How To Pot A Plant & When To Repot It

Start with clean, scrubbed pots–preferably sterilized–for better success. Coarse steel wool or metal scouring pads clean them in a jiffy. Here’s how:

Preparing An Impatiens For Potting
  • Most harmful organisms can be killed by placing a stack of pots on a cloth under the hot-water faucet and running hot water slowly into the top for five minutes.
  • Another option is this quick recipe: 50/50 water and vinegar solution. Works well on both plastic and clay containers.

Getting Ready:

Place a piece of broken crockery over the hole in the bottom of the container and cover with a handful of soil (you can use a few small stones instead of crockery pieces). The idea is to allow water to drain (instead of being trapped in the container) without losing soil. Placing a piece of broken crockery or a few rocks will provide filtered drainage.


  • Hold the plant in the pot with its crown just below the rim and spread the roots out evenly.
  • Fill the container gradually with soil, and firm it, without packing, as each handful is put in.
  • Final soil level should be at least 1/4 inch below the top rim to allow for easier watering.
  • You can mix your own organic soil, see recipes on this page.
Steps For Potting

Consider The Container:

See this page for creative diy container ideas.

  • Unglazed clay pots provide ideal growing conditions. They are porous, providing necessary air circulation to roots, and have drainage holes in the bottom, making overwatering less likely.
  • Plastic containers are lightweight and easy to handle but, as with metal or ceramic, water evaporates slowly so you have to be careful not to overwater.
  • If drainage is not provided, water can accumulate in the bottom of the container. Then roots rot and give off gases toxic to the plant.
  • If you find a container unattractive, set it in a jardiniere that better suits your taste.

Source: Adapted From Better Homes & Gardens Garden Book (vintage insert)


Remove as much old soil as possible from roots, particularly from the top of soil ball, disturbing roots as little as possible. Use a container proportionate in size to the plant. Plants should be shifted to bigger pots as they grow larger.

To determine when it’s time to repot:

Keep Houseplants Healthy
Keep Houseplants Healthy By Repotting Them As Needed

When the plant has exhausted the nutritive value of the soil in the container, it should be transferred to a larger one to maintain its normal growth.

  • First remove it from the container. Do this by turning it upside down, supporting by two fingers on each side of the stem, against the soil. Tap the rim of the container on the edge of a bench or table. This will loosen the pot so it may be removed.
  • You’ll know it’s time when there is a heavy mat of roots showing through the dirt. If the roots have lost their healthy creamy white color and instead are of rusty appearance, repotting is required at once.
  • Handle with care so that no more earth than necessary is disturbed or broken from the roots. Remove all the soil down to where the roots begin.
  • The general rule of thumb is to select the next largest size of container, putting enough soil in the bottom to raise the plant to a height where all roots will be nicely covered and the soil is at least one half-inch from the top edge of the container.
  • Tip: A stick is handy for firming the soil around the edge of the container.
  • Always water thoroughly after potting, making sure all soil is well moistened.

Source: House Plants – Indoor Flowers and Bulbs and How To Grow Them by Frederick J. Fryer (1946)

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