Potted plants can add a touch of life to any room in your house, but not all plants are created equal when it comes to potting. However, it can be confusing to know which type of pot to use and how much soil to put in it. So, how do you properly pot any type of houseplant?
To properly pot any type of houseplant, start by selecting a pot that’s at least 1-2 inches (2.54-5.08 cm) wider than the root ball of your plant. Then, fill the pot with a high-quality potting mix, pack the mix gently around the roots, and water the plant thoroughly.
This article will explain everything you need to know about potting your houseplants. Let’s get started!
1. Select the Right Pot for Your Houseplant
The first step to potting any houseplant is to select a pot. Ideally, the right pot should be at least 1-2 inches (2.54-5.08 cm) wider than the root ball of your plant, which will give your plant plenty of room to grow. A pot that’s too large or too small can cause problems for your plant, including root crowding or overly moist soil.
Why Does Pot Size Matter?
The size of the pot has everything to do with the plant’s root system. A plant’s roots are responsible for taking in water and nutrients from the soil. So if the roots are spread out, it needs a bigger pot.
If a plant’s roots are cramped in a small pot, it won’t be able to take in enough water or nutrients and will eventually die.
How To Pick the Right Size Pot
There are a few things you need to consider when picking out a pot for your new houseplant:
- The current size of the plant
- How fast the plant grows
- The type of plant
You want to pick a pot 2-4 inches (5.08-10.16 cm) wider than the plant’s current size. For example, if your plant is 8 inches (20.32 cm) wide, you would want to pick a pot that is 10-12 inches (25.4-30.48 cm) wide.
However, even if the pot you get is the correct size, you need to ensure that it has drainage holes.
Additionally, if you’re unsure what size pot to get, it’s always better to get a bigger pot than a smaller one.
Picking out a pot for your new houseplant may seem minor, but it is very important. The right-sized pot will ensure that your plant gets enough water and nutrients and grows healthy.
Do Plants Grow Better in Bigger Pots?
Plants typically grow better in bigger pots, especially when compared to too-small pots. While the perfect size pot for your plant is ideal, it’s better to get a too-big pot than a too-small one.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of using large pots for your plants.
The Pros of Bigger Pots
- Bigger pots give plants more room to grow. This means that your plants will have more space to develop their root systems, which is essential for their overall health.
- Large pots tend to be easier to keep watered than small pots, as they have more soil and retain moisture better.
- Large pots tend to be more stable than small pots. This is especially important if you live in an area that experiences high winds or heavy rains, as smaller pots are more likely to tip over in these conditions.
- Large pots tend to stay cooler in warm weather and warmer in cool weather, which can protect your plants from extreme temperatures.
The Cons of Bigger Pots
- Bigger pots can be more expensive than small pots.
- Larger pots can be heavier and more difficult to move around, making them a pain to repot when necessary.
- Because they hold more soil, large pots can also be harder to clean than small pots.
So, what’s the verdict? Ultimately, the answer depends on the type of plant you’re growing and the climate. If you’re still undecided, it’s better to go for a larger pot for ideal growth and stability. Just make sure to give your plant enough water and nutrients, no matter the size of the pot!
How To Pick the Right Type of Pot
While choosing the right size pot is crucial, choosing a good pot material is just as important to the overall health of your plant. You can choose between plastic, ceramic, clay, or terracotta pots. All these materials are great for plants, but each has its benefits and drawbacks.
Terracotta pots are a popular choice for houseplants because they’re both aesthetically pleasing and incredibly good plant holders. They’re made from organic clay, so they’re breathable, which helps prevent your plant’s roots from becoming overwatered.
The only downside to terracotta pots is that they’re not as durable as other types of pots. They can break easily if dropped or knocked over.
Still, these pots are the best choice for most houseplants. They’re breathable, affordable, and look great in any room.
Clay pots are made from raw materials like sand and water. They’re fired in a kiln to create a hard, durable pot. Clay pots come in various colors, but they’re most commonly found in earth tones.
