How to know when a houseplant needs repotting

If you think your plant might need repotting, here are a few handy tips on how to tell. Read on to discover everything you'll need to look out for.

Is your houseplant looking a bit listless? Or does it always seem dry and wilted no matter how much you water it?

There are 4 key tell-tell signs they might need repotting:

  • Lots of roots
  • Wilting
  • Growth (or lack of!)
  • Big plant, tiny pot

We'll unpack each of these below, plus give you some handy tips on how to repot your plants correctly.

Lots of Roots

The number one sign that your indoor plant needs repotting is that its roots are coming through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. When a plant’s roots are congested, they are unable to absorb vital things such as water and nutrients. So if your houseplant is looking a bit listless, check to see if the roots look crowded in the pot. You can do this by removing the plastic nursery pot - this won’t harm the plant. Simply give the pot a firm squeeze and pull out the plant gently by the bottom.


Does your plant always seem continuously thirsty or wilted, no matter how often you water it? This is another classic sign that it might need repotting. The roots will be competing for water, and if your plant is in a small pot with too many roots then it won’t be able to take up enough moisture.

Slow Growth

Younger plants which grow more quickly will need repotting more often.As a plant ages, its growth slows, but if it stops altogether then this could be another telltale sign that it needs a bigger pot. As the roots begin to take up space in the pot, they compete for water and nutrients. If the plant isn’t able to absorb enough of either, it won’t grow.

TOP TIP: Cacti and succulents are very slow growing, but don’t need repotting very often - they tend to have smaller root balls, and because of this prefer to be in smaller pots.

Big plant, tiny pot

If you have a huge plant in a tiny pot, it’s probably a good idea to size up a little. This will help the plant to spread its roots, which will in turn help it to absorb more nutrients.

Tips on repotting houseplants

Choose the right pot

When choosing a new plant pot, resist the temptation to put your plant in a too big a pot. This can result in the roots not being able to absorb all the moisture from the soil, which can in turn cause the roots to rot. A good rule of thumb is to go up one or two sizes.

Treat congested roots

If the roots are really congested or tangled up, you can ease them apart very gently before placing them into the new pot.

Don’t fill the pot right to the top with soil - leave a cm or so to allow for watering (otherwise it can spill over the edge!).

Repotting aftermath

Straight after repotting, your plant may go into shock. This is nothing to panic about - just leave it away from direct sun for a day or so, and it should recover.

TOP TIP: Some plants like to have compact roots and won’t need repotting as often. Good examples of this are ZZ Plants, Begonias, cacti and succulents.