A Root-Bound Plant: What Is It and How Can I Fix It?

If you’ve ever bought a plant from a nursery, odds are you’ve seen what’s commonly called bound roots. Because the Minnesota growing season is so short, most gardeners have probably noticed this problem, though they may not know what to do about it. 

What Does Root Bound Mean?
You can tell that a plant is root bound, or pot bound, because when you remove it from its pot to transfer it into your home’s landscaping, the roots are growing in a circular direction at the bottom of the root ball.  It’s also possible to tell if this is a problem before you remove the plant from its container. If new growth has stopped completely or slowed down considerably, it probably needs to be replanted somewhere else. A more obvious sign is if the roots start sprouting from drainage holes.  This happens because it had outgrown its pot, but wasn’t replanted in time. It’s a very common issue in nurseries. In fact, if you notice your local plant store running a special, odds are they’re trying to sell plants with this problem to avoid repotting them.

Fortunately, bound roots are very easy to fix. These three steps should take care of the problem, and help the plant live a long, healthy life.

– Cut through the roots in a downward direction. This will force the roots to grow outward, once they’re in the ground.

– Remove dead roots. These are usually either black or brown, while live roots are white.

– Transfer the plant to its new home.

From there, you just need to care for the plant as usual.  If you need extra help, a trusted landscaper or gardening expert can help you figure out the best place to put the plants and what kind of care they need.