How Much Soil Should You Remove When Repotting?

Repotting your plant is, usually, a positive experience. It means that your plant has outgrown its current pot (meaning you’re doing fantastic!) or that you got a brand new pot that you think is more fitting. But if you’re new to planting or repotting, you may be worried about messing it up. 

You should remove all or most of the old soil when repotting your plant. Since your plant is ready to be repotted, it’s likely flourished because it absorbed all or most nutrients within the soil. However, you can keep around ⅓ or ¼ of the old soil for the new pot.

If your old plant-soil has been infested with pests, fungi, or other infections, you might consider just tossing all of it or using some sanitizing methods to freshen the soil up for the new pot. 

Below, we will talk about when to repot your plant, why repotting is so essential, and some tips on reusing old soil. Then, we will go over a few more tips to help your plant baby thrive in its new (pot) home. 

Should You Remove Old Soil When Repotting?

Buying new bags of soil can be costly and usually requires another trip to the store (or out the garden shed, which could be an equally tedious task). When there’s thriving, healthy soil in your old pot, should you just toss it out? Can you just mix the old soil on when filling up your new pot with new soil? 

You don’t have to remove all of the old soil when repotting your plant, but it might be a good idea to remove it all if your plant has had any fungus, pests, or infections contaminating it. Old soil lacks nutrients because your plant absorbs them, so it’s essential to add new soil to add nutrients.

As you can tell, the answer will change depending on why you are repotting your plant in the first place. So, to keep the answer short and sweet, as long as there are no pesky issues with your soil, it’s okay to use a little bit of it in your new pot. 

Plants Need Repotting Because of Growth or Soil Troubles 

Maybe you just got a steal on a beautiful new pot or you’re noticing some changes in the way your houseplant is growing. You might have a tugging instinct that it’s time to repot your plant.

You’ll know your plant is ready to be repotted when

  • Roots are growing through the bottom of the drainage holes. 
  • Growing has slowed down (which could be because there is no more room to grow). 
  • Your pot is becoming infested with fungus or pests. 
  • Your mix is drying quicker than usual. 

Some of these repotting signs are due to a lack of nutrients in the soil, while others are signs of your soil harboring illness. 

If you’re moving your plant for outgrowth or nutrient purposes, you can still use old soil, but in scarcity. Removing old soil gives your plant a fresh start. If you want to mix it in, you can pack it closer to the bottom, where the drainage will be coming through. 

In this case, depending on how big the new pot is, you shouldn’t be using more than ⅓ or ¼ of the remaining old soil in your new soil mix. Your plant needs new, fresh nutrients to grow and thrive, and your old soil just doesn’t have it. 

As we mentioned above, the soil might be worth a complete toss if there’s fungus or pests in it. Bugs that help your plants grow are okay to stay, but infestations would make reuse not only not worth it but potentially dangerous. You can also sanitize this soil, which will give it a clean slate disease-wise but still won’t support your plant nutrient-wise. 

Some would suggest never using the old soil material, especially for fragile plants like orchids. Old soil takes up room that new, nutrient soil can be in. Additionally, you should toss the soil if you’re repotting your plant because it was outside for an extended period. 

Repotting when moving a plant from outdoor to indoor protects your home and houseplants from any pests that made your plant their home while it was outside, so reusing the soil will defeat the purpose. 

Repotting Your Plants Is Worth the Fuss

Does it make a difference to repot your plants at all? Hopefully, the above information didn’t scare you away from repotting. Another trip to the store or out to the shed will be worth it because, yes, repotting your plants is worth the fuss. 

We’ve all heard the story about how goldfish will only grow as big as they’re able in the bowl they’re in. Plants are the same way. Sure, you can’t grow a tree-sized mint plant just because you moved it from a pot into a garden patch, but the concept remains the same. Keeping your plant in the same pot will stunt its growth and prevent it from reaching its full potential. 

Also, keeping your plants in the same pot will speed up their wilting process and may even result in death. Plants need nutrients to survive, and though it seems to be gardening 101 to think light and water are enough, they’re not! 

