I’ve spent the past few days repotting various plants, including my tomato babies. I’m now going to Italy, and since I don’t have a cat anymore I was thinking that I’d be saving money since I wouldn’t need to pay the catsitter, except then I realised someone needed to look after my plants, so now the catsitter has morphed into a plantsitter for the next couple of weeks.

I posted about the repotting on Instagram, and then a friend asked if I could show him how to repot a fern. Since I’ll be videoing the conference in Italy next week and needed to test the videocamera anyway, I decided this would be a good opportunity to do that.

So, here you go: how to repot a fern (works for most other plants too). Full transcript below.


This one is for Umit, he asked me how to repot a fern and then I realised I need to test the videocamera before tomorrow anyway. So I’m going to demonstrate how to repot a fern.

The first thing you will need is your fern, obviously. You will also need a larger pot. I would recommend something that is obviously bigger than the one which you’ve already got, but not too much bigger, so it needs a little bit more room for your roots to spread out and grow. Honestly I probably could have gone a little bit bigger than I went, but I didn’t have the original plant with me at the garden centre so I just guessed.

You will also want one of these little tray thingies; they’re often sold separately to the pots, so don’t just assume you’ve got one if you’ve picked up a pot – that’s to stop the water running everywhere when you drain. If you have a pot that doesn’t have holes in the bottom, you might want to get some of these pretty little… pretty little thingies. You can put them along the bottom of your pot if it doesn’t have any drainage holes and it will help the soil to drain rather than getting waterlogged, which you don’t want.

You can also – the wine is optional – you will also need some compost. I just use normal houseplant compost, which is fine; you can also get multipurpose compost, which will probably also be fine.

So let’s do some repotting.

This is Alfred, by the way, he’s a tomato plant and he got repotted a couple of days ago.

So. I’m going to set you here and hope that people can see what is going on.

So first of all what you want to do, is you want to take your fern… I’m just going to move the camera again… you want to take your fern out of its original pot, and you want to do that without damaging the plant or the roots.

So what I normally do is pick it up – it helps actually if you haven’t watered it for a couple of days; if it’s a little bit dry it makes it a bit easier to get out. Just very gently sort of squidge it a little bit to make it a bit… wiggly? I don’t know. There’s probably, like, plant person terms for this, but I’m not a plant person really.

And then gently turn it upside-down – the smaller your plant is, the easier it will be – and sort of press on the bottom a little bit, and it should just come free. There will be earth that will fall everywhere. If you have… I’m not sure how big your roots are, or how well you can see in this light, but if you have roots that are coming through the bottom, they should just pull out as you’re pulling the plant forward gently, but if they don’t you can kind of tease them out a little bit with your hands, just don’t pull too hard, just sort of tease them backwards. Try not to think about how much they look like spider legs.

So then you have your plant, it should be a bit like this. You should still be able to hold it. There might be more soil everywhere, it just depends on the consistency of the soil you’ve used. So we’ll stick that there for a moment.

Then – well actually, you probably should have done this first, but I forgot. So put your compost in the new pot. Compost bags are really heavy, by the way. A lot of people when they’re repotting plants like to wear gardening gloves to stop their hands getting dirty. Surprisingly, I quite like the feeling of earth between my fingers, so I don’t do that.

So just – there we go – stick some compost in. It can be quite difficult to work out how much compost you need because you’re going to repot the plant in its old soil as well. But just sort of eyeball it, and you can always add more in a bit. Whooh! That was a bit too much. Never mind.

Stick your compost in… your hands are nice and earthy now, you look like a real gardener. How exciting. You can pretend you’re Charlie Dimmock. I had a massive crush on her when I was about ten, she was my first lady crush. The first of many.

Anyway, so once you have put some compost in, make a little – in fact I’m going to put a little bit more compost in – OK. Also I tend to just kind of scrumple the compost a bit to make it a little bit more finely granulated. Quite often it will come with big clumps in: some of them will be stones, which obviously you can’t break, but some of them will be just bits of earth that you can break up a bit more. Especially with ferns, they don’t mind the clumpy bits so much because they quite like to have something to grab onto with their roots, but anyway.

As you can see I’m just making a bit of a hole in the middle of the… well you can’t see, because the light is really bad, but there’s like a hole thing in the middle of there, where the soil is.

Lift up your plant and… try and fail. Hang on, I’m going to displace some compost. There we go. Lift up your plant and place it into the hole. Don’t be afraid to, like, push it down a bit: plants are hardier than we give them credit for.

Then gather up some more compost – so you’ll probably find that the plant that you’ve just put in, the soil there is slightly raised away from the soil that you had just put in, the new compost. So then take your new compost, pack it around the plant – whoops! -pack it in quite solidly, make sure you sort of pat it down. It needs, because it’s just moved – moving is stressful, as we all know; I have moved so many times and I know how stressful it is. And it’s helpful to have a little bit of security. So this gives it the extra security after it’s moved house, so it doesn’t feel sad and lonely. Pat it all down.

Then you want to give it a really good water, again because moving is stressful, and when plants have had a lot of stress, they eat a lot and drink a lot, which again is very relatable. Plants are brilliant.

So a lot of people say ‘water from the bottom’, so fill up this little thing with water, which I would advocate doing most of the time. But when you’ve just – when you’ve just repotted something I would also water from the top because it will also help to keep the soil quite firm, which you want.

So I don’t know how to do this and also be seen doing it, but I have the kitchen tap here. So just water around….

I repot in the kitchen sink, because it makes slightly less of a mess than doing it anywhere else, but obviously you can do it wherever you want in your house.

So yeah, give it a good water – it will reject any water it doesn’t want to drink anyway out of the bottom, so it’s fine.

Once you’ve – ow! it keeps attacking me! – once you’ve watered it, pat it a little bit again just to… just to reassure it. Then stick it in the little tray thing. You can add another little bit of water to the bottom tray as well, just so that it’s got some water to drink from the bottom. And then move that away. And then turn the tap off.

And then, there you have it! There is a repotted fern, which was very easy to do. And now you have earned yourself a nice glass of wine.

One thought on “How To Repot A Fern

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