The Secret Reason Your Houseplants Keep Dying

They just want some TLC

Here’s the situation: You just bought a brand-new philodendron, repotted it in a pretty ceramic vase, put it on a sunny windowsill and fed it some water. Three days later and it’s already looking all sad and wilted. Where did you go wrong? It turns out that what you do (or don’t do) before repotting is just as important as how you care for your plant once it’s in its new home. Follow these simple steps to keep good ole Phil happy and thriving.

1. Let it chill for a bit. Believe it or not, there’s an adjustment period after you bring houseplants home from the garden center. They face environment shock when moved and need a couple of weeks to get acclimated to new light, temperature and humidity.

2. Time it right. Most plants do best when repotted in the spring, when plant growth is most active, so plan your purchasing and repotting accordingly. (If you have a winter bloomer, repot in early fall.)

3. Practice preliminary watering. Feed your plant a good amount of H2O for three or four days before repotting to ensure it’s hydrated and to minimize the initial post-transfer shock. And if you’re repotting in terra-cotta, soak the pot for a few hours beforehand. It turns out that new terra-cotta sucks up moisture from the soil, leaving your plant thirsty.

4. Give it a tug. With your hand at the base of the plant, turn the current pot on its side and try easing your plant out. If it won’t budge, tap the pot on a table and give another gentle tug. You can also use a trowel to help it along. Then tease the roots (this stimulates new growth) and lower the plant onto a thin layer of soil in the new pot. Fill with potting mix and water.

5. Remember that TLC is key. Keep your plant away from direct sunlight for a day or two after repotting--too much light can harm the weakened plant while it’s adjusting. Keep the soil moist, not soggy. If leaves look limp, the plant needs more water. But if leaves start turning yellow, ease up on the H20.

Video How to Repot a Plant

jillian quint
Jillian Quint

Editor-in-Chief, Avid Reader, Wallpaper Enthusiast

Jillian Quint is the Editor-in-Chief of PureWow, where she oversees the editorial staff and all the fabulous content you read every day. Jillian began her career as a book editor...
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