When to Move Plant to Bigger Pot? My Honest Guide

Knowing the right time to upsize your beloved houseplants is key to ensuring their robust growth and overall health.

This article on when to move plant to bigger pot will guide you through the tell-tale signs of a pot-bound plant, the best seasons for making the transition, and step-by-step methods to repot your thriving urban jungle.

Get ready to enrich your plant care repertoire with this essential knowledge.

When to move plant to bigger pot
move plant to bigger pot

When to move plant to bigger pot?

The ideal time to move a plant to a bigger pot is when it shows clear signs of outgrowing its current container.

Keep an eye out for the following indicators:

  1. Overgrown roots visible at the surface or even protruding from drainage holes.
  2. A noticeable decline in the plant’s growth rate or unhealthy-looking leaves despite proper care.
  3. Frequent need for watering, as the pot-bound roots absorb moisture quickly.

Typically, it’s best to repot during a plant’s active growing phase, which varies depending on the species. For most plants, this period falls in spring or early summer.

Repotting at this time allows the plant to acclimate to its new environment with minimal stress. However, some species may require repotting in fall or winter.

In summary, relocate your plant to a more spacious pot when it exhibits signs of being pot-bound and during its active growth period for optimal results.

What to do when moving a plant to a bigger pot?

Transplanting your plant to a larger pot may seem intimidating, but with a little guidance, the task becomes less daunting. The following step-by-step guide will walk you through the process:

What to do when moving a plant to a bigger pot

Materials Needed

  • The plant
  • A new pot (2 inches larger in diameter for small pots, and up to 4 inches larger for big pots)
  • Quality potting mix
  • A trowel
  • Gloves
  • Scissors or pruners

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Choose the Right Pot: A pot that is too large will make it harder for the plant to absorb water efficiently. On the other hand, a pot that is too small might restrict root development. Ensure that your new pot has good drainage and is not more than 4 inches larger in diameter than the current pot.
  • Prepare the Pot: Add some soil to the new pot bottom. The goal here is to raise the height of the plant so that its crown will remain at the surface level when planted.
  • Remove the Plant: Tip the existing pot sideways, grip the plant at its base, and pull it gently out of the pot. If it’s root-bound, you may have to knock the sides of the pot to loosen the soil.
  • Free up the Roots: If the plant is heavily root-bound (roots circling around the bottom), loosen them up delicately using your fingers or scissors if required. Be careful to minimize root damage.
  • Transfer the Plant: Place the plant into the center of the new pot. Its root system should spread out naturally in the extra space. Balance the plant so that its base aligns with the top of your pot, then add more potting mix to fill the pot.
  • Water the Plant: Soak the plant immediately after repotting to help the soil settle around the roots. Allow water to drain completely.
  • Assess the Plant: Observe your plant for the next few days to weeks. It’s normal for it to experience a little shock and show signs like drooping or yellowing. But if the plant doesn’t bounce back over time, there could be other issues at play.

What should you not do when repotting?

While the process of repotting a plant is relatively straightforward, there are several common mistakes to avoid to ensure your plant continues to thrive. Below are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to repotting:

What should you not do when repotting
  1. Don’t Choose a Pot That’s Too Large: When repotting, make sure your new pot is only slightly larger (2 – 4 inches depending on current pot size) than the current pot. An oversized pot can lead to waterlogging as it may hold more water than the plant can absorb, leading to root rot.
  2. Don’t Reuse Old Soil: Always use fresh potting soil from a reliable source when repotting. Reusing old soil can cause an excess buildup of minerals and might harbor harmful pests or bacterial infections that can damage your plant.
  3. Don’t Waterlog the Pot: Give your repotted plant a good amount of water post-repotting but avoid soaking the soil completely. Overwatering can deprive the roots of oxygen and lead to root rot, a potentially deadly condition.
  4. Avoid Repotting at the Wrong Time: Although some plants can tolerate repotting at any time, most plants prefer being transplanted during their active growth period to minimize stress. In general, spring and early summer are often the best times to repot.
  5. Don’t Ignore the Plant after Repotting: Post-repotting, continue to monitor your plant more closely than usual for a few weeks. Watch out for any signs of distress like wilting, yellowing, or browning of leaves. Proper light provision, temperature maintenance, and watering are especially crucial during this period.
  6. Don’t Forget to Loosen Up Root-bound Plants: Failing to loosen the roots can force them to continue growing in a circular pattern and hinder the plant’s ability to expand its root system in the new, larger pot.

