Root Pruning Container Plants
If you have a pot-bound plant, here are some tips on how to revive and replant it
Perennial plants, small trees, and shrubs (along with houseplants) can only live for so long—generally a couple of years—within the same pot. If your container plant is root-bound, or just growing a little too vigorously for your liking, it may be a candidate for a process called root pruning. While pruning the roots of a plant may sound scary, it’s sometimes necessary. If done properly, root pruning can improve the plant’s growth and overall health. This is especially true with container plants that can become “pot-bound,” with the roots girdling around the inside of the pot. This also means those roots can’t take up enough nutrients and water to support the plant. A severely root-bound plant can eventually die.
Here are the basic steps you’ll see in this video:
- Remove the plant from its pot. Turn the pot upside down (or on its side if it’s a large pot that’s too heavy for you to hold in one hand), and pull the plant out cleanly.
Cut away the outer soil and roots. Using a sharp soil knife or pruning shears, carefully cut away the outer, circular growth of roots and soil.
- Loosen up the root system. Using your hands or a cultivator, loosen up the root ball. This may take some muscle, especially if the roots are tightly packed.
- Trim off up to a third of the root ball if needed. The amount of roots you need to trim depends on the space in your container and the size of the plant.
- Repot your plant at the same depth. Add new soil before returning your plant to its container. You can also give it a dose of liquid fertilizer to help it get reestablished quickly.
Watch as Lee Reich, author of Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, demonstrates his technique.