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  • Writer's pictureBec

Container Graduation: Up-Sizing pots and how to deal with root-bound plants.

When you grow plants in pots or containers it's easy to set and forget and be blissfully unaware of such plants root development and how much room these roots are taking up in their containers.

This Anthurium polydactylum was a prime example of this.

Tucked away in our potted garden, untouched since purchasing it in its 140mm pot 2 something years ago, all seemed to be going well.

It wasn't until I noticed a few of its lower leaves dropping that I suspected something may be up. Plants dropping their lower leaves is something to keep an eye out for, as it is usually an indicator of distress.

Pulling this palmate aroid out of the garden bed was surprisingly a challenge. The roots had grown out of the pots drainage holes and deep into the garden bed.

Once I managed to get him out, it became pretty obvious that the poor plant was very root-bound!

As plants grown in containers mature, their developing roots eventually will run out of space to continue to grow. When this happens, the plant becomes "root-bound". Allowing root-bound plants to continue to grow in this fashion will not only stunt the plant's growth, but also it can bring about the plant's overall demise. Yup I am talking about the dreaded plant death.

Signs of a pot bound plant include:

- Slow Growth

- Dropping of leaves

- Aborted flowers

- Cracked or mishapen pots

- Roots popping out above the soil and through the base of the pot

So what should you do about it?

If you believe one of your plants is root bound it's time to re-pot into a larger container.

Removing a root-bound plant from its pot can sometimes be a little tricky.

Watering the plant heavily then using a spade to loosen the plant from the sides of the pot usually works. You can also flip the plant upside down and whack the bottom of the pot in an effort to dislodge it. But for extra stuck plants in plastic pots, I personally like to place the pot on the edge of the potting bench or table, allowing the plant to hang over the edge. I then roll the pot, pushing down firmly on the pot squishing it and loosing the plant inside's hold. This works 99% of the time in my experience, and doesn't require a whole lot of muscle!

Worst case scenario, you may need to cut the plastic pot away from the plant or safely smash it if it is ceramic or made from another rigid material.

Whilst unpotting, be careful not to pull on the plant too much, as you may tear it away from its root system.

Once your plant is free you can then work on repotting it.

The general rule is to increase pot size by 1-2 inch diameter at a time. As this particular plant was so heavily root bound I went straight into a 200mm pot.

When repotting you will first need to loosen the roots.

I did this by shaking away soil from the roots and gently uncoiling them from the bottom, working my way up. This is easier if the roots are wet, so may want to give the plant a little soak first.

Once loosened I placed the plant into the centre of its new pot and filled the pot with our Aroid & Tropical Mix, which is a great free-draining mix for plants like anthuriums.

Once the plant has been repotted, it is important to give it a bit of a feed. This helps reduce any instances of shock and allows the plant to adjust better to its new home. I decided to use a liquid seaweed-based fertiliser, as that's what I had on hand and see the most success with.

Hopefully now in its larger pot this Anthurium will be a lot happier and be able to produce some larger and more vigorous growth!

TIP: As this particular plant had lost a lot of it's lower leaves I decided to apply some Keiki Hormone Paste, to activate the lower nodes and hopefully encourage branching. The alternative option to this would have been to behead the plant, which I really didn't want to do, as rooting anthuriums from stem cuttings can be a little hit or miss in my experience. Keiki Hormone Paste can be purchased at most Orchid Nurseries and on Ebay.

I hope you found this blog helpful!


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