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How to Remove Plants from Pots (Quick Read)


The repotting season is coming. Indeed, the ideal time to repot our houseplants is when they start their growing season, which for most of them is between the end of February and the beginning of May. But before you can place a plant in a new pot, you must first be able to remove it from its original pot.


Your goal is to get the plant out of its pot without damaging its roots. Grabbing the plant and pulling up is rarely the right technique. Half the time you will be pulling out roots.


Remove a plant from a pot easily

Watering to get out more easily

Start by watering well a day or two before. The plant will be easier to remove if its roots are a little wet.


If roots are sticking out of the drainage holes, remove them with pruning shears, as they will hinder your efforts and, moreover, will be damaged anyway during the following manipulations.


Knock the pot against a piece of furniture

Now, invert the pot, and, holding the base of the plant firmly between your fingers, strike the rim of the pot against the edge of a table or other piece of furniture. Generally, that’s all it takes to loosen the root ball so that it can be removed without difficulty.


For plants that are too large and heavy to invert, place the plant on its side on a table, hit the bottom of the pot with your hand to loosen it and try to remove it.

If the roots don’t give way and the pot has flexible walls, try compressing the pot in two or three places as you go around. Sometimes this is enough and the pot will come out fine afterwards.


If the pot still won’t let go, insert a knife (it doesn’t have to be sharp) between the pot and the root ball, go around the pot to loosen any roots stuck to it, and try again.


Cutting the pot as a last resort

Still not working? It happens! It may be necessary to cut the pot if it is plastic (metal shears will do), or to smash it with a hammer (clay or ceramic pot) to get the plant out. After all, it is better to sacrifice the pot than the plant!


Easily remove a large plant from a pot

It is not always easy to remove large plants from their large pots when putting them in the ground. Fortunately, a simple technique solves this cumbersome problem.

Except maybe if your name is the Hulk, you can’t unpack a large plant as you would a small perennial, by simply pulling it by the stem with one hand and holding the container with the other.


Because pots of more than 30 liters are heavy because of the weight of the substrate, and the plants they contain are generally imposing. Moreover, sometimes the plants have been left in place without repotting for several years and their roots have gone through the water drainage holes of the pot.


You might as well try to become King of England by pulling Excalibur from its rock! But when you lay the plant on the ground and pull it horizontally with your legs instead of vertically, you can get rid of most stubborn clods.



Spread a tarp on the ground if you are afraid of dirtying it, then lay the plant on it, taking care not to break any branches during the operation.


Clearance from below

Inspect the underside of the vertically exposed pot and trim off any roots that may have grown through the water drainage holes with pruning shears. If necessary, widen the holes to cut them cleanly.


Putting in place

Slide yourself under the plant’s branches by lying on the ground. Stand up in a semi-sitting position and grasp the plant by the trunk. Bend your legs and place your feet gently on the edges of the pot.


Top release

Pull the trunk toward you while pushing the pot back with your legs. You will be giving off so much force that the plant should not resist you for long. Once the plant is out of its pot, stand up and straighten it on its root ball.

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