Tips + Tricks

6 Reasons Why Winter Can Be a Great Time to Repot Your Plants

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In the fall, I wrote about 8 Simple Ways to Winterize Your Indoor Plants and my 8th tip was to avoid repotting your plants in the winter. This is due to the fact that repotting dormant plants can shock them. But since I wrote that article, I have repotted a couple of new plants, and let me just say, all of them are thriving. So let’s dive into why winter can be a great time to repot your plants and not just during the growing season.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Many houseplant enthusiasts, myself included, will recommend that you not repot your indoor plants anytime during the winter. This is because winter is a dormant time of year for plants. It is generally when there is very little to no new growth. Some plants may even begin to drop leaves. Many houseplants also require less water and/or fertilizer during this period too.

However, houseplants are unique because their conditions can be manipulated. This means many of my plants do not go fully dormant in the winter. I have a Calathea Ornata that has put out three new leaves between October and December. If you have plants that move outside once it is warmer and back in when it’s colder, I would still recommend not repotting them.

However, for your houseplants that remain indoors all year round with the ideal (or at least close to ideal) conditions, there are a handful of reasons why it may be necessary to repot your indoor plant during winter.

1. Roots Sticking Out of Drainage Holes

If you notice roots sticking out of your drainage holes, it is a sign that your plant is ready for a bigger pot. Some indoor houseplants enjoy being moved to a slightly larger pot prior to the growing season. This can be helpful in avoiding the roots becoming, even more, root bound and then having a plant that is no longer thriving because its roots are suffocating themselves.

Roots in dirt help to carry nutrients to the rest of the plant. When roots stick out of the drainage hole, they are unable to transport nutrients which the plant needs.

2. It’s Time for New Soil

Perhaps someone gifted you your plant friend a year or so ago. Or you purchased it for yourself but never repotted it when you bought it. The plant could end up sitting in soil that is not an appropriate growing medium. Or the plant has used up all of the nutrients it needed from its current soil. This would be a good time to change out the old soil for new soil. Or even researching a better soil option for your plants.

For example, many aroid plants enjoy soil that is chunkier to allow them to have better drainage. An aroid plant in a regular potting mix will appreciate being repotted into chunkier soil.

3. Moldy Soil

Likewise, it might be a good idea to repot any plants where you find moldy soil. Moldy soil is often brought on by watering your plant too often. As well as providing a humid environment where the soil never has a chance to fully dry out. Also, if the plant sits in a spot that receives very little light. These are conditions for mold to thrive in your planting medium.

If this is the case, simply remove the moldy soil from the plant and repot the plant in fresh, new soil.

4. Root Bound Plants

Similarly to roots sticking out of drainage holes, a plant that has become too root-bound will begin to suffer. It is good to remember to only size up 1-2 inches when a plant has outgrown its pot to not risk root rot. When a plant is potted in a pot that is far too big for it, the soil takes longer to dry, which can in turn become root rot.

When repotting plants that have become root bound, it can be helpful (but not fully necessary) to gently press around the roots with your thumb. This helps them loosen a bit. This way, when the plant is repotted, the roots have an easier time finding new places to grow in the soil.

5. Separating Plants

Notice a plant is beginning to fill out its pot but isn’t necessarily root bound or roots are only beginning to stick out of the drainage hole? Consider separating the large plant into 2-3 smaller plants. This depends largely on each plant and its root systems. A good example of dividing plants to not crowd a pot is a ZZ plant. ZZ plants have rhizomes that store water. As long as each of your divisions has a rhizome, it is safe to move the smaller plant to its own pot to avoid overcrowding.

6. Overwatered Plants

Winter can be a very easy time to forget your plant has different watering needs than the warmer months. Which can mean watering more than necessary. If you discover your plant has root rot, in most cases it can be saved. If not all of the roots are damaged, cut away roots that are damaged with sterilized shears or scissors. Be sure to toss the soggy soil and place your plant in new soil.

This will help to give the roots a chance to recover before it becomes warmer and the plant enters its growing season. It can also help to save a plant from an unnecessary death.

Winter Can Be a Great Time to Repot Your Plants

For the reasons, I listed above but also because indoor houseplants have an advantage over houseplants that are moved outside when it’s warmer or plants that live outside all year round. With conditions that are easy to manipulate in your favor, repotting indoor plants doesn’t have to cause unnecessary stress. This can also be done without shocking a plant.

So if you find yourself in winter and want to repot a plant but are unsure of whether you should do so, remember that transplant shock is a possibility. Generally, if plants are given the ideal growing conditions all year round, there can be little to worry about. You also know the most about your houseplants and the conditions you’ve provided for them. So I hope this makes it easier for you to decide whether winter is a good time to repot that plant you’ve been wanting to.