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Repotting a Root Bound Peace Lily: 3 Easy Steps for Success

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When you have a peace lily (Spathiphyllum) that is extremely root bound and it is time to repot into a bigger pot, there is one important step that many people miss.  And if you miss this step, your plant will not benefit from the repotting. In fact, it may even continue to decline! 

Keep reading so you can ensure that you don’t miss this very important step so that your plant will thrive after repotting.

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HOW TO REPOT A PEACE LILY THAT IS ROOT BOUND

Before I get into the steps of repotting a root bound peace lily, how do you know if your plant potentially needs repotting?

Before taking the plant itself out of its pot, there are a few indications that will tell you that your peace lily may need a bigger pot.

  • There are a lot of hard, matted roots on the surface of your soil.
  • Roots may be growing out of the drainage hole(s).
  • Your peace lily’s soil seems to be drying out much faster than it used to and you may find it difficult to keep up with watering it.
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Roots growing out of the drainage hole is one indication that your peace lily is root bound.

These are all indications that your peace lily’s roots are filling up the pot and that it needs help! Let’s get into the 3 steps to repot.

1. Remove from the pot and loosen the root ball

First, remove your plant from the pot. If you have it growing in a plastic nursery pot, simply squeeze the perimeter of the pot and gently pull the plant out. If you have your plant in a rigid container, run a knife around the inside perimeter of the pot, and this should help you pull the plant out of the pot.

Here is one of my peace lilies after I removed it from its pot. Take a look at how root bound it is. Note the roots circled around the bottom and how tightly packed they are.

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Loosening the rootball is a very critical step in repotting a plant.  If you fail to do this (particularly for peace lilies or any plants that are extremely root bound), your plant will not benefit at all when you place it in its new pot.

Once I had a peace lily (Spathiphyllum) that I had in a big pot and I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t doing well.

The plant was growing very little and had started to decline. I had repotting it a few years back, and the plant wasn’t growing to my liking, so I decided to take it out of its pot to check it out.

What I found was a little shocking.  No new roots had grown into the pot!  And it had been in that pot for years!  The roots stayed contained to the tight rootball, which I obviously did not loosen when I repotted.  Shame on me! It was probably out of laziness, but at least I determined what happened.

How how do you loosen a peace lily root ball?

Two Ways to Loosen the Rootball

There are two ways that I would recommend to loosen the rootball.

I would always start by making sure that your peace lily is watered. Then wait for a few hours, or even the next day, to begin working on it. This will make it easier to tease the roots apart.

When you have your plant out of the pot, start by loosening the roots at the bottom, and then work on the sides. 

Gently pry and separate the roots to loosen them up a bit.  You don’t have to go crazy, but this will go a long way in stimulating more root and plant growth once you repot into a larger pot.

Here is what the peace lily looked like after I loosened the root ball.

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You are essentially loosening the roots so that they are more available to start growing into new potting mix in its new pot.

Sometimes if you have a SUPER rootbound plant, especially plants with fine, tight and fibrous roots, it may not be possible to use your hands to loosen the rootball. 

In these cases, simply take a sharp knife and make several vertical slashes or cuts (1-2 inches long or so) on the sides and at the bottom of the rootball. This will at least give your plant an opportunity to grow new roots where you made the cuts.

Don’t worry about damaging a few roots here and there.  They will recover, and your plant will be much better off! 

If you have a tight rootball and you don’t take either of the measures mentioned above, your plant might suffer the same fate of my poor Spathiphyllum that I mentioned above (which is doing great now by the way!)

2. Choose a new pot

Next, choose a new pot. My rule of thumb when repotting is to choose the next pot size up from the old pot. For example, if you have a plant in a 4 inch diameter pot, your new pot should be a 6 inch diameter pot.

If you choose a pot that is much bigger, the potting mix will potentially take too long to dry out.

By all means, always choose a pot with a drainage hole. I find myself planting directly into plain green nursery pots with drainage holes. Then I slip the plant into a decorative pot.

