How to repot your houseplants to keep them happy

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Houseplants need repotting every few years and spring is the time to do it.

When you think of plants covering the lush forest floor, it’s easy to imagine their roots slinking through the soil, shooting forth in their heroic hunt for water and nutrients. When we take those plants inside and put them in pots, often times their roots don’t exactly know how to obey the new confines. They keep growing and growing, winding around themselves in a tangle until the plant becomes root-bound. At that point, growth is inhibited and the plant begins to suffer.

The solution, of course, is to give them a new home. Some plants take well to tight quarters (like chives, peace lilies and ficus), but for most of them, they need to be repotted every few years – and according to The Washington Post garden columnist, Adrian Higgens, the time to do that is spring, because it’s when plants want to grow.

You can tell if a plant is root-bound when its root begin to escape from the drainage holes; or when you remove the plant and the roots look crowded and compacted. Another sign is when the plant is failing to thrive, despite otherwise favorable conditions.

rootbound plant© Scott Lattham

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