Too Many Roots? How to Fix a Root Bound Plant

Updated: Apr. 20, 2022

Find out how to tell if you have a root bound plant. Also find out how to easily fix this problem and how to repot a root bound plant.

root bound plant, repotting plant. aloe vera with roots in ground repot to bigger clay pot indoors. care of plants. succulent on wooden background. gardening conceptBogdan Kurylo/Getty Images
This aloe vera plant needs to be repotted in a bigger container.

With the arrival of spring, it is time to start thinking about getting into the garden and adding new plants. Each time I remove a plant from its container, I am looking for circling roots, which is the classic sign of a root bound plant. Find out how to fix this problem and repot a plant.

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How Does a Plant Become Root Bound?

root bound plantsNoelle Johnson

Plants become root bound (also called ‘pot bound’) when they outgrow their container and aren’t repotted in a larger one. So, their roots grow around and around, which halts growth. My new lavender plant (above) had circling roots. You can see how the roots grew in a circular pattern.

Discover easy plants you can grow in containers.

Signs of a Root Bound Plant

  • Slow or no new growth.
  • Roots growing out of the drainage hole.
  • Plants that have been in the nursery too long without being repotted.

Check out 6 tips for watering container gardens.

How to Fix a Root Bound Plant

root bound plantsNoelle Johnson

The solution is very simple. Cut the roots.

  • Make numerous downward cuts so that the circular roots are cut. This forces the roots to grow outward when they are replanted.
  • Remove any brown or black roots, which are most likely dead. Keep the white roots, which are alive.
  • ‘Massage’ the root ball of your plant, which will help loosen the roots even more.

Learn how to root cuttings from plants.

Repot a Root Bound Plant

root bound plantsNoelle Johnson

Replant your plant and its freed roots in a larger pot or in the ground. The newly cut roots will grow outward and your plant will start growing again. That’s all there is to fixing a root bound plant.

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I love it when gardening problems are easy to fix, don’t you?

Note: Be cautious when a garden center has a ‘special’ sale on plants. Sometimes they do this to get rid of plants that have been in their pots for too long rather than having to repot them.

Next, learn how to plant shrubs.