Apr 12, 2010


I have been getting few (underline few :D) emails asking me to write a post about repotting a plant. Well, I am no expert at this, but still here, I wish to share how I do it. Experts out there, please correct me if I go wrong somewhere. :D

I repotted a Betel vine and a Jasmine Creeper and also a Golden Champaca and Tuberose. The impulsive shopper in me bought the last three plants from my visit to Horticultural Society (not as great as the name suggests, but I guess something is better than nothing) on Saturday. I thought I'd take photos as I pot the plants up to those who find it a dreadful task.

This post is especially dedicated to my Teacher (Mrs Eswari Natarajan) who recently took interest in gardening after visiting my blog. I was flattered!

The other gemini: Stop boasting and on to the post!

Ahem! :D Don't mind him, he thinks I'm a dumbo.

I have heard people saying that their plants died after they potted up the plants that they bought from the nursery and many dread the thought of repotting, fearing that they would injure the plant, but it is important that potted plants are repotted at least once in two or three years or every other year for plants that grow really fast.

About the nursery-bought plants, most of the times the soil is caked (at least in this part of India) and so thick that you can't even loosen the soil, so people stick the cylindrical block right into the soil, which doesn't help the roots to spread and the plant dies.

Due to my coco peat conversion, I had to completely remove all the soil (it really was a task, trying to free the soil from the roots!), except the soil that stuck to the base.

Okay, on to the process:

1. Pot Selection: If repotting a plant, always choose a pot slightly bigger than its previous home as same applies for the plants bought from nursery.

2. I like to wash my pots before re-using it and I'd recommend the same to you. Cover the drain holes of the pot with crock pieces or even a mesh would do - Anything that prevents soil from blocking the hole and creates drainage problems.

3. Ready your potting mix. I used 60% Coco peat + 30% Sand + 5-10% Compost. Fill half of the pot with the potting mix.

4. a) Remove the plant from the pot and cut away the roots that weave themselves around the pot. I'll show how to do this in my next post as I forgot to take pictures of my Betel vine and morever the vine wasn't pot-bound as I potted it only two months ago. Since I wanted to get rid of all the soil, I gently free almost 95% of soil from the roots.
b) If potting a nursery-bought plant, first make three cuts along the circumference of the plastic
and peel it like you'd do a banana to the bottom and then separate if from the soil. Most of the times, you'd see the plants root penetrating the plastic and peeping out. If this is the case do NOT pull the plastic away, because most definitely the bottom half of the cylindrical soil block would come off! Which means, you have another half of the root with the plastic. You DON'T want this to happen as I myself have done this in the beginning.

Cup the bottom with the palm of your hand and squeeze it so that the soil becomes loose. If the cylinder is big, loosen the soil at the bottom (along with the plastic) between your thumb and fingers. Now slowly remove the peeled plastic away.

5. a) After trimming the pot-bound roots, you'd have to loosen the soil around.
   * An important note here: If you by accident cut quite an amount of roots, don't panic. You have the situation under control still. Just trim the plant on the top to compensate the root loss. Simple!

b) Squeeze the cylindrical block of your nursery-bought plant to loosen the soil. I removed all the soil except the the one sticking to the roots (If you're doing this, be careful not to break off the thick roots, thin minor roots are okay though).
6. Now place the plant over the soil and see how much more you'd need to fill up. Mark the level with a chalk or visually. Allow a two-inch (at least one-inch) space from the rim of the pot. AS a general rule, make sure that you pot the plant up to the level of soil that it was growing in nursery or in its previous home. This is important because covering the part of plant that was above the soil would rot the plant!
7. Now keep the plant aside and fill the pot upto the marked level.

8. Place the plant on the soil and gentle press its roots into the soil and hold it in place. Now start filling the space around with the soil upto two inches below the rim of the pot.
In case of some creepers like this betel vine, you don't have to worry about planting it deeper than it was, because it doesn't suffer root rot. Now, if your roots are long like this Vine. Spread it around the pot and holding it with your fingers, fill the soil.
Sometimes, you'd see that in creepers or shrubs, a larger part of the stem is bare and only the tip has shoots. You might want to bend it and bury it into the soil.
This would give you an extra plant few months later. Once you start seeing new growth, you can cut the arch (wait until the new growth grows a bit) and repot the other half, plant it in the ground, or if you're too-very-good-hearted, share it with your friends or neighbors.
What we did just now is ground layering! Most of the times you'd want to stake the layered branch and even place a brick or a heavy object above the ground to prevent the branch from springing up.

While doing this, I accidentally broke the stem of my Jasmine, but you see that a thin tissue is still holding the two pieces together. Most of the times, you'd see that the plant would recuperate from this. If you have a root hormone powder, you might want to apply it to the broken section.

9. I like to add the fertilizer a inch below the surface of soil and I mixed it with soil an inch below before filling up. Make sure that you add the fertilizer or Plant food at least an inch or two away from the roots to avoid damage.
I added Flower food to this nursery-bought Jasmine and Michelia in addition to the fertilizer.
Add stakes or mesh for the creeper and tie the vines using a twine to them.
10. Now water the pot copiously and make sure it drains from the hole(s) from the bottom.
11. If your plant is tall and fragile, consider staking it until its roots settle themselves.
Doesn't it sound simple? Well, for beginners it might not, but believe me, once you do two or three, you'd find it easy. Have fun repotting and propagating! Give your plants a new home!


tina said...

