Potting and Repotting Planters – Complete Guide (2022)

The soil must give the plant nutrients and hold them in place in the planters. There are a couple of different types of soil mixtures that will work well in your planters. You can add nutrients to your soil in the form of plant food, but the soil itself does need to be renewed.

Soil for the planter must allow for adequate drainage. This is more important than the nutrients in the soil. Soil with good drainage should also allow for lots of air to reach the roots of the plants. To meet both of these ends soil should consist of coarser particles.

You can create your own soil mixture for the planters. The following is a list of ingredients for your garden planter’s soil.

  • Sand
  • Leaf mold, humus or peat moss
  • Bone meal or manure
  • And good garden soil as the base

Mix these ingredients together well, and you should have soil for your plants that will provide lots of nutrients, as well as fulfilling the drainage and aeration needs of the plant’s roots. You can soak the leaf mold, humus, or peat moss in water overnight and squeeze it out just before adding it to the soil mixture.

Repotting Plants

You should typically re-pot young plants as their roots become overcrowded in their current pots. This means that the plant’s soil has run out of nutrients and probably needs to be replaced anyway.

However, if you like you can try to keep the plant healthy by ‘top dressing’ the soil in the existing pot. Simply put, you replace the loose soil in the pot or planter with a newer nutrient-rich soil mix. 

Afterward, you should give the plant regular doses of plant food with lots of nutrients in it. This won’t always work, if there is no loose soil to replace then you need to go to a larger pot.

When going to a new pot you need to make sure it is clean. Scrub it out with soap, water, and a little bleach. Let the pot dry out for about two days then you can treat it like new. You don’t have to move up to a much larger size pot for your new plant, about one inch larger in diameter should be fine for your plant. 

Before you transplant a plant to a new pot you should water it thoroughly a few hours beforehand, but don’t water immediately before or the soil will be too wet to handle.

A handy tip for getting your plant out of its pot is to tip it over and tap the edge firmly against a solid surface.

Be sure to put your drainage material in the bottom of the new pot and you can place a layer of soil on top of this to bring the plant ball up to about midway up the pot. It can’t be set too low or too high, or the roots of the plant won’t be able to grow properly. 

Once the plant is placed fill in the empty space around it with soil. This can be tamped down lightly with a wooden rod or lath. Once the plant is settled in water the plant again. 

This process is about the same when replanting in a garden planter, except when you dig out the plants you will end up losing some root material. So you will need to trim down the top of the plant’s foliage in order to balance the root system with the foliage of the plant. 

Propagating New Plants

When growing plants of any kind you may need to be able to propagate the plants. The best time of the year for propagating new plants is in spring or early summer. There are four basic methods by which to propagate plants:

Stem cutting, probably the most common, is basically what you do when you pick flowers from outside and put them in a vase.

Not all plants like this method, but a few that do are arrowhead vines, Chinese evergreen and holly, evergreen grapes, geraniums, and many others. In order to be successful you should choose a piece that is about half grown, a few inches long and has a few sets of leaves. Cut the stem below a leaf where it is slightly wider and remove the leaves.

This will be where the roots grow. This must then be placed in a medium such as sand, peat moss, or water until roots develop and it can be put in the soil. This should take about six weeks and the roots will get an inch or so long.

Leaf-cutting is a variation of stem cutting. African violets and watermelon begonias are good choices for this method. Choose a nearly mature leaf or in some cases a piece of the leaf. Cut off the leaf and a portion of the stem which will form the root system.

Place the stem into a pot of moistened sand. The time it takes to form a healthy root system for transport into the soil is variable depending on the season, environment, and plant.

The division is a good deal simpler than the other methods, as some plants grow smaller versions of themselves instead of flowering. Such plants include snake plants, succulents, and some ivy.

These divisions need only to be pulled apart and they are ready to plant in soil. For the larger plants or the tough ones you should use a sharp knife to cut them apart, but be sure to do as little cutting as possible to keep the root system intact.

Trim the plant as needed to keep the roots and leaves in roughly the same amounts. When potting the plants there are a few things to keep in mind. Don’t overwater them as the root system will be underdeveloped.

Next keep the plants out of direct contact with the weather, bright sunshine, breezes, etc. Also, if you place clear containers over the plant it will help keep the humidity high, but make sure to let the plant breathe on occasion. Leave the cover off for increasing amounts of time each day you’ll eventually get the plant used to normal air.

Layering, of which there are two varieties, ground and air. Ground layering works well with vines. Fill a pot with several inches of sand and place it next to the main plant. Bend the plant horizontally to the new pot and hold it in place with moist sand and new roots will form.

When the root system is strong sever the stem connecting the two pots. Ardisia crenulata, dracaena, dieffenbachia, Fatsia japonica, fiddle-leaf plant, Monstera delidosa, rubber plant, cordyline, and screw-pine are good choices for air layering.

When the plant sheds its lower leaves cut a small portion out of the trunk, and place a splint to keep it from growing shut. Take a ball of moss the size of your fist and place it over the opening using plastic wrap or aluminum foil as a cover. 

When the root system has grown into the moss, cut it and a small portion of the stem off. Plant it into a pot with sand and soil. Keep the plant out of direct sunlight and in an area with high humidity until it is well-rooted.