A Container Refreshing X-Plainer

By Julie Barnes

Most healthy container grown plants eventually exceed their pot spaces. When their roots become tightly packed, the nutrients and water needed to sustain the plant cannot be taken up efficiently. Sooner or later, a severely root-bound plant may die. The best way to reinvigorate a root-bound plant is to simply repot it for a garden-fresh start. So, how do you know when it is time? Here are some telltale signs to look for:
  • After being watered, the soil dries out very quickly, or, wetness remains only on the soil surface. Roots can protrude from drainage holes, or sometimes even burst through the pot's sides
  • A solid tightly packed soil-and-root mass can easily be pulled from the pot it was growing in.
  • Roots will sometimes wind around in a circle inside the pot
  • A plant may appear to be top-heavy when not in proportion with its pot.The best time to repot most plants is in the spring or summer when they're actively growing.

The best time to repot most plants is in the spring or summer when they're actively growing.

Simple Steps for Repotting

  • A plant for repotting often slides out in one piece in the shape of the pot it was removed from. To make it easier to slip out, watering the root-bound plant thoroughly in advance may help.
  • Sometimes, a few good whacks against a sturdy surface maybe needed to break a plant free from its pot. Upon inspection, the roots should appear white or light-colored.
  • In order to promote good nutrient absorption, the roots should be trimmed and the root ball loosened before replanting.
  • With a sharp knife or pruning shears, cut out the bottom thick tangle of roots from the root ball and then make three or four vertical cuts about a third of the way up.
  • For roots growing in a circular pattern, cut through them so the plant can grow without being strangled by its own roots.

Then gently untangle the remaining roots.

Choose a pot slightly bigger than the root ball. Cover its drainage hole(s) with a paper towel, coffee filter; mesh screen, or pot shard to prevent soil leakage. Center the plant about an inch below the pot rim. If it is in too deep, gently raise it and add more soil. If it sits too high, take the plant out and remove some of the soil. Then, fill the space around the root ball with soil leaving enough room at the top so the pot can hold enough water when wetted.

Repotting improves the plant's growth and overall health to reward both you and your plant.