What's The Difference Between Potting Up vs Repotting A Houseplant

person up potting a peace lily houseplant

If you’re a plant parent or aspiring to be one, you've likely come across the terms "potting up" and "repotting." While they may seem interchangeable, each practice serves distinct purposes vital to your plant's well-being. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the differences, how often each needs to be done, signs that your plant is ready, and common pitfalls to avoid. Whether you’re a newbie millennial plant parent or a seasoned gardener in your 60s, this is your go-to resource for all things potting.

What is Potting Up?

Often confused with repotting, "potting up" is essentially moving your plant into a larger pot. This practice is commonly done for plants experiencing rapid growth or those whose roots are beginning to crowd their current home. Imagine your plant is a toddler outgrowing its crib; it's time to move to a bigger bed. Typically, when potting up, you should aim for a pot that is 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the current one.

What is Repotting?

Contrary to potting up, "repotting" involves removing your plant from its current container, refreshing the soil, and then placing it back either into the same pot or a different one. This process primarily focuses on renewing the soil’s nutrients and inspecting the roots for any signs of rot or disease. It's akin to a routine check-up for your plant, where the primary focus is health rather than growth. For a more in depth look at indoor plant repotting, take a look at our extensive houseplant repotting guide here.

The Differences Summarized

  • Potting Up: Shifting to a larger pot to accommodate growth.
  • Repotting: Soil renewal, root inspection, and health maintenance, often without changing pot size.

How Often Should You Do Each?

The frequency for potting up and repotting varies depending on the type and growth rate of your plant. For fast-growing species like Pothos or Spider Plants, you might need to pot up annually. Repotting, however, is typically done every 18-24 months regardless of the plant species. This ensures that the soil maintains adequate nutritional levels and aeration for root health.

Signs Your Plant is Ready

Each plant has its own way of telling you when it's time for a change. Here are some common signs:

  • Stunted Growth: When you notice your plant isn’t growing as fast as it usually does, it may need potting up.
  • Water Logging or Fast Drying: These are indications for repotting as the soil may have lost its water-holding capacity.
  • Roots Protruding: Roots peeking out from the bottom are a clear sign that it's time to pot up.
  • Foliage Overgrowth: If your plant looks top-heavy compared to its pot, consider potting up.
  • Soil Depletion: If the soil looks exhausted or has a crusty surface, it’s time for repotting.

What NOT to Do When Potting Up

  • Skipping Drainage: Always choose a pot with proper drainage holes. Lack of drainage can lead to root rot.
  • Using Poor-Quality Soil: Opt for soil that caters to your specific plant's needs. Inferior soil can harm your plant's growth and health.
  • Too Big of a Jump: Don’t transition your plant to a pot that’s significantly larger than its current one. This can lead to water retention issues.

What NOT to Do When Repotting

  • Ignoring Root Inspection: The root ball can reveal a lot about the plant's health. Always check for root rot or pests.
  • Compact Soil: Don't stuff your plant's roots into the pot. Make sure to gently break apart the root ball and give them room to breathe.
  • Wrong Timing: Avoid repotting during growth or flowering stages. The best time is just before or after these cycles.

Understanding the differences between potting up and repotting is crucial to ensuring that your plant not only survives but thrives. Whether you’re a new plant parent or a seasoned expert, keeping these tips and techniques in mind will set you on the path to successful plant parenting. Happy planting!

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