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How to Tell if Your Plant is Rootbound - 3 Things to Look For

Let's talk about roots! Roots are one of the most important parts of the plant, and serve three main functions. Roots absorb water & nutrients from the soil for the plant to use for growth, roots anchor the plant in the soil, and roots work like warehouses to store extra nutrients the plant makes. These are pretty important functions! We want to make sure the roots have the best environment to provide these services to the plant. Unfortunately when plants become rootbound (also called pot-bound) the roots are unable to function at their full strength!

What does it mean if a plant is rootbound? This is a condition that occurs when the plant's roots outgrow the current pot. The roots have grown so much that they take up the entirety of the pot and form dense root balls. With no space for further growth and no room to breathe, the roots are unable to do their important work in these conditions.

Fortunately, it's not hard to determine if a plant is rootbound! Most people assume a plant is rootbound if they see roots coming out of the bottom of the pot, but this is not always a sign of being rootbound. This is just a sign that the plant and roots are growing! Instead we recommend looking for other signs as well. It's as easy as pulling the plant out of the pot and looking at the roots!

Your plant might be rootbound if...

You see roots growing out of the top of the pot.

This is a sign that the roots have nowhere else to grow except upwards! When you pull the plant out of the pot, you will likely see the rest of the soil is crowded with roots, which has forced the roots to grow upwards. The top of the pot is generally the last place the roots will grow, making it a good sign that it is time to get your plant into a larger pot!

There are more roots than soil in the pot.

As the roots grow, they displace the soil in the pot. If you pull the plant out of the pot and can't see any soil - this is a very good sign of being rootbound. A healthy plant will still have empty soil space available for further growth.

The roots are compacted and forming dense rings.

Even if the roots are not coming out of the bottom or top of the pot, the plant might still be rootbound. Look for tightly compacted circles of roots along the bottom of the pot. Normal roots will grow outward from the bottom and sides of the pot, while bound roots will be forced to grow in a circular fashion, forming dense rings.

So your plant is rootbound, what can you do?

The best solution is simply repotting your plant into a larger pot! We recommend going up about 2-3 inches in size to provide adequate room for growth. Be sure to gently tease apart the root ball to spread out the roots in the new pot. Growth might have slowed or stopped completely when the plant was rootbound, but you should notice new growth developing soon after repotting!


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