Additionally, clay pots are breathable and help to prevent your plant’s roots from becoming overwatered. However, they’re not as durable as other types of pots and can break easily if dropped or knocked over.
Plastic pots are a popular option simply because they’re very inexpensive, come in every color, and are incredibly easy to clean.
However, plastic pots aren’t as breathable as terracotta and clay pots, which can lead to overwatered roots, causing root rot.
Despite this, plastic pots are a great choice for houseplants that don’t need to be repotted too often. They’re often used as nursery pots, and they’re perfect for plants that don’t require frequent watering.
Ceramic pots are a great option if you want something more decorative. They come in a wide range of colors and styles, so you can easily find one that fits your décor.
They’re also quite durable. However, they’re not as breathable as terracotta pots, so they may not be the best choice for plants that require well-drained soil. Ceramic pots are a good choice for decorative plants that don’t require well-drained soil.
Overall, ceramic pots are a great choice if you want something decorative. They’ll look great in any room and can last for years with proper care.
2. Fill the Pot With Fresh Potting Mix
Simply using a fresh potting mix isn’t always the best option, as the type of potting mix is essential — using the wrong kind of mix can be a disaster for your plant. For best results, use a fresh potting mix that’s designed for use with houseplants.
However, there are also potting mixes that should only be used with certain types of houseplants. For example, cacti and succulents require a well-draining mix, while most other plants do best in a more moisture-retentive potting mix.
Once you have the potting mix, fill the pot with the mix, leaving two inches (5.08 cm) of space before the rim. If you’re unsure how much mix to use, a good rule of thumb is to fill the pot so that the plant’s roots will be buried halfway.
Once the pot is filled, tap it gently on the ground to settle the mix and remove any possible air pockets. Now your plant is ready to be potted.
Why Can’t I Use Regular Dirt for My Houseplant?
There are three main reasons why you shouldn’t use regular dirt as potting soil:
- Regular dirt is too dense. Dense soils don’t absorb water as well as potting soils, and they can suffocate roots because they don’t allow for proper aeration.
- Regular dirt doesn’t drain as well as potting soil. This means water will pool on the soil’s surface instead of seeping down to the roots where it’s needed most.
- Regular dirt lacks the essential nutrients houseplants need to flourish. Potting soils, on the other hand, are specifically formulated to provide the plant with just enough of these crucial nutrients.
So, when it comes to growing healthy houseplants, potting soil is just as important as sunlight and water. Using regular dirt might seem like a good idea, but it won’t be long before you realize it’s doing more harm than good. So do your plant a favor and invest in some quality potting soil.
If you want to learn more about why regular dirt isn’t a good choice for potted plants, you can read my other article here. I’ll explain the primary differences between container soil and garden soil and also dive into the differences between garden soil and topsoil: Why Does Garden Soil Say “Not for Containers”?
What’s the Perfect Houseplant Potting Mix?
Now that we know what potting mix is and what it’s made of, let’s talk about preparing the perfect mix for your houseplants! There are a few key things to remember when mixing your potting soil:
- The type of plant you’re potting. As mentioned before, different plants require different types of soil. So make sure to do your research ahead of time so you know what type of soil your plant needs.
- Drainage. All plants need drainage to thrive, but some require more drainage than others.
- If you’re unsure how much drainage your plant needs, it’s better to have too much rather than too little. You can always add more water if needed, but you can’t remove water once it’s been added.
You can start by mixing equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and coarse sand with two parts of soil in a basket. When mixing your potting soil, use gloves, and a mask to avoid getting any dirt or dust in your lungs.
3. Remove the Houseplant From Its Existing Pot
Before you pot your houseplant, you’ll need to remove it from its existing pot. You can follow a few simple steps to make the process easier:
- Loosen the plant’s roots by gently massaging them with your fingers.
- Put one hand on the base of the plant and the other around the pot’s rim.
- Twist the pot gently as you pull it up and away from the plant. If the plant resists, try tapping the pot lightly on the edge of a table or counter to loosen it.
With a little care and patience, you’ll have your plant out of its pot in no time.
