Sooner or later, plants outgrow their original pots and need to be transplanted. Many tropical houseplants thrive by being planted in proper-sized vessels with regular replenishment of nutrients.

First, proper potting soil is essential for a plant to establish a healthy root system. Most tropical plants thrive using sterilized planting mediums. Sterilized potting soil is like garden loam, but is sterilized and broken down into a fine mixture with added nutrients and soil conditioners.

Certain plant varieties, however, require specialized growing mediums. Plants such as the bromeliad and some orchids varieties are epiphytic, meaning their natural growing environment is in trees. These plants will feed on rotting vegetable matter and bark that accumulates in the forks of trees.

Plants such as these need to be potted in a loose soil medium. Select a container such as an orchid planter that has holes surrounding the body of the vessel and allows plants to have optimum air circulation.

Cacti and succulents are specialty plants that thrive in free-draining, sandy medium that encourages plant dehydration.

Most plants are less traumatized when potting on occurs in spring. On a warm, sunny day, this is a great family project to take outdoors. Mature plants may not require potting on, but may have exhausted the nutrients in their existing soil. In these cases, it is a good rule to replenish the soil yearly.

Some plants, such as the ficus benjamina and the Boston fern, have a compact root system. For these varieties, wait until the existing root system shows initial signs of root girdling, prior to transplanting.

Whether your plants outgrow their existing planters or require rejuvenation in their existing vessels, by regularly transplanting you improve your plant’s environment while providing conditions for optimum plant growth.

Shari Morash is a gardening enthusiast and an accredited designer. Contact her at

Potting Up

• Select a container at least one or two sizes larger than the existing planter.

• Clean the vessel thoroughly.

• Select a drainage material such as broken pieces of clay, stones or pieces of polystyrene to line the bottom of the pot and cover existing drainage holes.

• Add a layer of potting medium.

• Tap the soil into place to remove any air pockets.

• Gently remove the plant from the vessel.

• Try to retain as much of the root ball as possible.

• Scarify roots that may have become trapped by a tight-fitting planter.

• Place the plant two centimetres below the rim of the pot to allow for watering.

• Spoon the planting medium around the root ball of the plant.

• Continue to tap the soil into place.

• Water the newly transplanted plant.

• Fertilize with a water-soluble solution, rich in phosphorus, such as 10-52-10, to promote healthy new root growth and combat transplant shock.

• Return the plant to the previous location for a period long enough to establish its root system and acclimatize prior to moving to a new location.