Three Reasons To Repot Your Container Plants

by / 6 Comments / 1076 View / January 9, 2014

There are three obvious reasons to repot a container plant.

1. Your Plant is Sitting Low in the Container.


Geraniums plants, for some reason, are especially vulnerable to sinking low into their planters after a few years.

The soil erodes, creating a large space between the top of the rootball and the rim of the container.

Not only does this look ugly, but a low-lying plant is vulnerable to root rot as the water tends to pond in this space.


I replanted the geranium above into a smaller container using new potting soil and pruned off the hollow, dead stems and kept only the live stem.




This plant belongs to my mom and she is guilty of plant neglect, as many of us are.


Luckily for my mom, I presented a segment on the "Home & Family" show, (which airs on the Hallmark channel) on repotting plants, and I used her plants as an example.

She got a container garden makeover!

Hopefully, she'll enjoy some blooms after a few years of non-performance.


2. Your Plant is Top Heavy and Leaning Over Container

Top-heavy-dracanea-corn plant-needs-to-be-repotted

Mom, why did you let your corn plant outgrow this short, squat planter?


My mom isn't the only gardener guilty of keeping tall, top-heavy plants in containers that are not suitable for them.

Her corn plant (Dracaena fragrance) was root-bound, with roots exposed, and the plant was listing over the rim of the container.

When plant roots are exposed and stressed out from stretching over a container, they are unable to properly draw up water and nutrients from the soil.

That's another detail.

What soil?

The soil in the container was quickly eroding too.


I repotted the dracaena into a container that is one size larger and has a taller profile.

Pay attention to the shape of your planter and don't repot in a container larger than two times the size of the present container!


If you have a tall growing plant, make sure that the profile of the container is not shallow.

Opt for lightweight containers that make moving plants easy while you are at it.


Don't fertilize a newly repotted plants so that the roots are not stressed by fast growing foliage.

Allow your plant to recupperate from it's stressful move!


3.Your Plant is Rootbound and Has "Muffin Top" Soil!


This Asparagus fern has an interesting story.


My brother gave it to my mom for Mother's Day, 15-years ago!


The poor Asparagus fern has been stuck in this container all these years, creating a mounded, "muffin top" look to the soil!

"Muffin top" in a plant is when the root ball is exposed and mounds above and beyond the top of the container.

It looks like the plant doesn't fit in the container and "squishes" out of it.
Think of tight jeans and the extra flesh that squishes above the waistline.



Asparagus ferns actually prefer to be a little root bound, but this scenario is not the ideal.

When a plant doesn't grow after many years and sports a dull yellow color, do something!


I repotted the Asparagus fern on the Home & Family show with the help of hosts, Mark Steines and Cristina Ferrare.

In order to remove the plant from the container, Mark and Cristina had to take a hammer and break it free!

If you are in this situation, make sure to cover your pot with a towel or tarp  before hammering away.

Don't lose an eye over a plant!


Next, we opened the root ball using a knife and cutting blade to untangle the roots a little.

While repotting, separate the rootball of an Asparagus fern and create a few new plants if you like.

We didn't propagate any new plants from root cuttings, but you can if you like!


The new container was two times larger and was filled with rich potting soil to which I added a couple of handfuls of packing peanuts to create air circulation.

I can't wait to see this "legacy" plant grow and turn a rich, green color. 

I'm done with the anemic, chlorotic condition of this plant!


Watch my garden segment on Home & Family on repotting plants.

Take a look at your plants.

Do they resemble my mom's container plants and are not growing, blooming or have a healthy color?

Consider repotting them.


Please comment below if you have any questions!





6 Comment

  1. Thank you for your question. I just added more information to #3.


    “Muffin top” in a plant is when the root ball is exposed and mounds above and beyond the top of the container.

    It looks like the plant doesn’t fit in the container and “squishes” out of it.
    Think of tight jeans and the extra flesh that squishes above the waistline.

  2. thank you for your information kathryn.

  3. Hi April,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, many potting soils integrate fertilizers. I prefer soils that don’t have fertilizer so I can make my own soil blend.

    For repotting, perlite is a practical solution of aeration and is light weight. I use the packing peanuts when I have them on hand but never for edible plants.

  4. Yes I have some questions to ask If it is alright to you! I understood that when plant is top heavy and leaning over container, you should repot it and also when it is is sitting low in the container, you do the same. But Now when I scroll down the article, I didn't get the last and third reason that Why do we need to change or Repot it ? if it is Rootbound and Has "Muffin Top" Soil! Please take your time and explain it to me

    Thanks for your insights!

  5. Top heavy plants like Dracaena- Corn plants many times need pruning! check out my prunethis channel on youtube for free advise and help!! Kathryn

  6. You mention not fertilizing the re-potted plant to avoid stressing the plant to grow foliage. Many popular potting mixes now have fertilizer. Would you suggest using a potting mix that doesn't contain fertilizer?

    Would you add perlite to create circulation? I don't like to use peanuts because the chemicals break down in the soil.

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