4. Shave Off Some of the Old Potting Mix
After removing your houseplant from its pot, take a moment to examine the roots. Shaving off some old potting mix is good if they’re tightly bound or matted together. This will encourage new growth and help the plant establish itself in its new home more quickly.
You can shave off some of the old potting mix by using a sharp knife or garden shears. Remove any old potting mix that looks particularly dense or matted, but be extra careful not to damage the plant’s roots in the process.
5. Add Your Houseplant to the New Pot
Once you’ve added the fresh potting mix, it’s time to add your plant. Follow these simple steps:
- Start by spreading the roots out in the pot, but do this very gently; any damage to the roots can cause the plant to die.
- Then, position the plant so that it’s at the same depth as it was in its previous pot. If you’re unsure how deep the plant should be, look at the stem. There should be a small bump where the stem meets the roots, called the root collar, where the plant’s roots begin. When the plant should be potted, the root collar should be barely above the potting mix.
- Once you’ve positioned the plant in the pot, gently backfill the pot with potting mix, being careful not to damage the roots.
- Firm the mix around the plant, so it’s securely in place.
6. Water Your Houseplant
It’s crucial that you water your newly potted houseplant thoroughly. You can do this even after a few days of potting, as long as the plant looks healthy and isn’t wilting.
To help settle the potting mix around your plant’s roots (and to ensure you’re giving the plant enough water), it’s best to water it until the water runs out of the bottom of the pot — which is why drainage holes are so important.
Once your plant is potted and watered, it’s essential to give it the proper care it needs to flourish. This care varies depending on the specific houseplant, but following the plant’s sunlight and watering needs is crucial.
The Importance of Proper Drainage for Your Houseplants
From watering to lighting to temperature, there are a lot of factors that go into keeping your plants happy and healthy.
However, one thing that’s often overlooked is drainage. Having proper drainage for your plants is essential to their health, and yet it’s something that many people neglect.
Drainage is important for two main reasons: it prevents waterlogging and allows for aeration. These are important to prevent because:
- Waterlogging occurs when the plant roots sit in water for extended periods. Waterlogging can lead to root rot, which can eventually kill the plant.
- Aeration is important because it allows the roots to breathe. The plant will suffocate and die if the roots lack oxygen.
How To Ensure Proper Drainage
You can ensure that your plants have proper drainage in a few different ways:
- First, you can make sure you use a pot with drainage holes in the bottom. This will allow excess water to drain from the pot and away from the plant’s roots.
- If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes, you’ll need to be extra careful with watering so that you don’t overwater and cause waterlogging.
- Add some material to the bottom of your pot that will allow water to drain while still allowing air to circulate. Some good options include pebbles, gravel, or charcoal. You can also use a mix of these materials. Simply add a layer to the bottom of your pot before adding soil and planting your plant.
How To Choose a Houseplant That Will Thrive in Your Home
Not all plants are created equal. And while some may be better suited for life outdoors, others will do much better inside your home. So, if you’re looking to add a little greenery to your space, it’s important to choose a plant that will thrive in your home environment.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
What Are the Lighting Conditions in My Home?
The first step in choosing a plant that will thrive in your home is to consider the type of home you have. Do you live in an apartment with little natural light? Or do you have a house with plenty of windows and sun exposure?
Knowing the type of environment you can provide for your plant will help you narrow down your choices, as some plants need full, direct sunlight, while others thrive in low-lighting conditions.
I’ve written an extensive guide about how to provide your houseplants with enough light to grow. Don’t miss it: How to Give Indoor Plants Enough Light to Grow
What Kind of Care Does My Plant Need?
The next step is to consider the level of care your chosen plant will need. Are you someone who forgets to water your plants regularly? Or are you diligent about giving them the attention they need?
Again, this will help you eliminate some plants from your consideration. For example, if you know you won’t be able to water your plant every day, then choosing a succulent might be better than choosing a blooming flower.
What Are My Home’s Temperature and Humidity Levels?
Finally, it’s important to consider your home’s temperature and humidity levels. Some plants prefer warm, humid conditions, while others prefer cool, dry conditions. Check the temperature and humidity requirements for any plants you’re considering before making your final choice.
