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Root Bound Pothos (Here’s What to Do-Step By Step)

Pothos are tropical plants that grow quickly, but their pots don’t. Devil’s ivy doesn’t like being tied down by its roots.

Today, I’ll help you figure out if your pothos is root-bound and how to fix them.

Roots growing from drainage holes, cracking or bulging containers, yellowing leaves, long drooping, and persistent wilting are all signs of a root-bound pothos. You can divide or repot your root-bound plant. Repotting entails unpotting, trimming roots, and repotting with fresh mix into a one-size-up pot.

Do Pothos Plants Like To Be Root Bound?

The short answer is no. Pothos is a tropical evergreen that grows all year in its native South Pacific islands.

Therefore, the root ball requires plenty of breathing room and room to grow.

Drooping and wilting are sure signs that roots have filled the container, and there is no room for growth when the leaves are limp, no matter how frequently or how much you water them.

Due to the soil’s impaired absorption of nutrients, water, and oxygen, a pot-bound root ball will result in drooping foliage, stunted growth, legginess, yellowing leaves, and overall health decline.

Signs of a Root-bound Pothos

Roots Spiraling Around the Pot

Pothos roots have plenty of room to expand and absorb water and nutrients in their tropical habitats, where they are trailing climbers.

They use these properties to grow bushier, fuller, and up to 40 feet (12 meters) long.

However, your pothos’ roots must contend with limited resources and space when confined to a pot.

So they will spiral or web around the container’s walls and bottom to make the most of the limited space and absorb oxygen, moisture, and nutrients.

Fortunately, you can take your pothos out of the pot and inspect the root ball.

Pot-bound pothos has dense roots that form spiral patterns around the walls and at the bottom of the pot.

The root ball forms a dense, tangled labyrinth of roots; the more confined the space, the thicker the root ball.

Roots Coming Out of Drainage Holes

Look for unusual root growth patterns if you suspect your pothos plant has become pot-bound. For example, on the growing medium’s surface, you might notice a dense cluster of roots.

Some roots on the soil’s surface are typical for fast-growing plants.

The roots of a root-bound pothos, on the other hand, can be so tightly packed that some of them will begin to emerge from the drainage holes.

As a result, they are challenging to miss, especially when the container is tipped over.

Cracks and Fracture Lines around the Pot

Fracture lines and cracks in your plant’s pot indicate that the roots are too dense and significant for the container.

Your pothos may be pot-bound because it is growing in a container that is too small for its size.

Alternatively, the roots may have outgrown the available soil space.

As the root ball grows denser with roots, it will exert pressure on the container walls from within. This causes the pot to expand or bulge, which can result in breaking, cracking, or fracturing.

Your pothos has become severely pot-bound by the time you notice cracks.

You may see if your pot-bound pothos is in a terracotta, ceramic, or clay container.

Bulging is more likely than cracks in a plastic container, giving it a swollen appearance.

Roots Growing Upwards Through the Topsoil

If your pothos has become heavily root-bound, roots can emerge from drainage holes and the soil surface.

Because the roots have colonized every space at the bottom and sides of the container, the only possible direction for expansion is upwards.

This is a warning sign of pot-boundness. Your pothos desperately needs repotting, root pruning, or divisional propagation.

Leaf Discoloration and Wilting

As long as it gets enough water and nutrients, your pothos will be content during the early stages of being pot-bound.

However, the roots will eventually become so dense in the pot that your pothos will exhibit dehydration and nutrient deficiency symptoms. The most visible victims usually leave.

They will either become pale, lose variegation in an attempt to increase photosynthesis, or begin to turn yellow due to a lack of nitrogen, zinc, and other essential nutrients.

As resources are redirected to new growth, older (usually lower) foliage will turn yellow first.

Yellowed leaves are typically smaller and stunted and may turn brown and fall off. Another sign of pot-bound pothos is general and persistent wilting.

The leaves will droop and wilt despite your best efforts to keep your plant watered.

Stunted or Slow Growth

On a lighter note, your root-bound pothos will grow slowly, stuntedly, or distortedly due to a lack of nutrients and water.

New leaves are usually small, twisted, wrinkled, or do not open at all. In extreme cases, your pothos will show no signs of growth.

A dizzying array of pothos issues could also result in stunted growth.

Root rot and overwatering are two examples of underwatering and low light conditions.

The only way to rule them out is to unpot your pothos and examine the roots.

What To Do With Root Bound Pothos? 

Recognizing that your pothos has become pot-bound is only half the battle. The other half is knowing what to do to treat your pothos.

If your pothos has become root-bound, you have two options: repot or divide your plant.

Repotting Your Pothos Plant

It may be pot-bound if your pothos is drooping, wilting, and sulking, regardless of how frequently and how much you water it.

