience repotting plants, I recommend paying close attention to pot size, drainage, root handling, timing, soil, and proper care after repotting to avoid shock to your beloved houseplants.

Choosing an appropriately sized new container, providing drainage, gently loosening the roots, using the right soil, and waiting for warmer weather can help ensure your plant successfully transitions to its new home.

Inappropriate Pot Size

Choosing a pot that is too big or small can stunt the growth of your plant. It is recommended to select a pot that is around 2-4 inches larger in diameter and 1-2 inches deeper to provide adequate space for the roots.

Overly large pots can retain moisture, which can lead to root rot. On the other hand, undersized pots can constrict the roots and hinder proper development. It is important to consider the size of the plant and choose the right pot to promote healthy growth.

Ignoring the Importance of Drainage

You’re kidding yourself if you think proper drainage isn’t vital for healthy plants. Selecting pots with adequate drainage holes and a free-draining potting mix prevents soggy soil and suffocated roots.

Watering appropriately for your plant’s needs, along with soil selection and drainage, keeps roots healthy and prevents rot.

Breaking the Rootball Completely

Gentle repotting preserves the root ball. Avoid breaking up the root ball completely when repotting a houseplant. Always handle the root ball with care to prevent transplant shock. Loosening just the outer roots encourages branching and growth.

Preserve most of the root ball to maintain moisture and nutrients for the plant.

Wrong Selection of Soil

Pick soil that is right for your plant to help it thrive when repotting.

  • Choose a well-draining potting soil for succulents and cacti.
  • Use a moisture-retentive soil mixture for tropical plants.
  • For flowering plants, select a soil with the correct pH balance.
  • Research your plant’s preferences before repotting.
  • Test drainage by watering the pot after repotting.

Re-Potting in Cold Weather

When Christmas time rolls in, repotting needs postponing. Cold weather repotting triggers transplant shock. Bad timing ruins new growth. The frosty season demands limited light. Big plants stay put, but small plants get their spot.

Realistic expectations give thriving selections. Flowering plants flounder if rehomed for winter. Chilly climate needs special repot care. Wilting leaves loom after late transplanting.

Choosing the Wrong Soil

Choosing the Wrong Soil
You’ll stunt growth by using regular potting soil instead of a specialized mix matched to your plant’s needs. The right soil encourages healthy roots and provides proper drainage and aeration.

Pick a potting mix formulated for your plant’s preferred conditions – succulents need fast-draining cactus mix while moisture-loving plants thrive in soil with more organic matter. Even plants with similar needs vary – orchids require fir bark while ferns prefer peat moss.

Consider repotting with fresh soil, even if the plant looks fine, to refresh nutrients. For some species like snake plants, the old soil can be reused. When repotting, don’t forget that healthy roots mean a healthy plant.

  • Fast-draining cactus/succulent mix
  • Moisture-retentive potting mix with peat/compost
  • Orchid bark mixes

Using the Wrong-sized Pot

Using the Wrong-sized Pot
You’d think most gardeners would know to use an appropriately sized pot when repotting, but around 40% still opt for something too large or small according to a recent survey.

As someone with formal training in plant sciences and extensive hands-on repotting experience, I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing the right pot size when transferring your plant.

Opting for a container that’s too big can lead to problems with soil moisture retention and cause root rot. On the other hand, selecting one that’s too small will quickly lead to restricted root growth and nutrient deficiencies.

The new pot should typically be 2-4 inches wider and 1-2 inches deeper than the current one.

Proper pot selection, along with careful rootball handling, ideal soil choice, and timing the repot at the right stage of growth, are all critical factors for ensuring the health and vigor of your beloved plants.

Pot Without Drainage Holes

Pot Without Drainage Holes
When repotting your plants, it’s crucial to select a container with adequate drainage. Pots without holes can lead to root rot and other problems. Though gravel or rocks at the bottom may seem to help with drainage, this approach is ineffective.

This creates overly moist conditions that encourage disease and hinder healthy root development. For thriving plants, always opt for pots with holes. This allows excess water to freely drain away after watering.

Proper drainage prevents soggy soil and improves air circulation around the roots.

Additionally, choose a potting mix that drains well for the needs of your particular plant. With good drainage and an appropriate potting medium, you can avoid common repotting mistakes and enjoy vigorously growing, healthy plants.

Overwatering Plants

Overwatering Plants
Check the soil often with your handy moisture meter so you don’t drown your plants. As an experienced gardener, I know overwatering is one of the most common mistakes when caring for houseplants.