3. Pot it up using a well-drained potting mix

Lastly, choose a well-drained potting mix, but one that retains a good amount of moisture since these are moisture loving plants.

My go-to for peace lilies, and many other leafy tropicals, is 3 parts of a good potting soil (like Miracle-Gro or Espoma that you can purchase on Amazon) and 1 part perlite.

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That’s all there is to it! Be sure not to miss my peace lily care post which describes all the conditions that you plant needs to thrive. I’ve also written a post on all the causes of why your peace lily is drooping and what you can do to fix it.

Looking to purchase a special Peace Lily? One of my favorite and most convenient one-stop-shops to buy practically any plant is Etsy. Check out the Peace Lily selection (link to Etsy) today!

Have you repotted your root bound peace lily lately? Comment below. I’d love to hear!

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:

OHIO TROPICS PLANT CARE STOREFRONT

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Donna Reaney

Tuesday 31st of August 2021

I repotted my peace lily and took out all the off shoots and repotted those and they are doing well but the original plant is so droopy

Raffaele

Thursday 2nd of September 2021

You may have damaged too many roots. Give it some time and increasing humidity should help a lot!

Jessica

Thursday 15th of July 2021

Hi I have a peace lily that has a large area in the center of the plant/pot that no longer has any leaves. Can I cut this area out when repotting? Thanks!

Raffaele

Thursday 15th of July 2021

Hi Jessica! Yes, when you take it out of the pot, you can divide it up at the roots and make additional plants, or even remove the middle section and reassemble in the same pot so there is no gap.

Raquel

Monday 14th of June 2021

My Peace Lily failed to revive after watering. I noticed roots coming from drainage and found it was root bound. I repotted the plant but wonder if I should give it food or fertilizer since I watered it yesterday? Or should I lightly water it ( the roots were damp but not saturated and is now on new soil) or should I just let it be for now?

Raffaele

Tuesday 15th of June 2021

Hi Raquel! How are you watering? If none of the roots looks mushy or rotted, I suspect that you'll need to really give it a good thorough watering. Don't be afraid to let it stream through and thoroughly soak it. Sometimes the potting mix can get really dry if you neglect your plant, and you have to work a little bit to get it conditioned again to accept water. Also, potting mixes in bags can sometimes be super dry so you have to water it a few times in a row to conditions it. I'm not sure if this was your experience, so you'll have to confirm if any of this was true for your case, but it is something that I repeatedly find with people so I hope it helps! Did you loosen the root ball a bit?

Michayla

Monday 26th of April 2021

Hello! I just wanted to say that your article was so helpful and informative! I have a question about a plant I acquired though. I got a Kalanchoe plant from my local Walmart. A Pink Flaming Katy I think it's called. It was heavily overwatered and as such, I haven't watered since the 5th (when I got it) and even then I didn't. It IS rootbounded and I did get it a slightly bigger pot at 8x6 instead of the 4 inch deep one it's in now. I am against repotting it right now though cause it's still blooming wonderfully, only 1 flower has wilted. Mighty proud as it's my first plant but the soil is starting to dry and I can't water well due to the leaves being so squished and I don't want to break them. Is it fine to leave it in the pot as it is blooming and water best as I can? Or should I repot? I am afraid it might get a shock if I do it. Thank you again for the awesome article!

Raffaele

Monday 26th of April 2021

Glad you enjoyed the post Michayla! You can leave it until it's done blooming. I'm sure it will be fine!

LysaAn

Monday 26th of April 2021

I wish I had looked this up a few hours ago. I just repotted my peace lily. I started to break up the roots but I could hear them breaking and I was so scared of damaging it that I reported it with just a couple of spots loose from the wrapped root ball. Should I take out and redo or do you think it should be good enough?

Raffaele

Monday 26th of April 2021

If you loosened it a bit, I would just leave it alone. For the future, if the root ball is really dry, it's helpful to water the plant maybe the day before you repot. It will make it a bit easier. If you break some roots, it's not a big deal. The plant will recover! Hope this helps.