Rootbound Pothos: Do Pothos Like to be Root Bound

Rootbound Pothos Image

Have you noticed your Pothos roots popping out of their pot’s drainage holes? Well, your Pothos roots could be root bound.

A root-bound Pothos is a plant with compacted roots. With such, the plants can’t hold water and nutrients needed for growth.

Several reasons could send your Pothos to root bound, but the main one is a small-sized pot.

Pothos plants prefer ample-sized pots to give them enough room to spread freely. The last thing you want is to see your Pothos die due to rootbound problems.

This article will give you insight into root-bound Pothos and the solutions.

Do Pothos Like to be Root Bound?

No, Pothos dislike being root bound. Being root bound stops them from holding water and nutrients they need to grow. Besides, your plant’s roots will spiral at the bottom of the pot and begin to sprout out of the drainage holes. Pothos need enough room to accommodate their growth, so an ample-sized pot will suffice.

Can Pothos Withstand Being Rootbound?

Absolutely! Pothos don’t mind being slightly rootbound. However, it is safer if the roots have enough space for further growth. The plants may continue to grow normally if the root bound is not severe.

Pothos tolerance of rootbound also depends on the severity and the period they take. They won’t stand a chance if the root bound is severe.

Signs of a Rootbound Pothos

A root bound Pothos plant can be challenging to spot. However, there are several signs and symptoms you can look for to ascertain. Root bound pothos symptoms include:

1. Slow/Stunted Growth

Stunted growth is the first and most common sign of a root bound Pothos. Much as you may not be able to see the roots popping out to tell whether your plants are rootbound, slow growth can give you a hint.

A root bound Pothos cannot hold water and nutrients required for its growth; therefore, you will notice your plants growing at a slower rate.

You can also determine the growth rate of your Pothos plant by looking at the other plants. If you notice the other plants have surpassed your Pothos growth rate, higher chances are that’s root bound.

Another technique you can use to determine the growth rate is the leaf size.  A pothos plant with small-sized leaves may be rootbound.

2. Spiraling roots at the pot bottom

If you take your Pothos out of the pot and see the roots spiraled at the bottom, your Pothos are root bound.  

Once the potting space becomes limited, the roots start looking for other means of getting their growth requirements. This makes them to spiral at the bottom of the planter.

Spiralling takes takes place and forms root balls, eventually filling the whole pot space. Before you realize it, the roots will start crawling outside the drainage holes.

3. Cracked pots

A cracked pot is a clear indication that your Pothos are root bound. Once the roots outgrow the pot, they’ll start pushing against the wall of the pot. Sooner or later, the pot develops cracks and may even break.

If you are the type who is into clay pots, you stand no chance of keeping your beautiful pot if the plant is root bound.

Clay pots are sensitive and may crack if the solid Pothos roots push themselves against their walls.

So, you need to enjoy both the beauty of your pots and still keep your plants healthy and happy by repotting.

4. Roots popping on top of the potting soil

When your Pothos plant’s roots lack space for expansion, they’ll choose to grow on the soil surface. As mentioned earlier, the roots will begin spiraling and start growing out of the drainage holes.

Once the drainage holes are all compacted, the roots will reroute to grow through the potting mix to the soil surface. 

When you notice this, it’s a sign that your plant is root bound. So, it desperately needs repotting or divisional propagation.

Ignoring this will only make the situation worse because a severely root-bound Pothos is likely to damage and die.

5. Unhealthy leaves

Unhealthy leaves are another sign of a root-bound Pothos. If your Pothos leaves look dull and off, the roots could be root bound.

Furthermore, if the leaves start developing brown blotches that look like a paint spill, this is a sign your roots are not doing well.

Similarly, the leaves may also dry out and start falling off. This is because the plant’s roots no longer absorb the nutrients and water needed by the plant.

Plus, the roots do not have enough room to exchange gasses for the plants’ production of food.

6. Leaf discoloration and wilting 

Once your Pothos leaves start yellowing and wilting away, it’s a sign that your plant is root bound.

In most cases, leaves turning yellow is a problem associated with a poor watering routine. More often, leaf discoloration is also linked to root-bound problems.

Remember, compacted roots cannot take up the water needed by the plant to thrive. So, watering the plant, thinking that the cause of leaf discoloration is due to thirst, is a waste of time.

The leaves will keep yellowing, turning brown, and eventually falling off. Finally, you’ll notice the leaf foliage losing its beautiful shiny appearance.

7. Extremely dry soil

A highly thirsty Pothos plant may be root bound. If you water your Potho plants and notice the soil absorbing the water too fast, it’s a sign that the roots are overgrown.

On the contrary, if the soil absorbs the water slowly and gradually, the plant is in good shape.

Secondly, if you notice the soil surface is flaky and extremely dry with cracks, the roots of your plants may be root bound.

