Transferring Potted Plants

Written by April Reinhardt (last updated June 30, 2021)

There are times when a plant can become so enmeshed within its pot that the roots become root bound. When this happens the roots coil into a ball, tangling within each other. When trying to extract a root-bound plant from its pot, it's quite easy to break the roots, causing parts of the plant to wither and die. The trick is to transfer your potted plants before they become root bound. Most plants that you find in a home improvement store or at the local nursery are root bound when you first buy them. You may need to divide them into several plants as well as transfer them to new pots. Here are some tips for transferring potted plants:

  • Type of planter. If you purchase plants that come with a flimsy plastic pot, you will need to transfer them to a permanent pot as soon as possible. Purchase terracotta pots that have a hole in the bottom for drainage. Or, select heavy duty plastic, ceramic, or glass pots that contain holes for water drainage.
  • Work space. Find a large, flat surface to use for transferring your plants. You'll need to have a space large enough to hold your existing plants, your new pots, potting soil, fertilizer, and hand tools. A good workspace might be your kitchen table, your garage floor, a large table on your back deck, or your driveway. Whatever space you choose to use for transferring your plants, it would be a good idea to cover it with a tarp or a disposable plastic tablecloth for easy cleanup later.
  • Prepare. Place a layer of small gravel on the bottom of your new pot, and then fill the pot halfway with moist potting soil. Do not completely cover the drainage hole or else your plant will drown when you water it.
  • Cradle and shake. While cradling the bottom of the plant in your hand, turn it over gently and allow the plant to slide from its existing pot. If it doesn't come out of the pot easily, gently shake the pot to loosen the plant and then remove.
  • Untangle. Untangle the roots that are just along the outside edge of the plant. Doing so will encourage them to grow into the new soil. If you find that the plant is just too large to place into the new pot, divide the plant in two, or separate it into several smaller plants.

Place the plant into the new pot, with the top of the root system about one inch from the top of the new pot. Layer more potting soil around the plant and pack it in until it can stand on its own. Place the plant into its potting dish and then water thoroughly.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...


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