All houseplants need to be repotted at some point, for many different reasons. Zebra plants, while temperamental, are not particularly difficult to repot. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll figure out how to alter the process in a way that works for you and makes your plant happiest. In this article, we’ll give a broad overview of when, why, and how to repot your zebra plant.
What You'll Learn Today
- When Should I Repot My Zebra Plant?
- What Kind of Soil Does a Zebra Plant Need?
- How Do You Repot a Zebra Plant?
When Should I Repot My Zebra Plant?
Repotting a plant prematurely is a common mistake that many people make at some point with their houseplants. It’s understandable to feel eager to give our plants fresh soil or a nicer pot, but doing it unnecessarily can put plants at risk.
Repotting houseplants involves disturbing their roots, and the soil they’ve been getting their nutrients from. Therefore, it’s important to only do it when it’s needed. Here’s how to tell if your zebra plant needs to be repotted:
- You see roots outside of the pot: If the roots don’t have room to grow in the pot, they’ll start coming out of the drainage holes and sometimes out of the top of the soil. This is a clear signal that your plant needs a bigger pot.
- The plant needs to be watered more frequently: If when you water your zebra plant, it goes right through the soil quickly and subsequently dries quickly, it’s time to repot. Either the roots are too crowded, or the soil is not draining well.
- Growth has slowed: If your plant stops growing or growth slows way down, it might be time to repot. However, lack of growth can also signify other issues, like underwatering, overwatering, not enough light, etc. You can tell if growth has slowed due to needing a bigger pot by gently lifting the plant out of the pot to take a look at the roots.
- It’s been 2 years or more: Depending on the quality of your soil, the nutrients deplete after a year or two. For routine repotting like this, try to wait until spring or summer when the plant is actively growing.
What Kind of Soil Does a Zebra Plant Need?
The key to a good potting mix for zebra plants is adequate drainage. Organic potting mixes work really well for this since they use a lot of organic matter that aerates the soil.
If you only have a big brand name all-purpose potting mix on hand, this will still work. Ideally, you should at least add some perlite to improve drainage.
How Do You Repot a Zebra Plant?
Step 1: Water Your Zebra Plant
It’s easier to repot a plant when the soil is moist. Water your plant until the soil is damp, but not soaked. Then let it sit for about an hour before you proceed.
Step 2: Clean the New Pot
If you’re using a pot that previously housed another plant, clean the pot. This will get rid of any old soil from the other plant, reducing the risk of pests or diseases to your zebra plant.
Step 3: Prepare the Soil
Fill the new pot about ¾ of the way with your potting mix.
It’s a good idea to moisten the new soil before you put the plant in, to make it easier to work with and ensure that the new soil is evenly watered. New, dry soil also tends to settle when you water it, so you may decide that you need more soil after wetting it.
Step 4: Remove the Zebra Plant From its Pot
If the plant is in a nursery pot, you can gently squeeze the pot to loosen the plant and make it easier for it to slide out. With any type of pot, you can try tapping the sides and bottom to loosen the soil from the container.
Lay the plant on its side and carefully pull it out of the pot.
Step 5: Brush Off Old Soil (If Needed)
This step is a topic of debate for many plant owners – should you always clean off old soil or leave the roots alone at all costs? There are strong defenders on each side.
Many seem to agree that the answer that makes the most sense is: it depends. If you’re repotting because the soil is very old and its nutrients are likely depleted, you should try to remove as much of the old soil as possible.
Likewise, if you’ve just purchased the plant and the soil is clearly not in good shape (compacted, or doesn’t contain an appropriate mix for the plant), go ahead and remove the soil. You can do this by gently shaking off the soil and brushing it off.
To remove old soil completely, you may have to dunk the root ball in water and massage the roots gently from underwater. If the plant is pot-bound, you should carefully loosen the roots that are growing around the plant in the shape of its old pot.
Otherwise, if the soil looks okay and the plant is not terribly root-bound, just gently tease the outside of the root ball to ensure the roots will spread out.
Step 6: Set Your Zebra Plant in the Soil
Add or remove soil as needed so that the top of the root ball sits about an inch from the rim of the pot. This will give you room to water without it spilling over the sides.
Don’t press the soil down too tight after adding it. The soil needs to stay light and airy to give the roots the oxygen they need and to make sure the soil drains well.
For visual learners, here’s a good demonstration of a YouTube plant owner repotting her zebra plant:
When Should I Water My Zebra Plant After Repotting?
Many people will give their plant a good soak after repotting, but some people prefer to let the plant rest for a few days before watering thoroughly. If you had moistened the soil well before you planted, your plant may prefer to sit for a few days before you water it.
Most houseplants tend to go through a period of shock after repotting. So if you notice wilting, or leaves dropping, don’t panic – it’s normal. Give the plant a few days to recover. Repotting almost always damages at least some of the roots, so waiting to water gives them a chance to recover.
Repotting your zebra plant might seem overwhelming at first, but once you do it a few times you’ll be more comfortable. Over time, you’ll have a better sense of knowing what your plant needs based on its appearance.
Remember – even the most seasoned plant owners have likely killed their fair share of plants at one point. We live and learn.