Dry soil will likely lose the nutrients the plants need; hence repotting may be a good idea.

8. Leggy stems

Stem legginess happens when the plants stems are longer than they should be. Plants do this when in search of more light for photosynthesis.

And, Just like humans, plants also need food to survive. As a result, they will do anything to satisfy their growth.

Besides that, Pothos stems can also grow longer due to root bound problems. Since the roots are tangled, they can not give the plants their growth requirements.

Therefore, the stems will elongate to get a substitute growth requirement which is light.

9. More visible roots

Lastly, visible roots indicate that your Pothos are root bound, as you’ll see the roots from outside the pot. It can either be through the drainage holes or the soil’s surface.

What Causes Rootbound in Pothos?

There are several causes of root-bound pothos. They include:

Small pots

Growing your plants in a small-sized pot is the primary cause of root bound. Pothos plants grow very fast. The roots will outgrow the size of the pot and end up crowded within the pot.

They start growing in a circular pattern within the pot, tangling and becoming compact. Once the roots are in a restricted state, they cannot absorb the water and nutrients they need to thrive.

To save yourself the worry of root-bound Pothos, use the right size of pots. Also, practice repotting at least once or in two years.

Not repotting frequently 

Not repotting frequently is an apparent cause of root bound in Pothos plants. All plants require repotting every once or two years. After all, plants grow daily and may need more space to thrive.

Therefore, failing to repot could result in the plant outgrowing its pot and sending the roots to tangle around one another. Finally, the plant’s roots will become root bound.

How to Treat a Rootbound Pothos

Image of How to Treat a rootbound Pothos

Pothos plants do not like to be root bound. Therefore, the best treatment for your root bound Pothos is repotting them into a bigger pot. 

The pot should be 2-3 inches in diameter than the previous pot. Additionally, you should use a fresh potting mix rich in nutrients.

Repotting Pothos is necessary to keep the plant healthy. So doing it at least once or in two years will keep the plant healthy and free from root-bound issues.

Another less common treatment for root-bound Pothos plants is root division. This method is mainly used by plant parents who want to expand their indoor gardens.

So, you can carefully separate your root-bound Pothos and plant them in different pots.

Repotting a Rootbound Pothos

Repotting is necessary to provide ample space for your root bound Pothos. Below are a few steps to successfully repot your root bound Pothos.

1. Gather your tools

Before you start anything, you’ll need the right tools to make your work easy. Get a new pot, fresh potting mix, a pruning shear, and water. Ensure that the new pot is two inches larger than the previous pot.

Note that if you choose an overly large pot, you’ll expose your plants to problems such as overwatering and fungal diseases.

Also, the pruning shear must be sterilized, and the soil must have a well-balanced NPK formula.

Once you have all these tools, the next step is to start the repotting process. 

2. Uproot the plant

The next step is uprooting the plant from its current pot. Be careful not to damage the plant. If the plant was previously in a plastic planter, gently press on its sides and carefully remove it.

If the plant was previously in a clay pot, turn it upside down while gently holding the plant and pat it on the base.

Carefully scan the roots of your Pothos plant. If the roots are tangled and squeezed, your Pothos are root bound.

3. Prune and loosen the roots

After a thorough scan, you’ve determined whether to prune some parts of the root or just loosen them.

Some of the roots may be overly long and may need trimming. It’s best to note that pruning may facilitate faster growth and healthier Pothos plants.

Using your fingers, gently massage the tangled roots and separate the spiral pattern. Be careful not to damage the delicate roots.

Also, check pothos root rot symptoms for infections, and use the sterilized shear to prune the infected roots off.

4. Prepare a fresh potting Soil 

Now that your plants are ready, it’s time to prepare fresh potting soil. Your root bound Pothos plants couldn’t be happier if you planted them in a fresh potting mix.

Ensure the new pot has enough soil for the roots’ stability. Water the soil just before you repot because Pothos like their soil moist but not soggy.

You can either mix your potting mix using equal amounts of perlite and peat moss or save yourself the struggle and buy a pre-mixed Potting mix for your Pothos plant.

Always research and ascertain that the soil you buy is the best.  

5. Repot the Pothos plant

Once you have done all the above, it’s time to repot your root bound pothos plants. Put some soil halfway into the pot, then immerse the plant. Add more soil until all the roots are entirely covered. 

Avoid packing the soil too tight, as this may slow down the growth of the roots. Additionally, avoid covering the pothos plant stem to prevent stem decay.  

6. Water the Pothos and monitor the plant

Your root bound plants are now on the road to recovery. So, the best method is to water the roots. Ensure the watering is light and be on the watch for dehydration. 

The first few days of repotting may not sow much, but the plant will start showing signs of recovery after a few weeks. 

