You Don’t Need to Move Houseplants Out Of Nursery Pots Until They’re Ready

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Repotting plants is a skill we develop over time, and as we get more experienced, we have our own preferences.

My preference is to keep plants in their nursery pots for as long as possible. For fast-growing plants, that may only be a few weeks. Or, on the other end of the scale, I have a Hoya bella that it’s the same pot I bought her in, three years later. Since hoyas have pretty shallow roots, they don’t need repotting often.

Other people have a pathological desire to repot their plants as soon as they get home. I personally don’t recommend it (for reasons I’ll explain later) but plenty of other house plant people do for perfectly valid reasons as well.

As long as you’re repotting when the plant requires you to, it really doesn’t matter how long they stay in nursery pots.

Do you need to repot your plant straight away?

I don’t think you do, but there are plenty of people out there who would disagree, and they certainly have their reasons.

Reasons you might want to repot your plant straight away

  • Repotting your plant straight away ensures that you don’t bring any pests home

This is the main reason I see people giving for encouraging others to repot house plants as soon as they bring them home.

I tend to just check them over – you can usually see them (or at least some evidence of their destruction), especially if you use a magnifying glass.

A lot of people worry about pests in the soil, but they don’t bother me. They tend to be annoying rather than destructive so it just seems like a waste of potting mix to me.

  • The nursery’s potting mix is subpar

I think I’m just lucky here – all the house plants I buy from my local garden centres is of decent quality, even the large chain ones. It’s certainly not bad enough that t would warrant repotting.

The only time this is an issue is when the plant was originally destined to be an outdoor plant, but ended up in the indoor section.

This doesn’t happen too often, but I have a Begonia carolineifolia that I keep indoors, and I recently discovered (a good 18 months after I bought it – oops) that it was in soil that basically resembled fibrous clay – I can’t even hazard a guess at what the heck that was. Soils destined for outdoors are a lot denser than indoor ones to stop them from drying out too quickly in the sun and wind.

  • The plant has something around its roots

Often house plants are grown in little plugs, and when they’re grown on their roots are wrapped in mesh or coir or something similar.

I think it’s to stop the roots from getting tangled up with one another when they’re in seed trays, so they’re easier to separate when the time comes.

It tends to be in plants like hoya that have small root systems, and therefore can’t afford to have it ripped off.

Plants like Monstera have thick, fast-growing roots so their roots are usually left to their own devices.

I do understand that this can be a concern, BUT I still like to wait a couple of weeks before repotting, just to let the plant acclimate a bit and reduce the chance of it going (further) into shock.

Reasons you might want to leave them in their nursery pots

  • They might not need repotting

If you repot a plant before it needs it, especially if you put the plant in a bigger pot, you can inadvertently increase your chances of overwatering in the future.

This can actually be helpful if you tend to underwater, but it’s not the *best* for your plant.

  • Repotting too soon can send your plant into shock

This is the main reason I leave my plants alone for as long as possible (ok, the main reason is that I’m lazy, but I can hardly write that here, my mum reads it).

Plants don’t like being repotted. It’s very unnatural for them. In the wild, if anything remotely similar to being repotted happens to them, then something awful is happening, like a natural disaster or a particularly destructive capybara.

They don’t like it! The only thing that’s worse is when they’re moved from the perfect environment of the garden centre (this clearly will depend on the quality of the vendor) and into your home.

My advice is to put your new plant in a spot specially designated for new plants. Away from the rest of your collection in case of pests, in good light and decent humidity.

I wait a couple of weeks before repotting even if it’s BUSTING out of the pot – I just make sure to really soak the roots so it doesn’t dry out.

Can you leave your plant in its plastic pot?

100%.

I primarily use nursery pots to keep my plants in, and then employ prettier cover pots. I find that nursery pots are easier to water thoroughly than most other pots because they have loads of holes in the bottom. I place the plant on an oven shelf laid in a big pot and water till the soil is thoroughly damp.

watering set up

Once the nursery pot is too small, I up-pot to another nursery pot. I either reuse the ones I already have (outdoor plant pots are great for larger house plants) or I scour the pile of pots that garden centres often have by the exit and see if they have anything suitable.

Final thoughts

House plants are more than happy to remain in their nursery pots until they’ve outgrown them. Even then, feel free to repot them into a bigger plastic nursery pot. The pots are engineered to hold plants, so keeping a plant in an appropriately-sized pot all its life is totally fine.

Caroline Cocker

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

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