To inspect the root system of your pothos, gently tilt it out of its container. You may have already noticed roots growing on the soil’s surface or through drainage holes.

When your pothos has reached this point of being pot-bound, repotting is your best option.

To begin, tap the sides of your plant’s pot to loosen the entangled root system (use this method if the container is plastic).

If your pothos plant is in a ceramic, clay, or terracotta pot, run a long knife around the inside.

Then, with one hand over the soil, place the main stem of your pothos between your fingers. Next, tilt the container to allow your pothos to slide out while still receiving adequate support.

You can reuse the potting mix, but I recommend starting over. Remember that pothos is not fussy about soil, but it should be well-drained.

When selecting a new container, ensure it is one to two sizes larger in-depth and diameter than the previous pot.

You may need to prune off overly long roots and clean up your pothos by removing dead, dying, or heavily discolored foliage.

One thing to remember is that pothos produces calcium oxalate, a sappy compound that emerges from injury points.

If ingested, the sap is toxic to humans and pets. If it comes into contact with your skin, it can cause severe allergic reactions and irritation.

Repotting should be done away from young children and pets. It would be beneficial to use disposable gloves or thoroughly wash your hands.

Follow these steps to ensure repotting success:

  1. Remove as much old soil as possible.
  2. Remove any damaged or dead roots.
  3. Begin by filling the new pot up to a third with a fresh potting medium.
  4. Fill the remaining space in the pot with soil and your plant. Maintain a one-inch gap between the container top and the soil’s surface.

Dividing Your Pothos Plant 

If you cannot repot your pothos for whatever reason, dividing the plant is your best option.

In addition, you can expand your collection by growing divisions into new plants.

To separate your root-bound photos and solve the problem, follow these steps:

  1. I recommend you profoundly and thoroughly water your pot-bound pothos the day before. This will aid in loosening the soil around the dense root system, making your job easier the following day.
  2. Tilt your plant and lightly tap the side of the container before removing your pothos.
  3. Divide your mother pothos plant with a sterile pair of clippers, scissors, or a sharp knife. To increase the chances of survival, ensure that the plantlets have stems and a sufficient number of roots and leaves.
  4. Disentangle the roots to ensure the divisions have been separated and are ready to be potted into new containers.
  5. Fill the new pot halfway with the new growing medium.
  6. Although it is optional, dipping your pothos in rooting hormones before replanting them in new containers may be beneficial.
  7. Plant your pothos in the new pot, filling the edges, sides, and rest of the container. Fill the container to the top. Instead, leave 1 to 2 inches for easy watering when watering your pothos.
  8. To avoid further stress and shock, ensure your newly replanted pothos receive adequate lighting and that the soil remains uniformly moist.

How to Repot a Root-Bound Pothos

According to the rule of thumb, repotting your pothos should be done every two to three years.

This will keep your pothos from becoming pot-bound. The best time to report is early spring before the growing season begins.

However, now is the best time to repot a root-bound pothos. Here’s how it’s done:

(1) Remove the Pothos from the Pot

The first step is to remove your pothos. Tilt your pothos carefully to allow them to slide out of the pot.

Use the methods described above for pothos planted in plastic or ceramic/clay containers. Remember to be gentle so as not to harm your already stressed pothos.

(2) Prune and Loosen the Roots

A pot-bound plant’s roots are likely to be twisted, tangled, and damaged.

Therefore, pruning back some of the dead, diseased, or overly long roots makes sense.

First, use a clean, sterile pair of pruning shears. Then, trim back in line with the shape of the root ball.

Pruning back some roots promotes healthier and more vigorous root growth. It also disentangles any entanglement.

So make sure to loosen and spread the roots as you go to avoid spiral growth in the future.

Don’t forget to look for signs of rot disease in the roots. Then, to prevent infection of other roots, remove any affected roots.

(3) Prepare Sterilized Potting Mix and New Pot

The exciting part is selecting the next container. Make it 1-2 sizes broader and deeper than the previous one to accommodate the fast-growing roots for the next 2-3 years.

You can buy a pre-mixed potting medium for pothos (check the latest Amazon price here) or make your own.

First, make sure it’s well-drained by adding coco noir, sand, or vermiculite.

(4) Repot Your Pothos

Fill the new pot to a third of its depth with fresh potting mix.

Next, insert your pothos and fill up the edges and sides, leaving an inch or two at the top for easy watering.

(5) Water the Pothos

After you’ve repotted your pothos, lightly water it to moisten the medium.

Soak it for a few minutes if you notice any signs of dehydration, such as wilting and drooping.

Preventing Pothos from Being Root Bound

  • Consider dividing your pothos to make them smaller.
  • Every two to three years, repot your plant.
  • Consider pruning your pothos regularly.

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