How To Pot the Most Common Houseplants
While there’s a large variety of houseplants you can choose from, some are more popular than others. Let’s go over some of the most common houseplants and the best way to pot them.
Aloe Vera Plant
When potting aloe vera, you should choose a well-draining potting mix and a pot with adequate drainage holes. Aloe vera doesn’t like sitting in wet or soggy soil, so ensure the pot has proper drainage. You can also add sand to the potting mix to help drainage.
Overwatering is one of the main reasons why people kill their aloe plants. Because aloe vera is a succulent, it doesn’t need much water to survive. Give it a little bit of water once a week, and it’ll be happy.
Boston ferns need a loose, humus-rich potting mix. You should choose a pot slightly larger than the current pot in order to give the roots room to grow. Be sure to water regularly, as Boston ferns prefer moist soil.
Additionally, Boston ferns love humidity, so they’re a great plant for highly-humid environments, such as bathrooms or kitchens. Simply mist them with water every once in a while, and they’ll stay green and vibrant.
Snake plants are drought-tolerant and only need to be watered once a week. Choose a well-draining potting mix and a pot with drainage holes. Snake plants also prefer bright indirect light.
Additionally, snake plants are practically indestructible. They can tolerate low light and infrequent watering, so they’re perfect for your home’s hallways or other dark corners.
Spider plants like to be potbound, so it’s best to choose a small pot. However, be sure to use a well-draining potting mix and water regularly. Spider plants prefer bright indirect light.
Additionally, spider plants are very forgiving, so they’re great for beginner gardeners.
A pothos does best in a pot that’s only slightly bigger than its current container, usually about 2 inches (5.08 cm) wider. Follow these steps:
- Add enough potting mix to fill the pot halfway.
- Gently remove the plant from its old pot and center it in the new one.
- Fill around the roots with more potting mix until the root ball is covered.
- Gently pat down the soil and water the plant thoroughly.
Pothos is a classic pick for beginners because it’s super easy to care for. This fast-growing vine can tolerate low light and irregular watering, making it ideal for those who are forgetful or don’t have a green thumb.
Just be sure to give it something to climb — a trellis, bookshelf, or even the rungs of a ladder — so it can show off its gorgeous cascading leaves.
When potting peace lily, choose a container about 2 inches (5.08 cm) wider than the plant’s current pot. Then, follow these simple steps:
- Fill the bottom half of your new pot with potting mix.
- Remove your plant from its current container and place it in the center of the new one.
- Ensure the roots are fully covered with potting mix.
- Press in the soil around the base of the plant.
- Water thoroughly.
If you’re looking for a plant that flowers indoors, the peace lily is a good option. These beautiful plants can bloom throughout the year with proper care.
They’re fairly easy to care for — they prefer bright indirect light but can tolerate low-light conditions. Just be sure not to overwater them, as peace lilies are susceptible to root rot if their roots sit in water for too long. It’s best to allow the top inch or two (2.54-5.08 cm) of soil to dry out between waterings.
When potting dieffenbachia, choose a medium-sized pot with drainage holes. To pot it properly:
- Fill the bottom of the pot with a layer of gravel.
- Add a well-draining potting mix. Add enough potting mix to fill half of your new container.
- Remove your plant from its current pot and center it in its new home.
- Fill in around its roots with more potting mix until they’re completely covered.
- Gently tamp down the soil around its base (but be careful not to compact it too much).
- Water thoroughly immediately after repotting, then wait until the top few inches of soil have dried out before watering again (usually about once per week).
Dieffenbachias — also known as dumb canes — get their name from their large leaves, which can grow up to 3 feet (36 inches) long! These plants are native to Central and South America, so they do best in humid environments. Here are some tips to remember when caring for a dieffenbachia:
- If you live in a particularly dry climate, you may need to mist your dieffenbachia regularly to keep its leaves from turning brown and crispy.
- They do best in bright indirect light. However, they can survive lower light conditions.
