How to Repot a Root-Bound Plant

  • Repotted

    Ready to be repotted

    With a little imagination and help from a drill, this overgrown aloe is getting a whole new look. 

  • Materials



    Watering can

    Potting soil

    Drill with a metal drill bit (if you’re using a metal container that needs holes)

    New pot

    Old pot

    Plant in need of a new home 

  • Step 1: Check roots

    Step 1: Check roots

    Turn the plant upside down to reveal the root system and check to make sure the root network is healthy and has filled the container. If the roots are sparse, you can still do a makeover—just select a container the same size as the previous one. 

  • Step 2: Drill drainage holes

    Step 2: Drill drainage holes

    If the roots warrant a promotion, find a container that is at least an inch wider than the original pot (and don’t shy away from funky).

    If your pot doesn’t already have holes, drill at least three drainage holes. Place holes an inch or so apart using a metal bit. If you are working with a clay pot, use a masonry bit. (Caution: Drilling might damage a container. Don’t try this with a valuable one.)

  • Step 3: Separate roots

    Step 3: Separate roots

    Tease roots free from the root ball so they’ll quickly penetrate the new soil. If you want to share the bounty with friends, separate off a “pup” with as many roots as possible. Slip the mother plant into its new container, adding soil around the orginal root network. Be sure to press the soil around the roots, eliminating any empty holes. 

  • Step 4: Repot

    Step 4: Repot ‘pups’

    Pot the “pup” separately, pressing in the soil around the roots and giving the division plenty of expansion room to start a new family. 

  • Step 5: Water

    Step 5: Water and protect

    Keep the roots moderately moist and position the plant out of a baking sun for one to two weeks, then place the plants in a sunny window.