Remember, the goal of repotting is to provide your plant with the necessary room to grow and flourish. While the repotting process may seem a bit challenging, avoiding these pitfalls would certainly improve the chances of a successful repotting and happier, healthier plants.

Will a Plant Die If the Pot Is Too Small?

Yes, a plant can die if the pot is too small. Limited root space can stifle the growth of the plant, as roots will not have sufficient room to spread out and absorb nutrients and water. As the plant becomes root-bound, it starts showing signs of stress.

These signs can include wilting, yellowing, or browning of leaves, slower overall growth, and increased susceptibility to pests or diseases. If unchecked, this could eventually lead to the plant’s death.

The smaller pot also fills up with water quickly, leading to waterlogging and potential root rot, adding another threat to the plant’s survival. In such cases, upgrading to a larger pot can help your plant regain its health and vitality.

Can a Pot Be Too Big for a Plant?

Contrary to what one might think, a pot can indeed be too big for a plant. A pot that is too large can cause problems mainly due to water retention. The extra soil in a much larger pot will hold moisture for longer, creating a damp environment that could potentially lead to root rot.

Can a Pot Be Too Big for a Plant

Also, with a larger volume of soil, the roots of the plant will take more time to absorb the water. This excess moisture can make the soil waterlogged and deprive the roots of the needed oxygen, leading to root suffocation and possibly death.

Aside from this, a potting mix rich in nutrients can also cause an overabundance of fertilization and the risk of burning the plant’s roots. Therefore, it is essential to find a pot that is the right size for your plant to ensure its healthy growth.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should You Remove Old Soil When Repotting?

Yes, it is advisable to remove old soil when repotting a plant. This helps to minimize the risk of transferring pests and diseases to the new pot. Moreover, fresh soil will contain more nutrients and have better soil structure, as the old soil will likely be depleted and compacted over time. Gently shake off the excess soil from the roots, ensuring that you do not cause undue damage in the process.

Should You Break up Roots When Repotting?

Should You Break up Roots When Repotting

It is a good practice to loosen up the roots when repotting, especially if the plant is root-bound. Breaking up heavily intertwined roots allows for improved absorption of water and nutrients in the new potting soil. Be gentle when untangling the roots and, if necessary, use a pair of scissors or pruners to carefully trim thicker roots. However, avoid causing excessive damage to the roots while attempting to separate them.

Should I Soak a Plant Before Repotting?

Pre-watering your plant before repotting can be beneficial, as it helps the plant better withstand the repotting process. Giving your plant a good watering a few hours or a day before repotting allows the plant and the soil to be well-hydrated, ensuring easier removal from the current pot and causing less stress during the repotting process. A well-hydrated plant is less prone to wilting and other signs of transplant shock.

Should You Water Right After Repotting?

Yes, you should water your plant right after repotting. Watering the plant helps the soil settle around the roots and ensures proper contact between the roots and the new soil. Allow the soil to drain thoroughly, thus preventing root rot caused by excess water. Pay attention to your plant’s specific water requirements after repotting to avoid overwatering or under-watering.

Do Plants Go into Shock After Repotting?

Do Plants Go into Shock After Repotting

It is common for plants to experience some level of shock after being repotted. The repotting process is stressful for plants, and during the adjustment period, they may exhibit symptoms like drooping, yellowing, or browning of leaves. However, most plants will recover from this temporary shock if provided with appropriate care – proper light, temperature, and watering. Keeping an eye on your plant and addressing any issues early on will help facilitate its recovery and adaptation to the new environment.


It’s essential to recognize when your plant needs to be moved to a larger pot. Signs like slower growth, waterlogged or dried-out soil, and roots crowding the pot are clear indications.

Generally, plants are best moved during their active growth phase, typically in spring or early summer.

Remember, the goal is to promote optimal growth, so choosing the right pot size, using fresh soil, and providing careful aftercare are critical elements to ensure your plant thrives in its new environment.

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