- Only water them when the topmost inch (2.54 cm) of soil feels dry to the touch.
When potting your ZZ plant, choose a new container that’s only one inch (2.54 cm) wider than its current one (these plants don’t like too much space!). Then:
- Add fresh potting mix to fill half of your new container.
- Remove your ZZ plant from its current home and center it in its new one (being careful not to touch or damage its fragile roots).
- Fill in around its roots with more potting mix until they’re just covered, then pat down gently (again, being careful not to disturb delicate roots).
- Water over your plant until it begins leaking out of the drainage holes.
- Empty any remaining water from the saucer beneath the plant before returning it under drainage holes (this ensures that no standing water remains, which could lead to root rot).
ZZ plants are known for being nearly indestructible — making them perfect for beginners! These tough little plants originate from Africa and can tolerate low light conditions and periods of drought (although they prefer bright indirect light).
When watering your ZZ plant, feel free to let the top inch (2.54 cm) or two of soil dry out between waterings; more frequent watering will only lead to root rot.
Baby Rubber Plant
When it comes to potting, baby rubber plants prefer to be compact in their pots, so don’t be afraid to use smaller pots when repotting. And while they love bright indirect sunlight, these plants are surprisingly tolerant of lower light conditions.
If you’re looking for a stylish and easy plant to care for, look no further than the baby rubber plant. This tropical beauty can grow from six to ten inches (15.24-25.4 cm) tall, making it a perfect choice for empty corners or bare walls.
Potted palms are the perfect way to add a touch of the tropics to your indoor space. These gorgeous plants can grow from six to eight feet (72-96 inches) tall and thrive in bright and low-light conditions.
When it comes time to potting, make sure you use a well-draining potting mix and put your palm in a spot with plenty of indirect sunlight. A slow-release fertilizer can also be used to ensure optimum growth.
When potting a philodendron, there are a few things to remember:
- Choose a pot that’s only slightly larger than the pot your philodendron came in.
- Use a loose, well-draining potting mix.
- Only water your plant when the top inch or two (2.54-5.08 cm) of the soil is dry — this decreases the risk of root rot.
- Fertilize your philodendron every month during the growing season (spring and summer) and once every two months during the dormant season (fall and winter).
Philodendrons are fast-growing vines that are very easy to care for, as they require indirect light and are easy to water. Your philodendron will thrive in no time!
Anthuriums are beautiful plants that make great houseplants thanks to their ability to thrive in low-light conditions. Regarding potting an anthurium, there are two things to keep in mind:
- Choose a fast-draining commercially made mix of perlite, sphagnum, peat moss & сoconut coir. Then find a good-sized container with drainage holes that will accommodate future growth. If you want to learn more about making the best anthurium potting mix, you can read my other article here: How to Make the Best Anthurium Potting Mix (DIY Guide)
- Water only when the top couple of inches of the soil feels dry. Fertilize every other month through summer with 1/4 diluted fertilizer. Anthuriums enjoy high humidity, so group yours with other houseplants or set them on a pebble tray. Misting is also beneficial.
When Should I Repot My Houseplant?
One of the most common mistakes people make when potting plants is not knowing when to repot them. A good rule of thumb is to repot your plant when its roots have outgrown enough to be visible through the drainage holes. If you wait too long, the roots can become crowded, leaving your plant with very little room to grow.
This can stunt your plant’s growth and make it more susceptible to pests and diseases.
On the other hand, if you pot your plant too often, the roots will not have enough time to establish themselves in the new pot and will be more likely to dry out. Therefore, if you’re not sure if your plant needs to be repotted, it’s best to be cautious and wait a while longer.
Why You Should Repot Your Houseplant in the Spring
Spring is the perfect time to pot most houseplants because plants are actively growing at this time of year. If you pot your plant in the spring, it’ll have the entire growing season to adjust to its new pot and establish a strong root system.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Plants that bloom in the spring, such as tulips and daffodils, should be potted in the fall. This is because they need a period of dormancy to flower properly.
Therefore, it’s best to research your specific houseplant before repotting.
