Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Repot A Houseplant As Soon As You Buy It

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

This is one of those subjects that we tend to overthink massively.

That being said, as an overthinker who sometimes just wants the *correct* answer so I can stop overthinking (if one ever, actually, stops overthinking) then here we go:

No, you shouldn’t repot a plant as soon as you bring it home.

HOWEVER

You can if you want. Some people prefer to.

If you want to, go ahead.

Should I repot my plant as soon as I bring it home?

No.

Remember that being in a pot and moving around is NOT natural to a plant, and they find the whole situation inherently stressful.

It’s not the case that if you repot as soon as you bring the plant home, it’s going to die.

If you’ve bought the plant in decent condition then there’s no reason that should happen.

The only issue is that it’s unnecessary. The plant is already in a stressful situation – it’s moving from the shop to your home. By repotting it immediately, you’re just stressing it out further unnecessarily.

Of course, if something going on with your plant that you feel are stressing it out, and that stress could be alleviated by being repotted, then go ahead and repot. 

What if your plant…

Has root rot?

You might be wondering why I’m not just saying ‘er…don’t buy a plant with root rot’ but it can actually be quite a good way of getting expensive plants in the bargain bin.

If the plant is really far gone, then you can just chop and prop, but a soil change can also help if the roots are damaged but recoverable.

I like to salvage root rot-ty plants in water, because it’s easier to keep an eye on the roots. And I find that roots can be grown pretty quickly in water.

Is in the wrong soil?

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t repot my new plants, regardless of the soil it’s in.

If it's survived this long, another couple of weeks won't harm it further. 

Unless it looks like there’s an issue with the roots (i.e. root rot), then I’d recommend leaving it where it is.

Has fungus gnats?

This is your call. I wouldn’t bother – I’d just dry out the top of the soil (a blowdryer on cool works) and wait. However, if you’re very fungus gnat averse, you can repot if you like.

There are other ways to get rid of fungus gnats that don’t involve repotting.

Has other pests?

Again, you can if you like HOWEVER there are a couple of things to consider:

  1. Most houseplant pests have no interest in your substrate. Thrips eggs are in the LEAF, not the soil. Changing the soil most likely won’t affect them at all. See also spider mites and mealybugs.
  2. Repotting could further stress out the plant and make the situation worse

Is rootbound?

Leave it. If you’re worried it can’t get enough water soak the rootball in a bucket of water. It’ll be fine for a couple of weeks whilst it acclimates, and you can repot it then.

Being rootbound needn’t be that big of a deal for houseplants.

Have a cage around the roots?

Leave it be. You can remove it when you do come to repot, but those ‘cages of death’ as TikTok has dubbed them won’t damage the roots as much as social media has led us to believe.

Aglaonema are renowned for having them, and they barely affect the roots at all. You can remove them if you’d prefer – I do – but wait until your plant needs repotting.

Aglaonema are well known for having them (mine had a whole nursery pot entangled in the rootball) but they also rarely need repotting. Check the roots when it’s time to repot but there’s no need to go searching.

aglaonema

How long should I wait to repot my plant after buying it?

I like to wait a minimum of two weeks. That’s ample time for the plant to recover from the ordeal of being brought home.

You don’t need to repot your plant after two weeks. If it looks perfectly fine, leave it.

Some plants, especially larger ones, may not need repotting for months – years in the case of shallow-rooted plants like Hoyas and succulents.

Don’t worry about it. Plants in the wild NEVER get repotted.

How do I know when to repot my plant?

I wait until there are more roots than soil when I take the pot off the rootball.

If there are roots coming out of the bottom, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been forced out due to overcrowding – often roots naturally grow down towards water.

If you exclusively bottom water don’t be surprised if your roots just head straight down the pot and out of the bottom. you can just rearrange them in the pot.

This is pretty much the only sign I look for.

Other issues, like lack of growth, the plant drying out too quickly, or water going straight through the pot are likely to be caused by something other than needing a repot if there aren’t a heck of a lot of roots in the pot.

What should I do when I bring my plant home?

You don’t really need to do anything to a plant when you bring it home.

Find it a good spot

This is key. In order for your plant to acclimate asap, it needs a decent spot. If you bring it home from the garden centre and stick it in a dark corner then it is more likely to go into shock.

You can move it later if you want, but when you first bring it home, put it somewhere good.

If I buy a plant with pests it goes into my bathroom. The light is good but gentle (south-facing with a textured glass window) and I keep my castile soap spray in there.

healthy plants go to my coffee table so I can keep an eye out for any deterioration. Once they/ve been there for a couple of weeks, they head off to wherever they’re going.

I almost never repot until it’s totally necessary.

Give it anything it needs

To be honest new plants rarely need anything when you bring them home, but sometimes, especially in summer, they can be dry. I always bottom water, because you never know if they’re hydrophobic moss or something hiding around the roots.

Leave it be

I mean, keep an eye out for pests or general malaise, but basically…leave it alone. It’s most likely either got slow-release fertiliser in the soil, so I wouldn’t recommend feeding it until it’s settled in and produced new growth.

Final thoughts

If you think it needs repotting, repot it. Even if it wasn’t strictly necessary, you probably won’t kill your plant by repotting it too early.

However, the chances of a new plant needing repotting within two weeks of you bringing it home are remote. Unless it has root rot.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

Leave a comment