One of the most common questions we get via Instagram or email is "when is the right time to re-pot houseplant seedlings"?
So, I've compiled a quick little checklist to go through whenever you're thinking of re-potting a seedling, if it matches one or more of the criteria, then it may be time to move your baby plant to a new pot!
1) They have, or are growing in, their second set of leaves
So, the easiest way to be sure if the seedling is hardy enough to be moved it to see whether it has it's second set of leaves yet. If yes, then they should be ready to be moved and adapt just fine. That isn't to say that you can't successfully move seedlings earlier than that(I actually do so all the time!), but you're less likely to kill the seedling if you just wait a little.
[A little about the photo of the Black Dragon Coleus, as you can see there are 3 sets of leaves so we're good! A set is determined by whether the plant variety is a monocot or a dicot.
Monstera Deliciosa is an example of a Monocot, it sprouts one leaf at a time, so as long as a Monstera seedling has 2 leaves, it's ready to be repotted. Dicots put out 2 leaves at a time, like this Black Dragon Coleus, which mean a set of leaves includes 2 leaves, so it should have 4 leaves in total prior to re-potting.
If you want to grow your own Black Dragon Coleus babies, you can get them here!]
2) The seedlings are root-bound
Maybe you've planted your seeds in a slightly more spacious planter, so there's no rush to move your baby Monstera or Ficus. Seedlings need room to grow, so check regularly to see if the roots have maximized the space in the planter. You can do so by lifting the planter to see if roots are poking out of the drainage holes, or if you have a transparent planter, you might see roots crowding the sides of the planter.
@plantflix how you know when it's time to pot up some seedlings 🥰🌱 #houseplants #seeds #seedlings #tropicalseeds #indoorgardening #indoorplants ♬ She Share Story (for Vlog) - 山口夕依
[This is a TikTok I posted a few months ago showcasing the roots bursting out of the bottom of a greenhouse tray.
This was actually a greenhouse with the seeds from our "Grow an Indoor Jungle" Beginner Houseplant seed kit, so they're pretty quick growers and outgrew their greenhouse within a few weeks and needed to be re-potted.
You can get your own complete Houseplant seed kit here!]
3) The soil dries out too quickly
In general, you should only be having to water your seedlings once or twice a week. If you're seeing the soil dry out within a day or 2, then that's an indicator that the seedling is root bound and it's better to move it to a larger planter so it can grow larger, and so you don't accidentally kill it by missing a watering(can't tell you how many times this happened to me...)!
[A little more about this bridal creeper aka Asparagus Asparagoides Smilax. These plants grow quick and they're not too fussy about their water, but I noticed I had to start watering this plant several times a week to keep the soil from being dry.
That being said, if you like the plant at the size it's at, you can totally keep it in it's planter, it just probably won't grow much more. I did end up repotting this Bridal Creeper and it start to grow a lot again, which was my goal.
4) Growth has stagnated
Growth can stagnate for many reasons, so if this is the only indicator, then chances are something else is going on and it might be worse for the plant to be moved.
However, if your plant has maximized the planter and is root bound, then it won't be able to grow much more in it's current pot and will need to be moved to a larger planter in order to continue it's growth.
[This lace fern aka Asparagus Plumosus Nana was such a perfect example of needing to be moved up to a larger planter. I had it in a 4" planter, and it did produce new growth, however it was staying at the same size basically until I decided to re-pot it.
Shortly after moving it up to a 6" planter, it put out this tall, growth and almost doubled in height within a month! Just goes to show how much the seedlings need that extra room and extra nutrients from fresh soil to keep growing.
Like this plant? Grow some Lace Fern seeds by getting them here!]
[bonus] 5) Seedlings are too crowded
Sometimes you'll mess up and plant too many seeds in one planter(again, I've done this way too many times, most recently with some bird of paradise seeds!) and surprise, they've all germinated. Now you have 6 bird of paradise seedlings in one, small planter. These seedlings would compete for space, so either you wait it out and let the seedlings grow out and see who survives, or you try to re-pot them to give each seedling it's own planter.
This choice is up to you, I usually prefer to re-pot them since I've had a lot of practice re-potting seedlings and feel confident about working with delicate roots, but you can leave them and let them grow out as is.
Really the best solution is prevention, essentially, don't do this! Sow the amount of seeds per planter as specified in our care sheets and don't overdo it :)
[You can get your own Bird of Paradise aka Strelitzia seeds right here!]
I hope this little checklist is helpful! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to comment below or reach us at our email at email@example.com!
If you liked this post, here are some others that might interest you: