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Bring new life to indoor houseplants through repotting and propagation

MURPHYSBORO, Ill.— Local plant owners got their indoor houseplants ready for spring during a recent plant repotting workshop. Even though plants can be repotted any time of the year, early spring is optimal because it is the beginning of the plants' natural growing season.

Repotting plants allows the plant to grow larger, prevents the roots from becoming pot bound, and provides an opportunity to refresh the soil. Extension Educator Katie Bell demonstrated how to repot houseplants and shared tips during the program.

Tips to repot houseplants

  1. Choose the correct pot. Choose a pot that is slightly bigger than the plant's current pot. Clay pots are ideal because they can pull excess water and salt away from the plant. Depending on the type of plant, at least one drainage hole is necessary to prevent root rot.
    Gently remove the plant from the original pot. Set the pot on its side, grasp the plant at the base, and gently pull it from the pot. If the plant is stuck to the sides, lightly run a sharp knife or gardening trowel along the edges.
  2. Massage the root ball. The roots of some plants can grow in a circular pattern to conform to the pot. With gentle pressure, massage the roots until they are loose. This will allow them to take root in the new pot and absorb water and nutrients.
  3. Partially fill your new pot with fresh soil. The soil should be presoaked with water for at least 30 minutes. The potting media should have nutrient-holding capacity. Actual dirt or soil from the backyard is not ideal, as the clay soil of southern Illinois does not provide the air and water pockets necessary for houseplants to thrive.
  4. Place your plant in the new pot. Hold the plant in the center of the pot with one hand, and use your other hand to add additional soil around the plant. Fill the pot until it is a few inches from the top and lightly pat down the soil.
  5. Water your plant. A transplant can be stressful for a plant. Be sure to add adequate water and let it soak into the soil.

Propagation is also done when plants are repotted, as some types of plants also benefit from being divided to allow more room to grow. The types of cuttings include stem, leaf, or root cuttings. Bell suggests using a clean, sterile knife to cut the plant when propagating. If you are propagating multiple plants, sterilize the blade between each plant with a diluted bleach or alcohol solution. This will prevent the spread of pathogens among plants.

If you have specific questions on propagation or indoor houseplants, contact Katie Bell at or (618) 687-1727. To learn more about upcoming events and programs hosted by Illinois Extension, visit

WRITER: Heather Willis, marketing and communications coordinator,, (618) 357-2126

SOURCE: Katie Bell, local foods and small farms Extension educator,, (618) 687-1727

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