How to Re-Pot Tropical Plants


Lush, green tropical plants provide beauty and personality to the indoor environment. While some tropical plants are fussier than others, all require a certain amount of attention, and will occasionally need to be moved to a bigger pot. Don't re-pot tropical plants more often than necessary, as most plants prefer not to be disturbed, and some will even do better if their roots are slightly crowded. Tropical plants should be re-potted immediately when the roots begin growing through the hole in the bottom of the pot, or when the plant stops absorbing water because the soil is too compacted by roots.

Step 1

Select a new pot for the tropical plant. The pot can be made of clay, plastic, or ceramic, but should be only 2 inches larger than the plant's current pot. The pot must have at least one drainage hole in the bottom. If the pot has been used previously, clean the pot thoroughly with a scrub brush and a mixture of one part household bleach to nine parts water. Rinse the pot several times.

Step 2

Place a paper coffee filter over the drainage hole in the bottom of the new pot. The coffee filter will prevent potting mixture from washing through the hole.

Step 3

Make a potting mixture of one part commercial potting soil and one part perlite, which is an organic material that will improve drainage. Pour 2 to 3 inches of the potting mixture in the bottom of the pot.

Step 4

Turn the old pot sideways and remove the tropical plant from its pot. With one hand on the top of the soil and the stem held gently with your fingers, use the other hand to slide the pot away from the plant. If the tropical plant is large, ask a friend to help you remove the plant.

Step 5

Trim off any soft, smelly or brown roots, using clean household shears or garden shears. Loosen and untangle the roots gently with your fingers. If the roots are tightly compacted, use a clean knife to make two or three cuts into the root mass, no more than 1/3 into the mass.

Step 6

Place the plant in the center of the new pot. Add more soil under the plant if necessary, to be sure the plant is at the same soil level in its new pot that it was in its old pot. Tamp the potting mixture gently around the plant, but don't compress it. Once the plant is at the right level, add potting mixture around the plant until the potting mixture is about an inch from the top of the pot.

Step 7

Water the potting mixture lightly to settle the potting mixture around the plant. Place the plant in its usual spot, and resume the plant's normal watering and fertilizing schedule.

Things You'll Need

  • Scrub brush
  • Household bleach
  • Water
  • Paper coffee filter
  • Commercial potting soil
  • Perlite
  • Household shears or garden shears
  • Sharp knife (optional)


  • Texas A&M University: House Plants
  • University of Illinois: Repotting Houseplants
  • Smithsonian Institution: Indoor Tropicals Fact Sheet
Keywords: re-pot tropical plants, tropical plants, potting mixture

About this Author

M.H. Dyer is a long-time writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the East-Oregonian Newspaper and See Jane Run magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.