When Repotting a Houseplant, Did You Know It May Need a Smaller Pot?

by | Jan 15, 2020 | 12 comments

Have you ever started repotting a houseplant, have you found it may need a smaller pot? How do you know it needs a smaller pot?
My friend sent me a picture of a pink aglaonema she purchased for a great price at her local Fresh Thyme Market. I couldn’t resist, so I ran out immediately, bought one for myself and went back to get one for my daughter. She loves pink plants. Who doesn’t?

aglaonema that needs repotted
My friend’s picture of her pink aglaonema (Wouldn’t that make you run out and buy one?)

Repotting a houseplant from a too large pot

When I bought them, I felt they were a bit overpotted, meaning they were in a pot that was too large for the plant.

So, how do you know when you should “down-pot” a plant? Here is why I thought it was in a too-large pot and what I did to rectify the problem.

Aglaonema in a too-large pot
Love this pink aglaonema from Fresh Thyme

When repotting a houseplant check proportion

First, when I looked at it, I felt the plant was too small for the pot it was in. In other words, the plant is quite disproportionate to the size of the pot. This is a 6″ pot and the plant needs to be in a 4″ pot.

Repotting a houseplant
The root ball of the aglaonema out of the pot

When repotting a houseplant, check the potting medium

I took the plant out of the 6″ pot and as you can see above, there aren’t too many roots showing. In fact, I only see a couple of small roots, and the potting medium was a bit too wet. Read more about aglaonema roots here.

When repotting a houseplant, check the roots
I removed the potting medium from the roots

Check the roots

As you can see there isn’t much of a root system even with most of the potting medium removed. It is enough roots to support the plant, but not enough to use all the water in the surrounding potting medium.

Does that make sense? Too much wet potting medium around the roots leads to root rot and the eventual collapse of the plant.

Repotting a houseplant
Here is the root system out of the potting medium

Check the stems

(I apologize for the pictures, as I took them with my phone and didn’t check them until I had already potted the plant.)

I noticed that the potting medium was also a bit too high on the stems. Some of the bottom leaves are planted too deep in the soil. (Read more about that problem here.) When I re-potted it, I planted it so that the stems were above the medium line.

Aglaonema stems
The potting medium is too high on the stems

When repotting a houseplant get good potting medium

I used a new potting medium, which is one that I mix myself. I moistened it before planting, as it is better to use a moistened medium when potting up plants.

If you buy a potting mix that seems too heavy (keeps too much moisture for too long), add some perlite to the mix.

repotting a houseplant soil
Choose a well-drained potting medium

Finding a new pot when repotting a houseplant

So, what is the answer to a plant in a too-large pot? Down-pot the plant. I took it from a 6″ pot to a 4″ pot.

A better fit

repotting a houseplant
Here is the down-potted aglaonema in its new pot and the old pot for comparison

The plant from above shows the plant is in a better size pot and the reason I had to run out and buy it. Isn’t that a gorgeous pink plant?!

repotted aglaonema
The down-potted aglaonema from above.
repotted aglaonema
It will do much better in this smaller pot

I also washed the extra soil off the stems and planted it at the right level.

repotting a houseplant
I washed off the soil from the stems of the plant

Don’t be afraid to down pot a plant if you feel it has too much soil around the root system. It is definitely better for the plant to be under-potted than over-potted.

A plant with too much wet potting medium around the roots is never good.

Have you ever down-potted a plant? Or wish you had…..?

Have a great week, plant friends!


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Leave a Comment


  1. Cathy Streett

    And it take up less space in your house…lol! Great tutorial.

  2. Mike Spencer

    Beautiful plant! It looks much happier in the smaller pot.
    Thank you for the post!

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Thanks, Mike! I’m glad it helped.

  3. CC

    I appreciate this info.
    Thank you

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Thanks, Chris!

  4. Sara

    This post made my brain hurt. I have always had this instinctive idea that I should give plants the biggest pot I can, so they “have room” – to grow, or something. It is very hard to adjust my thinking that a pot can be too big and that they’d rather be root bound – essentially (if I understand it right) so they don’t drown in a whole bunch of extra potting medium. I did repot an african violet that was in a much-too-big pot and not doing well, but it hasn’t thanked me for it yet, still looking droopy and unhappy. Thank you for a very good explanation of potting and pot sizes!

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Sara, I love your comment! Yes, many plants are in pots that are too big with too much potting medium suffocating their roots. Your African violet should come back. Most standard size African violets never need to be in a pot more than 4″ around. Some people do let them get huge so they may go into a 6″ pot, but never much bigger than that. Plants are amazing things. Have a great day!

  5. Ayushi Aggarwal

    Thank you for sharing this information, Never knew how over potting can affect health of my plants.

    Keep sharing such articles 🙂

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Thanks Ayushi! I will.

  6. Winni

    This is a much needed information. Thank you for sharing. Keep posting such blogs.

  7. Winni

    Thank you for posting such informative content.

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Thanks so much, Winni!


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