The Chinese evergreen is a popular houseplant that is native to several countries in Asia. Its glossy leaves come in a variety of colors ranging from green to red and even silver, and will add a great pop of personality to your home’s decor.
Periodically, you will need to repot your Chinese evergreen, as is the norm with most plants. The most common reason your Chinese evergreen will need repotting is when the plant has outgrown its old pot. This is completely normal and typically happens every two years once the plant is mature. Repotting is best done during the spring or summer when the plant is actively growing.
In this article, we will look further into why your Chinese evergreen may need to be repotted, when and how often to repot it, the correct soil and pot to use and finally, how to properly repot the plant.
If you have a Chinese evergreen and the time has come to repot it, keep reading to learn how.
Why do you need to repot a Chinese evergreen?
The most common reason a Chinese evergreen will need repotting is that it has outgrown its pot. The plant becomes rootbound and, although it is fine with being slightly rootbound, when the situation becomes more severe, it will start to affect the plant’s growth and health.
A plant becomes rootbound when its roots have no space left to grow into because they have taken up the whole pot, so they grow around the root ball instead. The longer you let the plant remain rootbound, the thicker the root mass will become and the more space the roots will occupy. Most of the soil will become displaced and you will even see roots starting to grow out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Another situation that calls for repotting is if the plant has been overwatered and may even have root rot. Plants become overwatered due to various reasons: You may be giving the plant more water than it needs per watering, you may be watering it more often than you need to, you may not have adjusted your watering schedule to the change in season, the pot may not have drainage holes at the bottom, or the soil in the pot may be poorly-draining or retain water too well.
All these situations result in the plant’s roots constantly standing in wet, soggy soil. These plants do like their soil to be a little moist at all times, but it should never be soggy. The roots need to dry out to a certain extent so that they can get access to oxygen, which the plant needs to survive. If the plant cannot get enough oxygen because of the soggy soil, the roots will drown and die. The dead roots will begin to rot, and will become vulnerable to fungi and bacteria present in the soil. These pathogens will attack the roots and make the rot spread even faster to the rest of the plant. If you suspect that your plant is overwatered or has root rot, repotting it will give you the best chance of saving it.
Lastly, repotting is also important because it is an opportunity to change the soil. Over time, the soil in a plant’s pot will become depleted of essential minerals and nutrients, either because the plant has absorbed them all, or they have been flushed out of the soil from all the watering since the soil was last replaced. If the soil has become dense and compact, you will also need to replace it because the roots prefer soil that is loose and porous.
When and how often should you repot a Chinese evergreen?
Repotting a Chinese evergreen should be done in the spring and summer, when the plant is actively growing. Remember that repotting is a stressful and traumatic process for the plant, so if it is repotted during its growth phase, it will recover much faster.
A mature Chinese evergreen will typically need to be repotted every two years. This is not a fast-growing plant and its roots will only start to fill its pot after a relatively long period of time.
However, if you notice any signs that suggest the plant is becoming rootbound, such as yellowing leaves, drooping foliage or roots growing out of the drainage holes, then you should repot the plant even if two years have not passed.
How to choose the correct soil for a Chinese evergreen
The Chinese evergreen likes soil that is able to retain a little moisture at all times, while also effectively draining excess water.
You can start with peat-based potting soil and add perlite or coarse sand to it, but if you want it to be more porous and still retain some moisture, you can even add orchid bark. This mix is loose enough and rich in nitrogen, which the plant will appreciate.
How to choose the correct pot for your Chinese evergreen
There are several factors to consider when choosing a pot for your Chinese evergreen, but the most important factor is size. When picking a new pot for the plant, choose one that is only one size larger than the old one. A pot that is one size bigger should be approximately two inches wider in diameter than the old pot. It may be tempting to buy a pot that is five sizes bigger because you think this will save you money and time, but this is not the case. A bigger pot means more soil will be needed to fill it, and more soil means more water will be retained. The more water is retained in the soil and around the plant’s roots, the higher the risk of overwatering and root rot.
Another factor is the material that the pot is made of. Choose a pot made of clay or terracotta, because these materials are more porous and will allow a freer passage of water and air so that the roots can dry out faster, decreasing the risk of overwatering and root rot. If you use a pot made of plastic or metal, water and air will not penetrate as easily and the soil will remain wetter for longer than the plant likes.
Last but not least, the pot must have drainage holes at the bottom, because this will allow any excess water to drain out.
How to repot your Chinese evergreen
Repotting the Chinese evergreen starts the night before. Water the plant generously until the excess water flows through the pot’s drainage holes. Watering the plant the night before will help loosen the soil so that it will be easier to remove the plant the next day. You also want the plant to be happy and watered before the stressful experience of repotting.
The following day, remove the plant from the pot by laying the pot on its side and, while holding the pot with one hand, gently pull the plant until it slides out of the pot. If the plant is stuck in the pot, you can use an old knife or metal spatula to loosen the soil’s edges from the pot. If the plant is still stuck after this, you might need to break the old pot. Make sure you do this as gently as possible so that the roots suffer minimal damage.
After the plant has been removed from the pot, you need to remove as much of the old soil as you can from the roots. This is so the roots are exposed and you can inspect them all closely. If you need to wash the roots with water, do so.
Inspect all of the roots and keep an eye out for any that are brown, black, soft or mushy. These roots are rotten and will have to be removed using a sterilized knife or pair of scissors.
After all the damaged roots have been removed, prepare the new pot by filling it a third of the way up with fresh soil. Place the plant in the middle of the pot and fill in around the roots with more soil until the soil has reached about an inch below the rim of the pot. Pack the soil lightly to remove any air spaces.
Water the plant and transfer it to a spot where it can get lots of bright, indirect light. You might have to water it more frequently than normal for the next two weeks, but after that, you can go back to watering it as before.
The Chinese evergreen is native to several Asian countries and, thanks to its beautiful leaves, has become one of the most common and popular houseplants in the U.S.
The Chinese evergreen needs to be repotted when it has outgrown its old pot, when it has been overwatered or may have root rot, or when the soil has become depleted of its nutrients and minerals and needs replacing.
The best pot for a Chinese evergreen is one that is one size larger than the old pot, made of clay or terracotta, and has drainage holes at the bottom.
Water the plant the night before repotting so that the soil is loose and the plant is hydrated. Remove the plant gently from its old pot and remove any rotten or damaged roots. Place the plant in its new pot with fresh soil, water it generously and place it in a spot where it can get lots of bright, indirect light.
After two weeks, the plant should be fully recovered and its roots well-established, and you can now go back to caring for it the way you would a regular Chinese evergreen.
Image: istockphoto.com / Firn