Should You Remove Old Soil From Roots When Repotting? - Backyard Boss
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Should You Remove Old Soil From Roots When Repotting?

Since potted plants need repotting every one or two years or when you’re changing your plant’s potting soil, you’ll find yourself staring at your plant’s roots covered with old soil. Should you shake it off or let it stay? It looks like a relatively simple decision; What could go wrong? A lot!

The most important thing is knowing when to remove old soil from your plant’s roots and when to let it stay during the repotting process. But how can one be certain, and are there any signs to watch out for? Also, how should you safely remove old soil from the roots?

Do You Keep Old Soil When Repotting?

Plant roots
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Removing the soil from the roots depends on a number of factors. It’s important to understand that discarding old healthy soil can cause damage to your plant’s roots, while leaving moldy soil can cause your plants health to deteriorate.

Here are the most common factors that you should take into consideration.

When to Remove Old Soil From the Roots

Here are some reasons why removing old soil from your plant’s roots is okay:

  1. You’re changing your growing medium and want to move on to hydroponic growing. In this case, gently removing as much soil as possible is important.
  2. If your soil and plant have previously struggled with diseases, fungi, and pests, removing old soil from your roots is better to prevent an outbreak.
  3. Remove old soil from the roots if you’ve just brought your plant home from the nursery. This is because most nurseries offer low-quality clay soil that can prevent the roots from absorbing moisture and nutrients from the soil.
  4. If your plant has battled root rot, remove old soil and prune diseased roots before repotting it to prevent the rot from occurring again.

When Not to Remove Old Soil From the Roots

Here are some reasons why removing old soil from your plant’s roots is not okay:

  1. If the soil is healthy (it hasn’t struggled with pests and diseases, and it isn’t clumpy or low-quality), then there’s no need to remove it from the plant’s roots.
  2. If your plant’s roots look healthy, it indicates that the soil is healthy too. In this case, there’s no need to disturb your plant’s root system.
  3. Assuming you’re planning to use the same soil after refreshing it or if you’re using new soil with similar ingredients, you don’t need to remove old soil from your plant’s roots.

How to Remove the Old Soil From the Roots Before Repotting

Removing the old soil from your plant’s roots can be tricky, especially if the soil is clay-like and stuck to the roots. However, it’s important to be gentle since roots are delicate and easy to damage. Here’s how to remove old soil from your plant’s roots safely:

Step 1: Wait Until the Soil is Dry

a pot of dry soil
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Assuming you’ve already selected another pot with drainage holes and made your own organic potting soil, you’ll need to wait until the top layer of your plant’s soil in its current pot is dry. Dry soil slides out more easily from the pot than soggy soil. Wet or moist soil will fall apart as it comes out, damaging your plant’s roots.

Step 2: Gently Loosen the Soil

squeezing pot
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To help loosen the soil, squeeze your plastic pot gently to help it detach from the sides of the pot. If your pot isn’t plastic, use chopsticks to poke the pot’s edges to loosen the soil’s grip. Don’t poke in the middle or close to the pot’s core, as that could damage your plant’s roots.

Step 3: Turn the Pot

A Man Holding a Plant and a Pot
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Cover the top of your pot with your hand and hold your plant by its main stem or trunk. Slowly turn the pot upside down and tap the bottom slowly to encourage the soil to slide out. If the soil has detached from the pot, it’ll begin to slide out. If not, you’ll need to poke the edges to loosen the soil.

Step 4: Soak the Roots

tap water
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Open the tap and under a slow and gentle stream, wash the soil off your plant’s roots. Don’t tug, yank, or rub the roots together, as that could damage the plant. To remove clay-like soil, soak your plant’s roots in a container of room-temperature water for a few minutes. Soak only the roots and ensure the foliage doesn’t get wet otherwise, it could cause rot. Gently move your fingers over the roots underwater to remove old soil.

Step 5: Start Repotting Your Plant

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After removing the old soil, lay your plant on a dry cloth and let the roots air dry. Meanwhile, pick your container and prepare your new potting soil to repot your plant.

Soiled Reputation!

You should repot your plant or change its potting soil every one or two years, depending on how quickly your plant outgrows its current pot or how quickly the soil loses its qualities and nutrients.

As far as old soil in your plant’s roots is concerned, it depends on a few factors. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your soil health and quality as that will determine if you should remove old soil from your plant’s roots when repotting.

Leave your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the comment section! And share with friends and family who might find this helpful.

Happy gardening!