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When to Move Houseplants Up to the Next Size

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When to Move Houseplants Up to the Next Size

You've done the hard work to make your outdoor garden shine, but have you thought about tending to your indoor plants? Sure it's nice to sit around and admire their beauty, but an essential (and often overlooked) aspect of houseplant care is repotting. Well, unless you don't mind all of the meticulous watering and shuffling between windows to find the best light to be in vain, of course.  

The number of leaves that a plant can produce depends on how much room its roots have, and some plants just require an extra jolt to flourish. Essentially, if your plant doesn't have the space it needs to grow properly, then it won't. It's really that simple! So, that being said, let's dive a little deeper into the fundamentals of repotting, shall we? 

General Guidelines

  • It's always a good idea to bump up the pot size when a plant is actively growing, but avoid any that are two or more inches larger than their current home. It may seem counterintuitive, but too much extra wiggle room can make it difficult for plants to absorb water. 

  • If your plant isn't currently thriving, avoid shocking its root systems by moving into fresh soil, as this could actually worsen the problem and limit its growth.

  • Ignore the pretty (misleading) posts on Pinterest that tell you rocks in the bottom of a pot without holes will serve as a drip tray, and get yourself a vessel with proper drainage holes. The roots will grow into the rocks, and without an escape route or room to evaporate, the water will cause them to rot.  

  • Find a slow-release fertilizer with a low nutrient concentration to avoid poisoning your houseplants with love.

  • Give the soil a good soak right after repotting, then leaf it alone for a while! After repotting, plants slow down their growth for a week or two, so they don't require regular water. 

  • When roots begin to poke out from the bottom of the pot, that means it's time to pot them up! If the roots have become entangled, you may want to carefully cut a few slits in them to break up the root ball and encourage new growth.

Here's some info on repotting popular houseplants right now. 

Calatheas and Marantas

Okay, so there's no denying that these plants are absolutely stunning. I mean, c'mon - just look at the striking variegation on Rattlesnake Calatheas, and would you let a load of the massive leaves on Medallion Calatheas?! It's no wonder these beauties are all the rage among houseplant parents! Native to South American rainforests, they thrive in moist, humid conditions, folding and unfolding their luscious leaves in delight each day. 

  • These slow growers only need to be repotted every two years or so in the spring or summer. Better choose a pot that you like!

  • Once you have one of these spectacular plants, it's only natural that you'd want more! However, they sell out so darn fast. Don't worry - they're easy to propagate when being repotted. Carefully cut a few of the fans of leaves from the plant's edges off, ensuring that the cutting still has roots. Place the cuttings in a 4" pot with fresh soil and keep the humidity high by covering them with plastic wrap or a small indoor greenhouse until they're established. 

  • After repotting, be super sure to keep them warm, as humid as possible, and away from drafts. 

Pileas

Now, here comes a houseplant that's in exceptionally high demand - Pileas! There are tons of beautiful varieties out there - Aluminium Plants, Friendship Plants, Chinese Money Plants, and Creeping Jennies, to name a few. If you want to keep yours happy, healthy, and ready for its Instagram-worthy closeup, then read on! 

  • Pileas tend to get a bit leggy with age, even when under expert care. You may be best off taking stem cuttings, applying some rooting hormone, and putting them in a new pot. Most will gladly make babies from their roots and stems that you can gently pluck off and plant up as well!

  • If your Pileas plant appears to be thriving in its current home, you can encourage it to stay beautiful by potting it up each spring. 

  • Use a ceramic or plastic pot to keep your Pileas moist. 

Dracaenas

Okay, if you have more going on than just bushy, trailing plants, then this is for you! Let's talk about how to care for the elegant, slender Dracaenas.

  • These lovelies are slow growers and only need to be repotted every two years at the earliest. Some may even ask for five years between shift ups. 

  • When the time to repot finally arrives, you can do so whenever, from spring to early fall. 

  • If your Dracaena plant becomes bushy with leaves all the way down the stems, you can keep them tidy by carefully tying them with string.

  • While propagating these beauties can prove challenging due to their woody stems, it's certainly not impossible! Cut off the heads of the leggy stems, apply some rooting hormone, and give them loads of bottom heat. 

  • Another option for Dracaena propagation is to air layer them. Not sure what that means? No worries! Peel off a section of bark about one inch thick the whole away around a stem, wrap it with moist sphagnum moss, and coat it with plastic wrap for a few weeks until roots form. Finally, carefully cut off the newly rooted piece and pot it up. 

 

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  • Katie Elzer-Peters