You make it look so easy Chandramouli. Super good tips. Especially the fertilizer and staking.

Anonymous said...

Dear Chandramouli, This is indeed a most interesting and informative post and one which has alerted me to the fact that J, my gardener/handyman, who carries out all my potting on under cover of the Alpine House, may not have been doing this task as properly as he could [i.e. deaths do occur!].

I have noted the salient points and will reinstruct him armed with this knowledge. Thank you for taking the time to explain the process so very clearly.

Randy and Jamie said...

Well done Mouli! I don't have very many potted plants. They're too much work! :-) I'm a lazy gardener!-- Randy

prue said...

Wow what a comprehensive guide! Puts my repotting skills to shame (take the plant, dump it in a new pot, hope it doesn't die!!!) Keep up the good work.

James Missier said...

Indeed you have put a very detailed information on the re-potting.

As for myself - usually cut & strip the black plastic bag and plant the whole block into a new pot without disturbing the young roots - some root plants are very sensitive (like bougainvillea) and so if they experience shock - the whole plant may die.

Again, I also refrain from putting fertiliser on the first few days are repotting - as it would give time for the plant roots to heal and "stretch" out their legs.

Once settle, only then I would apply the fertiliser - I had once applied fertiliser after repotting and my begonia and orchid died.

I guess different gardeners have their special successful ways in gardening especially when it comes to repotting.

All the best in your new garden plants.

Thanks for visiting and the comment in my blog.

Chandramouli S said...

Thank you, Tina :) After I wrote and published the post I thought it was really lousy and was expecting e-rotten-tomatoes :D, no seriously!

I am glad you learnt something from this post. I've never thought I'd get such responses. Thank you.

Well, Prue, I consider you an awesome gardener. You're my inspiration to grow tomatoes. If not for you, I'd never have dared to grow them. Thanks to you for that.

Thanks for the detailed comment, James. I find that when you stick the plant without loosening the soil, it takes long for the plant to get settled in and when the soil is too thick and the plant grows bigger, I've found that some wilt and die. I've heard this happening with many of my friends so it's always good and a must to loosen the soil.

About fertilizing, I'm not sure if it's wrong to do so, but it worked for me so far, and it gives you early blooms!

Dani said...

Hi, just stopping in to thank you for your sweet comments on my blog today. Have a happy one. :)

Skeeter said...

Wonderful step by step instructions on repotting a plant. I need to repot the Spider plants hanging on the front porch but have so much other stuff to do, that they will probably not get repotted any time soon. Spring time is so busy around here…

eswari said...

Hi Mouli,

It is really great... wonderful and highly informative tips. U r a wonderful TEACHER to explain it in a very detailed manner for a beginner like me. I try to follow all the tips u have given here. I ll surely let u know after my effort.. Thank you so much Mouli.. Very nice of u.

noel said...


what a great post, i'm constantly repotting my plants up to larger containers since they grow really fast here in the tropics...i enjoyed your post and photos.

Smile Always said...

Hi Chandramouli,

I am a big fan of your flower garden.. I wish I ll have one day like this :)... Need some suggestion..

Can you please suggest me some small plants (flower plants)(container size - 5" - 6") to keep on kitchen window.. This kitchen window doesn't get direct sunlight but it is bright.

Chandramouli S said...

Dani: My Pleasure. I love your blog and have it in my blogroll.

Thank you, Skeeter. Spring really gets us all busy, but we still somehow find time to blog! Spring charges us with energy!

Hi Ma'am, Thank for your comments. I'm flattered. Let me know how it goes.

Noel: Glad you found the post interesting :)

Smile Always: Thank you :)
Which part of the world do you live in? Are you from temperate or tropical parts of the world? Does the space not get even a weeny bit of sunlight? You can also email me at Chandramouli.S@gmail.com.

Anne Fannie said...

Hi Chandramouli
Quite informative post. Especially interesting since its from all the way around the world! You write english very well too! I have enjoyed looking around your blog and reading about your gardening in India. I am in Southern California!

Chandramouli S said...

Welcome to Plantville, Anne. Thank you for the kind words. I guess since we study English from our kindergarten, we find it easy. Have a great day!

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

Those were great instructions. I'm not very good about always remembering to trim the pot bound roots. It's interesting to see how the plants come potted there, is that how most are?

☆sapphire said...

Hello Chandramouli S

Thank you for these detailed explanations! I'm now thinking about growing jasmines so I'll save this page for reference. I'm not sure if I can grow them well in my place where it is cold in winter... But I'd love to ..

Chandramouli S said...

Thank you, Catherine :) No, we get plants only in nursery bags and tiny pots for roses. The bigger potted plants are from my garden - As I said, I am repotting all my plants by eliminating soil and replacing it with Coco peat.

☆sapphire: My pleasure. Jasmine is easy to grow if you give them full sun. May be you could grow them in containers and bring them indoors during frost. Anyways they would stop or bloom scarcely when it starts getting colder even in India. Do try the Arabian Jasmines as they are the least fussy, whereas others like the Jasminum grandiflorum and the like are sensitive ones.

Anonymous said...


Yours is a really inspiring blog and this post especially very informative. Thanks for all the detailed photos and instructions.

Happy gardening

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