Nutrients and microorganisms in the soil in the right amounts are essential to plant life growth. Keeping your plant within the same soil mix will suck all the nutrients out of it, and soon your plant will have nothing to eat. 

Fresh Soil Is Always a Good Idea

Even if your plant isn’t ready for repotting, you can use the principles from above to help your plant thrive. If it seems your nutrients are depleted, you’re too scared to remove your plant from its current pot, or you’re waiting for the perfect replanting pot to come in the mail (we’ve all been there), then you can use a spoon to scoop out some old soil and put a layer of fresh soil. 

How Should I Repot My Plants?

Deciding whether or not you want to keep some old soil is one thing, but figuring out how to completely repot your plants is another. Once you’ve figured out why you’re repotting and committed to the process, you may need some help getting your plant into its new home. 

To repot your plants: 

  1. Find your new pot.  
  2. Add a drainage layer (if there are no drainage holes) and new soil.  
  3. Remove your plant from its old pot. 
  4. Remove old potting mix. 
  5. Add plants. 
  6. Water thoroughly. 

Your new pot should be more significant than the one you have now, and you should make sure you have enough new soil to fill it. Additionally, if you’re reusing pots as your plants grow, you’ll want to make sure it’s been thoroughly cleaned if there was any fungus or mold. 

Before taking your old plant out of its pot, you’ll want to add a drainage layer of mulch, rocks, or lava rocks to your new plant pot. Then, fill a little bit of new soil in, ensuring there’s enough space for your old plant to sit in. This should be done before taking your old plant out because there’s nothing scarier than having to set your plant down on a table while you prepare! 

The following steps are easier said than done, but with carefulness and precision, they shouldn’t damage your plant at all. You’ll remove your old plant from its mix, careful not to tear or damage any roots. Then, you’ll shake off the old potting mix (and if you reuse it or sanitize it, gather it into a separate container). 

Now, the fun part! Add your plant to the new soil mix, layer in some new soil around it, and press. You can then water your plant to welcome it into its new home. 

This video, from The Sill, helps visual learners see what repotting looks like: 

Below, we go over some essential tips for repotting your plants to help you feel more at ease with this significant change. 

Tips for Repotting Your Plants

Repotting your plants doesn’t have to be challenging. Luckily, there are several tips and tricks you can use to make the process of repotting your plants that much easier. While some of these tips might not work for you (depending on your materials), others are essential to successfully repotting.

Wash Your New Pot With Soap and Water

As we mentioned above, it may be a good idea to wash your new pot with soap and water. You should do this a day or two before the extensive report so that any harshness in the soap chemicals or vinegar wash (if you are going an anti-mold route) has calmed. This will also ensure that your pot is pest-free if you got it second-hand or are reusing it. 

Sanitize Old Soil for Reuse

If you want to use a lot of your old soil, not just the soil that comes with the plant and its roots, you can always sanitize it to ensure pests are gone. You can use freezing, heating, or boiling water methods to sanitize. Sanitizing rids the soil of all life, good and bad. 

Hold Your Plant Sideways or Upside-Down To Remove From Pot

Holding your plant sideways or upside-down is a great way to remove it from its current pot without pulling or pressuring the roots and flowers. However, it’s essential to do this with care, as dropping your plant during this process can harm it. Ensure your hand is over the soil before gently knocking at the container.

Cut Your Plastic Pot

If your roots have outgrown the pot, and you’re worried about damaging them as you pull the plant out (even using the sideways or upside method from above), you can cut the plastic pot your plant is in. This video helps to explain what this looks like: 

However, this likely won’t work if you don’t have a plastic pot on your plant. 


You should remove most or all of your old potting soil when repotting your plant, but reusing a little or letting some stick onto the roots isn’t a big deal, as long as you have healthy soil. 

However, if you have any pests, fungus, or infestation in your soil, you’re going to want to remove as much of the old soil as possible and sanitize the soil before reuse. However, it may be simpler to just toss it.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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