Wondering how to pot indoor plants? I feel like I’m constantly repotting indoor plants, so I want to share a few tips I’ve picked up doing it myself. It’s not that hard, and your plants will thank you for giving their roots some extra growing room!
How to Pot Indoor Plants
This is one of those posts I have been meaning to write for a while. I knew I just had to sit down and write it and it wouldn’t take that long, but since I repot plants so often, it just didn’t seem like a very exciting post to write. Guilty.
But if you are a beginner, you might not know exactly how to pot indoor plants or how to pot houseplants in a way that encourages them to grow larger. I’m going to walk you through the steps for potting indoor plants. Including brand new plants and plants you’re repotting—as well as tips for trimming roots and choosing the right size pot.
Here’s what I’m using for this tutorial:
Want more plant care tips? You’ll also love my guides on how to take care of monstera plants, the ponytail palm, snake plants, elephant ear plants, pothos plants, rubber plants, fiddle leaf figs, cape ivy, peperomia plants, pilea peperomioides, succulents, and philodendron.
And here are my tips how to pot indoor plants!
Step 1: Remove the plant from the pot
If you’re reading this because you’re wondering how to pot a brand new plant, chances are that it’s still in the cheap plastic container you bought it in. That’s fine! Plants can stay happy in these containers for quite a while because they are often big enough to accommodate some growth while the plants are in transit and then sitting in stores waiting to be adopted.
But you don’t want to keep them in these pots forever. Many plants will thrive with a bit more growing room—and probably some higher quality soil! The plastic pots also just aren’t that pretty, if we’re being honest. I like to keep mine and reuse them for propagating cuttings or gifting baby plants to others. But you don’t have to do that.
Sometimes plants just pop right out of their plastic containers, but other times they are in there really tight and it can be hard to get them out. Don’t be afraid to use scissors to carefully cut the pot since it’s just plastic. I have had to do this on plants that are really root bound from being in their temporary plastic pot homes for too long.
Wait…what is root bound?
Ahh, that’s a good question! And it’s one of a few key reasons you’ll want to repot plants. Rootbound means that your plant’s roots have grown so much that they have taken up all of the space in the pot. Rootbound plants often have a dense ball of roots that have grown to form the shape of your pot. Even sometimes growing out of the pot’s drainage hole desperately seeking more space!
While some plants are happy to be fairly root bound (like, for example, spider plants and snake plants), most plants will begin to suffer. That’s because they have more roots than they do potting soil, and that’s a recipe for disaster! Planters get nutrients and water from soil, so the root-to-soil ratio really strangles them. You can see how this would lead to a plant looking not so hot.
Don’t worry, being rootbound typically means your plant is growing well and you’re taking great care of it! But you probably do need to take some action. You can either prune your plant’s roots, which requires taking it out of the pot and gives the roots a lil haircut. Or you can just repot it into a bigger pot. Pruning the roots will keep your plant smaller (at least for now), while repotting into a larger pot will encourage it to grow, grow, grow!
Step 2: Loosen and trim the root ball
The next step is to loosen and trim the root ball. You can just use your fingers to do this. Pull apart the roots and combing through them to get some air circulating in there. Then use clean gardening shears to trim the roots. Yes—cut them! Don’t be too scared. They are pretty hardy and patient, and your plant will forgive you.
The amount you cut off depends on a few things. If your plant is really pot bound in its current pot and you’d like to keep it in a similar sized pot, you want to cut off more. About half of the existing root structure. This does stress the plant, so the best time to do this is in spring or summer when your plant is actively growing and can bounce back.
If you want to plant it in a larger pot to encourage it to get bigger, just trim the roots to clean them up a bit. Trimming them will be much less of a shock to your plant. Think of it as a bit of spring cleaning/pruning. While you’re at it, remove any old or dying growth on the plant such as old leaves.
Interested in plant-related DIYs? Check out my test tube propagation station, my glass jar propagation station, my midcentury plant stand, my stainless steel bowl hanging planter, and my hanging plant pot holder.
Step 3: Plant!
Fill the bottom of your planter with the appropriate potting soil for your plant. Usually for houseplants it will be a well-draining houseplant or succulent/cacti mix. Then just set your plant down in and fill the pot with soil. You can use your fist to knock the side of the pot to encourage the soil to fall down into the root crevices. You want to avoid air pockets.
Once you’ve filled the pot, lift up and shake the pot (depending on how big it is) to further settle the soil. Press down on the top of the soil and add more as needed. You can use a small cup to fill in the gaps around the edges of the pot if the plant is covering it up.
If you’re potting a very large plant, here’s a tip: put soil in the bottom of the pot. Then set the plant in while it’s still in its pot and fill up the pot with soil. Take the plant out; you’ll be left with a gaping hole. This is roughly the size you’ll need to plant pot your plant up! Fill in with soil as necessary.
Give your plant a good watering and monitor it for a few weeks. Don’t worry if it wilts a bit—it might just be rebounded from its spa treatment.