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What is root-bound?

Root-bound is a term used to describe a situation where a plant's roots outgrow the container they are in, leading to various issues for the plant. In this article, we'll discuss the symptoms of a root-bound plant, methods to remove it from its container, and how to properly care for it after repotting.

Symptoms of Root-Bound Plants​

If your plants become root-bound, you might observe the following symptoms:

Stunted Growth​

The plant's growth may be slow or stunted due to the lack of space for root expansion.


The plant may start stretching, trying to reach more light due to its limited growth.

Smaller Bud Production​

Bud production may be smaller and slower as the plant struggles to obtain necessary nutrients.

Frequent Watering​

The plant may need to be watered more often since the limited soil capacity dries out quicker.

Nutrient Burn​

Root-bound plants are more susceptible to nutrient burn from concentrated nutrient solutions.


The plant may wilt quickly, especially if its roots are tightly wrapped around the container.

Removing a Root-Bound Plant​

Before attempting to remove a root-bound plant, carefully run a transplanting trowel or a long, flexible knife between the pot and the root ball. Here are two methods to remove the plant:

Method 1: Strong, Woody Stem​

For plants with a strong, woody stem, hold the stem firmly and lift the pot off the ground. Tap the pot rim with a rubber hammer or piece of wood until the pot releases the plant.

Method 2: Plant and Pot Upside Down​

Turn the plant and pot upside down, ensuring there's enough clearance to prevent damage. Have someone help you pull the pot upward, or tap the rim on a table edge. The plant may come free suddenly, so be prepared to catch it.

Caring for a Repotted Plant​

After freeing the plant from its old pot, inspect the roots and take the following steps:
  1. Loosen or trim tightly bound roots to encourage outward growth.
  2. Place the plant in a new pot and add soil without forcefully packing it.
  3. Water the soil in layers to settle it without creating air pockets.
  4. Keep the surface of the old root ball even with the new soil.
  5. Clean the foliage to remove dust and prevent pests.
  6. Provide a light feeding of diluted fertilizer if necessary.
  7. Ensure the plant receives appropriate light levels to recover and adjust to its new environment.
It may take up to two weeks for your plant to fully adapt to its new pot, so be patient and monitor its progress closely.
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