How Can You Prevent Pothos from Being Rootbound

Having the proper Pothos plant care routine can help you save them from root-bound issues. There are several practices that will keep your Pothos from root-bound. They include:

Choose the right pot size 

Using the right size pot for your Pothos plant is the first and most significant practice to prevent your plants from root bound. Pothos plants need ample space to grow, hence the reason.

On the contrary, avoid using huge pots, which may cause overwatering and kill the plant.

Prune your Pothos plant

Pruning your Pothos plant is necessary to prevent it from being pot-bound. Therefore you must prune your Pothos roots at least once a year.

Be careful not to prune too much of the roots as this may subject the plant to stress further.

Also, use sharp and sterilized shears when cutting the roots. Check out for root diseases and carefully cut off the damaged roots as well as the longer roots.

The primary goal is to control the size of the root ball and stop it from outgrowing the pot.

Repot your Pothos regularly

Repotting your Pothos plant is necessary to keep the plant healthy. Pothos plants grow fast and do not like compacted spaces.

Therefore, if you previously used a smaller container during the planting, it’s best to change the pot after a year.

This way, the plant can enjoy the space and the benefits of fresh soil. Get a larger container at least 2 inches deeper and wider than the previous one.

Watch out for rootbound Pothos

Root-bound Pothos die quickly if not handled on time which is a sad scenario given the efforts you put in as a houseplant parent.

Divide the Plant

Another way to prevent your Pothos from rootbound is to monitor the plant continuously. Watch out for the mentioned signs of a root-bound Pothos and save the plant before it’s too late.

Dividing the roots is a final option to prevent your plants from being pot bound. Again, this method can benefit you in many ways.

First, if you are a plant fanatic and want to add more plants to your collection, I recommend you use this method.

Secondly, the method will help you escape root-bound problems keeping your plants healthy and happy.

So, how do you divide the plant? Below are a few easy steps you can successfully use to divide the plant:

  1. Water the plants a day or two before you uproot them.
  2.  Using a fork, carefully separate the roots. For extremely root-bound pothos, immerse the root ball in water to ease the separation.
  3. When separating the roots, ensure the division is in equal halves and that each plant has roots to suffice its growth.
  4. Lastly, plant each division in separate pots with fresh potting soil and keep monitoring the plants as you water them.

Points to Note

  • Avoid repotting your Pothos plants during winter. Pothos’ growing seasons are spring and summer hence the best time for root-bound pothos repotting.
  • Avoid fertilizing the repotted Pothos. The root-bound plant needs to recover and cannot take up fertilizers properly.
  • If you cannot uproot the root-bound Pothos from the pots, carefully cut or break the pot. This will depend on the type of pot you previously used.
  • Cut unnecessary roots before repotting, i.e.the, overly long and large roots.
  • Avoid placing your Pothos in direct sunlight. Provide them with the proper lighting and other growth conditions.
  • Finally, always check the roots when purchasing your Pothos from the nursery or plant store. The roots may be root bound. This will help you determine whether to repot the plants into a new pot.

As most plants will survive pot-bound, these plants do not like these conditions. So, the best way is to imitate their natural habitat conditions in your home or garden.

Other Read: Emerald Pothos Care Guide


Do Pothos like big pots?

No, Pothos do not like big pots. However, when the root ball outgrows the pot, it’s best to repot the plant. Pothos Plants do not require frequent repotting and hence can grow in smaller pots, which slows down their growth rate.  The best pot size for a Pothos plant should be 2 inches wider and deeper than the previous pot.

Do Pothos like tight pots?

No, Pothos do not like tight pots. A tight pot will automatically send the plant to root bound. No matter how much a Pothos plant may survive a little root-bound problem, changing the pot is necessary for the plant’s comfort. Providing the plant with fresh soil and a bigger pot will do the plants some justice.

How long should pothos roots be before repotting?

Once the roots start popping out of the drainage holes or growing on the soil surface, it’s time to repot your Pothos. Most importantly, repotting should be within a year or two.  Also, when growing the roots in water, wait until the roots are 1-2 inches longer before repotting them into a new pot.

Should you break Pothos roots when repotting?

Yes. Breaking the roots is necessary for new growth. Use your fingers to separate the tangled roots gently.  Also, avoid removing more than a third of the roots, as this may send the plant to complete damage. Use a sharp, sterilized shear or scissors when cutting the damaged roots. Remember to trim any long roots before repotting.

Final Thoughts on Rootbound Pothos Plant

To summarize, Pothos plants do not like to be root bound. Therefore, providing the plants with almost natural habitat conditions is vital to keep the plants thriving.

Keep practicing the mentioned factors, and you won’t subject your plants to root-bound issues.

Likely, check out for the signs of a root bound Pothos plant early enough and act as fast as possible.

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