How Do I Know When It's Time Move My Plant to a Larger Pot?

Q: How do I know when it’s time to upgrade my plant to a larger pot?

A: Signs that a plant is ready for an upgrade include exposed roots at the top or bottom of the pot. Wilting is another sign that your plant needs more growing room, says horticulturalist Brad Balsis of Habersham Gardens.

“Hold your hand over the soil, tip the plant out and take a look at the root system,” he says. “If you see plenty of nice, white healthy roots and plenty of soil, you are probably fine. If not, repot.”

Balsis says that spring is the best time to swap pots because plants put out new growth during that period. But bigger doesn’t mean better when it comes to pots. Move up by only one pot size or your plant will form new roots to fill that wide-open space. “You don’t want to brag about your pot of roots,” he says. “It’s the top you want to brag about.”

To switch pots, carefully remove your plant from its original container and feather the roots with your fingers. Balsis also recommends plenty of drainage.

“I believe in putting landscape fabric in the bottom over the hole so soil won’t get out,” he says. “Then add pea gravel or another piece of landscape fabric over that entire area. Don’t make it real deep — just add enough to promote better drainage.”

Fresh potting soil also is essential to helping your plant thrive in its new pot, Balsis says, so take the time to find a soil mix that works best for your plant. Add an inch of soil at the bottom of your pot and place the plant with feathered roots on top. Add more soil until you reach the same level as in your original pot. Any higher, Balsis says, and you may suffocate the plant. He also suggests leaving space around the top so that water doesn’t cascade over the side of the pot. Then, very gently push soil down to fill in the gaps.

“Don’t pack the soil in like I’ve seen so many people do,” he says. “That will just break off roots.” Add water to help the soil settle into air pockets.

All the best to you and your green thumb!

— Morieka Johnson