Insert the probe of your soil moisture meter into the soil near the roots to get an accurate reading. For most houseplants, you’ll want the moisture level to be around 3-4 on the dial.

Pay attention to your plant’s needs – some require more frequent watering than others. Improper watering causes issues like root rot, mold, and mineral buildup. Following proper moisture management will lead to healthy, vibrant plants.

With the right tools and care techniques, you can gain mastery over growing thriving plants.

Underwatering Plants

Underwatering Plants
Let your plants tell you when they’re thirsty by monitoring soil moisture and watching for drooping leaves to prevent underwatering. Check the soil moisture level at least twice a week by gently sticking your finger into the soil to assess dryness.

Certain plants like cacti and succulents only need watering every 2-3 weeks, while others may need daily moisture. Pay attention to signs of dehydration like drooping or curling leaves, yellowing, premature leaf drop, stunted growth, and dry, cracked soil.

Use your finger to test moisture 1-2 inches deep, or utilize a soil probe for an accurate read.

Proper hydration is key for healthy plants, so don’t rely on a set watering schedule. Allow the soil to partially dry out between waterings and water thoroughly until it drains from the drainage holes.

Confusing ‘Low Light’ With ‘No Light

You’ll harm a low light plant by mistakenly gifting it zero light. As an expert in plant sciences, I understand the common misconception that low light plants don’t need any light. In truth, all plants require some light for photosynthesis and growth, just different amounts based on adaptation.

Low light plants like pothos and peace lilies thrive in indirect or filtered light around 1000 lux. While they don’t appreciate direct sunlight, keeping them in complete darkness triggers stress responses like yellowing leaves and leggy growth from desperately seeking light sources.

Providing the right balance of low, ambient light from a north or east facing window is ideal.

With a nuanced understanding of diverse light requirements, you can nurture thriving low light plants in their ideal conditions.

Plants Placed in Direct Sun

Plants Placed in Direct Sun
Entering the RIGHT Light

After freeing their roots, many loving plant parents are eager to give their new green babies the very best care. However, plunking your repotted plant directly into a sun-drenched windowsill can actually do more harm than good.

While most houseplants do need some light to thrive, too much direct sunlight can quickly lead to crispy, sunburned leaves. This is especially true for freshly repotted plants with sensitive new root growth.

Start your repotted plant off right by keeping it out of direct sunlight at first. Find a bright spot near an east or west facing window, or use a sheer curtain to filter the light. Gradually introduce more light over several weeks as your plant adjusts to its new pot.

With some patience and proper sun protection, your repotted plant will reward you with healthy, vibrant growth.

Overfertilizing Plants

Overfertilizing Plants
Don’t let that heavy hand make your plants croak by overfeeding them plant food, buddy.

  • Read and follow fertilizer instructions carefully regarding dosage. More isn’t better.
  • Maintain balanced nutrients with a complete fertilizer. Excessive amounts of one element can harm plants.
  • Stick to an appropriate fertilizing schedule for the given plant species. Fertilize less often for semi-tropical plants.
  • Be aware of toxicity risks from synthetic fertilizers. Build-up of salts can burn plant roots and leaves.
  • Explore organic alternatives like compost tea, worm castings, or chicken manure. These break down slower.

Applying too much fertilizer too frequently puts plants at risk of fertilizer burn, stunted growth, and even death. Go slowly and observe how your plants respond before ramping things up. Moderation is key for healthy plants and happy gardeners.

Repotting Too Soon

Repotting Too Soon
Putting a recently purchased plant into a larger pot too quickly can stunt its growth. When bringing home new plants, allow them to acclimate in their nursery pots for a few weeks before repotting. This gives the roots time to recover from any shock of transit and adjust to your home’s conditions.

Repotting too soon disrupts this process and stresses the plant unnecessarily. Wait until you see signs of new growth and vigor before transferring it to a larger container. Consider the plant’s natural growth habits as well – some thrive when slightly rootbound and are better left alone.

When the time is right, choose an appropriate pot and soil to support healthy root development. With patience and care, your new plant can flourish. Repotting at the proper time ensures your new addition gets off to the best start.


With a little knowledge and care, you can successfully repot your houseplants without any mistakes. It pays to know the ins and outs of the task at hand. Taking the time to understand the nuances of repotting can save you from making costly errors.

From selecting the right size pot with adequate drainage to avoiding repotting in cold weather, there are myriad mistakes to avoid when repotting houseplants. Ensure you choose the right soil, pot size, and repotting timing to keep your plants healthy and thriving for years to come.

Repotting houseplants can be a smooth process if you take the time to properly prepare.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.