If you’d like a more in-depth guide about repotting your houseplants, you can read my other article here: The Ultimate Guide to Repotting Your Houseplants
Why Are My Plants Dying After Repotting?
You’ve finally done it — after months (or maybe even years) of carefully nurturing your beloved plant, you’ve decided to repot it into a bigger pot. But now, just a few days after the big move, you notice that your plant is wilting and its leaves are turning brown.
There could be a few reasons why your plant is dying after repotting:
- You may be overwatering or underwatering your plant. When repotting a plant, it’s important to water it lightly and regularly for the first few days, giving it time to adjust to its new home. After that, you can return to your usual watering schedule.
- Your plant suffers from pests, diseases, or a lack of nutrients. These problems are often exacerbated by stress from moving to a new pot.
- Too much or too little sunlight could also be causing your plant’s leaves to turn brown. If possible, try moving your plant to a spot where it will receive indirect sunlight for most of the day.
Therefore, it’s crucial that you know your specific houseplant’s needs. In the following sections, I’ll go over some common mistakes people make and plant care needs you must pay closer attention to.
Your Houseplant Has Inadequate Lighting
Before choosing a plant for your home, it’s important to consider the amount of light the plant receives and the room’s temperature. If you have a south-facing window, the room will be filled with natural light, making it ideal for plants that require full sun.
However, if you have a north-facing window, the room will be much cooler and shadier, making it better suited for plants that prefer low light.
You’re Watering Your Houseplant Too Much or Too Little
Just like with light, the amount of water a plant needs depends on the type of plant. However, most plants need to be watered once a week.
Some plants need to be watered more frequently, usually because they’re native to areas with higher rainfall, and some need to be watered less frequently because they’re native to areas with lower rainfall.
When in doubt, check the soil; if it’s dry an inch (2.54 cm) below the surface, it’s typically time to water your plant.
The Temperature Around Your Houseplant Isn’t Ideal
The last thing to consider is the temperature. Again, this will depend on the type of plant you have.
If you’re unsure what temperature your plant likes best, check the tag or do a quick Google search. Once you’ve considered all these factors, you should have no problem finding the perfect spot for your houseplants!
Your Houseplant Is Suffering From Transplant Shock
When you repot a plant, you’re essentially disturbing its root system and changing its environment. This can be stressful for the plant and may cause it to go into shock, which can manifest as wilting or loss of leaves.
To minimize this stress, it’s important to handle the plant gently, be careful not to damage the roots, and provide it with proper care after repotting. This includes:
- Watering the plant appropriately
- Making sure it gets enough sunlight
- Protecting it from extreme temperatures
You Have the Incorrect Size Pot for Your Houseplant
The size of the pot you choose for your plant is important because it affects the plant’s root space and stability. If the pot is too small, the plant may not have enough room for its roots to grow, which can cause it to become rootbound and stunt its growth.
On the other hand, if the pot is too large, the soil may stay too moist for too long, which can cause the roots to rot. It’s important to choose a pot that’s the appropriate size for your plant, taking into account the size of the root system and the plant’s overall growth potential.
If you’re not sure what size pot to choose, you can consult a gardening expert or refer to the plant’s care instructions.
Your Houseplant’s Soil Is of Poor Quality
The soil you use to repot your plant can have a significant impact on its health and growth. If the soil is of poor quality, it may not provide the necessary nutrients, drainage, or pH balance that your plant needs to thrive.
This can lead to problems such as nutrient deficiencies, root rot, or slow growth. To ensure that your plant has the best chance of thriving after repotting, it’s important to use soil that’s appropriate for the type of plant you’re growing.
This may mean using a specific type of soil mix, such as a cactus mix for succulents or a potting mix for flowering plants. You should also avoid using soil from your yard or garden, as it may not be suitable for container plants.
Now that you know how to pot a houseplant, it’s time to get potting! Keep the soil moist (but not wet), and fertilize your plants every two weeks.
With just a few simple steps, your plants will look and thrive better than ever. Now get out there and start planting. Enjoy your beautiful new plants and watch them thrive in their new homes.