When and How to Repot a Calathea Plant (Essential Tips)

Calatheas make a lovely addition to any plant collection. From its dark green foliage to its desire for humidity, this tropical houseplant offers a lot while requiring relatively little. However, it does need the occasional repotting to help it move into a bigger home with more room to stretch its roots. Don’t worry if your Calathea has been in its current pot for a few years. It’s easy to get it into a new pot when it’s time.

When and How to Repot a Calathea Plant (Essential Tips)

Repotting Calatheas – The Essentials 

The most crucial factor when repotting Calathea is the soil mix. Aim for good drainage and a relatively loose mixture with some peat moss or compost to hold moisture. Use a pot or container that is only ½ inch larger than the root mass of the Calathea and wait until the plant is showing signs of outgrowing its current pot.

Why Repotting Calatheas is Necessary

Why Repotting Calatheas is Necessary

All types of Calathea plants need occasional repotting for the same reasons that all houseplants need new containers and soil.

  1. Roots eventually outgrow the smaller container, circling around the bottom until they’re so bound up they can’t absorb water or nutrients anymore from the soil mix. With enough time, the plant may fill the entire container with roots so there’s little soil left to hold water.
  2. Soil mix loses nutrients and texture over time. Loose mixtures become compacted and dense, letting little air or water get to the plant’s roots. Adding fertilizer can’t always overcome the loss of nutrients to time because the soil is full of micronutrients that are hard to replace. Fertilizer also doesn’t evenly penetrate compacted soil, making feeding a plant harder than is necessary.
  3. Some containers just aren’t a good fit for plants like Calathea. These plants need damp soil because they grow in a jungle environment that stays humid and moist year-round. However, they don’t like standing water anywhere around their roots. Containers shaped so that water becomes trapped in the edges or corners can kill Calathea, so prompt repotting is a good idea in these cases.

Some people repot their houseplants any time they show issues like slow growth or drooping foliage, or brown leaves. However, make sure a Calathea actually needs a new pot before assuming that’s the cause of any problems with it. These plants like to be slightly squeezed by their containers, so rapid repotting to larger containers can slow their growth instead.

How Often Do Calatheas Need Repotting?

How Often Do Calatheas Need Repotting?

Calathea generally only need repotting when they truly outgrow a container, or the soil needs refreshing. That means most plants only need a new pot every year at the most. 

It’s not uncommon for smaller or slower-growing varieties to need repotting every other year instead. Mature plants that reach their full size still need a new dose of soil every three years at least. Use the same container if the roots aren’t pushed up to the sides yet.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider repotting if your calathea plant has suffered from any pests or diseases that have affected the soil base or shown signs of root rot or decay. 

The Best Times of Year to Consider Repotting Calatheas

Calathea recovers the fastest and benefits the most from being repotted in the summer, which is its active growing season (now’s a good time to consider as well). Of course, an ailing or badly compacted plant can be repotted any time of year. 

Houseplants aren’t too sensitive to seasonal changes when compared to plants grown outdoors. If you can time the chore, aim for the spring or summer. This is especially recommended for larger mature plants since repotting them outside can make a lot less mess and Calathea must stay above 61 degrees F to avoid shock.

The Best Soil Mix When Repotting Calatheas

The Best Soil Mix When Repotting Calatheas

Some plants prefer soil mixes with rocks and bark, which encourages fast drainage. Other plants want lots of peat moss and compost to keep moisture around the roots. Calathea plants want both of these things simultaneously because they need good drainage and moisture in equal amounts. One good way to achieve this is to buy a cactus or orchid mix and add in about 25% peat moss or aged compost. 

To encourage their drainage, soil mixes that are a little too moisture retentive can also be enriched with vermiculite and orchid bark by up to 50%. Making your own potting mix will give you the best results when repotting Calathea plants.

What Tools Will I Need When Repotting Calatheas?

Calathea plants don’t have unusual roots or thorns, so they’re easy enough to repot by hand. You may want to have a small trowel if you think the plant may be stuck in its current container or want to divide a large Calathea into two smaller plants. 

Try putting down a small tarp or layers of newspaper as well to keep loose soil from making a mess of your work area.

Size & Types of Potting Vessel Considerations

Size & Types of Potting Vessel Considerations

While some houseplants prefer lots of space to stretch their roots, Calathea plants prefer smaller containers. 

Like many other tropical plants, Calatheas grow best when slightly constricted by a container only just a little larger than its root mass. This helps regulate moisture levels around the roots and ensures the tips can find the nutrients they need as well. 

It’s best to choose a potting vessel that is about ½ inch bigger than the current root ball of the plant. Plastic is a good material choice for this plant, but terracotta can work well too since they don’t mind damp soil. 

Make sure the potting vessel drains well and doesn’t have edges or depressions that hold water, which encourages root rot in these plants.

How to Repot Your Calathea Plant

How to Repot Your Calathea Plant
  1. Set up a work area that you don’t mind getting a little messy. Make sure there’s plenty of light and space.
  2. Pick up the Calathea plant and carefully turn it over on its side, laying the foliage down, so it’s not crushed or snapped.
  3. Rotate the container or pot and try to slide it off the plant’s root ball. If it seems stuck, set the plant upright and loosen it around the edges of the container with a hand trowel. Then try again until the pot slides off.
  4. Remove any old soil clinging to roots by gently squeezing and brushing the root ball with your hands. Don’t damage the fine root hairs, and don’t worry about removing any soil clinging to the roots themselves, just loose bits.
  5. Settle the plant down into the new container, which should already have an inch of soil in the bottom. Start sifting new soil mix in around the sides, shaking the pot to get it to settle to the very bottom.
  6. Tamp the soil down gently, then water thoroughly until it runs from the bottom of the new container. Clean up and discard or save the old container.

Post Repotting Care

Calathea plants need high humidity and filtered light after repotting to recover quickly, so consider putting them near a humidifier or in the bathroom with the shower on. This minimizes wilting and shock from having their roots disturbed. Water normally and avoid fertilizing your calathea plant for a few months. In addition, looks to prune or cut back any past prime foliage.

Repotting Calatheas FAQs:

Should I soak my Calathea before repotting? 

If the plant is dry or the soil is particularly compacted, soaking the root ball briefly during repotting can help. However, it’s not usually necessary since Calathea are kept well-watered, and the soil should be damp enough to come loose easily.

Should you water a Calathea immediately after repotting? 

Calathea plants do need immediate watering after repotting, even if you dampened the soil mix ahead of time.

Do Calatheas like big pots? 

Calathea plants aren’t fans of big pots with lots of room to spread out in. Instead, they prefer pots just a little bigger than their current root growth, with about ½ inch to spare.

Why is my Calathea limp after repotting? 

These plants temporarily wilt or go limp from the shock of repotting. If the plant doesn’t perk up within three days, it may have gotten too cold or too wet during the process.

Should I mist my Calathea after repotting? 

Misting or keeping the calathea plant near a humidifier for a few days after repotting helps reduce shock and wilting.

Should I fertilize my Calathea after repotting? 

Avoid fertilizing for the first three months or o since the roots need time to recover.

Wrapping Up

Calathea plants don’t need repotting as often as many other houseplants. When they do finally need a new container, it’s a quick and easy process to swap them over. Consider refreshing mature Calathea plants once every two to three years, even if they don’t need larger pots at those points. New potting mix will keep the plants healthy and ensure the most vibrant colors in the foliage.

For more, see our in-depth guide to the uses and benefits of calathea plants.

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