Plants, by their nature, are meant to grow in the ground and spread out their roots, but humans often have other ideas for plants. Whether it is because we are growing a houseplant indoors, a container garden outdoors or are buying and selling them, plants often find themselves confined when in the care of people. The confined root system of a plant can become rootbound if care is not taken to prevent this.
What Causes Rootbound Plants?
Oftentimes, rootbound plants are simply plants that have grown too big for their containers. Healthy growth will cause a plant to develop a root system that is too big for its container. Occasionally, a plant may be put into a container that is too small to begin with. This will also cause a plant to become quickly rootbound. In short, a rootbound plant is just that, a plant whose roots are “bound” by some kind of barrier. Even plants growing outside in the ground can become rootbound if their roots are caught between several solid barriers, like foundation walls, footers or pipes.
How Do I Know if a Plant is Rootbound?
Rootbound symptoms above the soil are hard to pinpoint and often look like symptoms of an under-watered plant. The plant may wilt quickly, may have yellow or brown leaves, especially near the bottom of the plant and may have stunted growth. A severely rootbound plant may also have a container that is pushed out of shape or cracked by the pressure of the roots.Clay, ceramic, or glass pots frequently break under the pressure from a root-bound plant. A severely root-bound plant will form a mass of roots and contain very little soil when removed from the container. A root-bound plant will need to be transplanted outdoors in the garden, replanted in a larger container, or have some of its root mass pruned away.
Soil is drying out too quickly – When your container is drying out only a day or two after each watering it means your plant is drinking fast and may need more water than your current container can hold
Plant is getting root or nutrient problems – A cannabis plant can start showing rootor nutrient problems when it’s kept in a too-small container or if it’s become root-bound. These root problems can cause the plant to become droopy, or show unexpected leaf symptoms or deficiencies (such as spots or yellowing leaves). Whenever literally everything else is right but you’re still experiencing these problems, it may be a sign you need to transplant.
Plant has grown a lot or been in the same container for months. If you’re keeping a mother plant for months, or if a plant has doubled in size in the same container, those are signs you may need to transplant to prevent your plant from getting rootbound.
Plant is tipping over from its own weight. When your cannabis plant is much wider and taller than its container, it’s easy to tip over and therefore should be transplanted to a bigger pot that can hold it steady.
To truly tell if a plant is rootbound, you have to get a look at the roots. In order to do this, you will need to remove the plant from its pot. A plant that is only a little rootbound will come out of the container easily, but a badly rootbound plant may have trouble being removed from the container. If this occurs and the pot is made of a flexible material, you can squeeze the pot in different directions to loosen the rootbound plant. If the container is not flexible, you can use a long thin serrated knife or some other long thin sturdy object to cut around the plant. Try to stay as close to the edge of the container as possible. In very severe rootbound plants, you may have no option but to break the container the plant is growing in to remove it. Once the plant is out of its container, examine the rootball. You can make a cut down the side of the rootball if necessary to examine deeper into the rootball. If the roots wrap around the rootball a little bit, the plant is only a little rootbound. If the roots form a mat around the rootball, the plant is very rootbound. If the roots form a solid mass with little soil to be seen, the plant is severely rootbound. If your plant is rootbound, you have a few options. You can either repot the plant in a bigger container, prune the roots and repot in the same container or divide the plant, if appropriate, and repot the two divisions. For some rootbound plants, you may simply want to leave them rootbound. There are a few plants that grow best when rootbound.