How to cut roots

Planting trees from containers

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  • Causes of circling roots
  • Treating circling roots
  • Comparing growth following planting to landscape

Pot bound (also called root bound) root balls from containers have large or many roots on the outer edge of the ball. They may also have many roots crossing the top of the root ball. It is best not to plant trees in this condition because roots could girdle the trunk as the tree grows. The tree could also become unstable later because few supporting roots grow from the outside curved portion of a root (See: detail about unstable trees).

If you must plant a tree with these root defects, these roots should be cut aggressively with a shovel, knife, saw, or pruning tool to prevent them from girdling the tree later, especially if they are near the top of the root ball. Make three or four slices an inch or two deep from the top of the root ball to the bottom. If in doubt about whether a root is large enough to cut, go ahead and cut it. Tear or peel the outside of the root ball off if you wish. This will be best for the tree in the long run.

Research shows that if there is a shoot growth reduction from root pruning container grown trees at planting, the effect is negligible (Dana and Blessing 1994). Other work shows a reduction in shoot growth following root slicing only if plants are under irrigated (Gilman et al. 1996). Growers report slower growth and some death when irrigation can not be applied appropriately following root pruning.

Recent studies show that slicing the root ball from top to bottom in several locations does not increase root growth after planting (Gilman et al. 1996; Dana and Blessing 1994). However, it does appear to enhance distribution of regenerated roots in the backfill soil profile (see photo below). Instead of growing almost exclusively from the bottom of the root ball, slicing encouraged root regeneration along the slices from the top to the bottom of the ball. This could help establish the plant quicker by allowing the roots toquicklyexplore a larger volume of backfill soil.

Be sure to remove any synthetic material such as fabric or plastics that might be wrapped around the root ball (photo above, right). Some of these are designed to reduce root circling in the nursery but should be removed before installing the tree in the landscape.

Shaving off (lower, right photo) the entire outer edge of the root ball at planting is a recent innovation that shows great promise in helping produce high quality root balls with fewer root defects. If the grower performed the same shaving at each shift to a larger container then shaving the root system at planting as shown rids the tree of most root defects.

Roots growing out from drainage holes-is it time to repot?

Old post, I know: but maybe it will help someone or kindle interest. "Spring" covers a lot of territory. Early spring is about the worst time of year to repot Ficus because energy reserves will be at the lowest point in the growth cycle. Late spring, as in around the Summer Solstice (Jun 21) or Father’s Day benchmarks are the best time to repot if you live in the N Hemisphere; this, because the tree’;s energy reserves and it’s ability to make food (carry on photosynthesis, are both peaking. Generally, there is no overwhelming need to rush to repot unless root rot is conspicuous. Root congestion is stressful, but not pressing enough to repot out of season. Plants have a natural rhythm (search CIRCADIAN ENDOGENOUS RHYTHM), and learning how to work with their natural rhythm instead of against it is a notable change in the plane on which your interactions with green things takes place. You can skip the misting. Your plant’s leaves are endowed with an extracellular cuticle that covers leaf surfaces and is composed of an insoluble polymer (cutin) and soluble cuticular lipids (wax), which work in concert to form a particularly effective barrier to transpirational water loss. Misting then, will be ineffective at raising humidity, and even if it was effective, it wouldn’t be necessary. I would flush the soil to eliminate any build-up of salts that might have occurred intentionally (from fertilizer) or unintentionally (from dissolved solids in tapwater. Following that, I would start using a ‘tell’, to ‘tell’ you when it’s time to water. I’ll leave you with some things I’ve written about using a tell, and a link to a basic overview of growing in pots. If employed, the suggestions in the overview will help you to avoid all of the most common and most serious limitations you’ll encounter as a container gardener. This link will take you to the overview. Using a ‘tell’ Over-watering saps vitality and is one of the most common plant assassins, so learning to avoid it is worth the small effort. Plants make and store their own energy source – photosynthate – (sugar/glucose). Functioning roots need energy to drive their metabolic processes, and in order to get it, they use oxygen to burn (oxidize) their food. From this, we can see that terrestrial plants need air (oxygen) in the soil to drive root function. Many off-the-shelf soils hold too much water and not enough air to support good root health, which is a prerequisite to a healthy plant. Watering in small sips leads to a build-up of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil, which limits a plant’s ability to absorb water – so watering in sips simply moves us to the other horn of a dilemma. It creates another problem that requires resolution. Better, would be to simply adopt a soil that drains well enough to allow watering to beyond the saturation point, so we’re flushing the soil of accumulating dissolved solids whenever we water; this, w/o the plant being forced to pay a tax in the form of reduced vitality, due to prolong periods of soil saturation. Sometimes, though, that’s not a course we can immediately steer, which makes controlling how often we water a very important factor. In many cases, we can judge whether or not a planting needs watering by hefting the pot. This is especially true if the pot is made from light material, like plastic, but doesn’t work (as) well when the pot is made from heavier material, like clay, or when the size/weight of the pot precludes grabbing it with one hand to judge its weight and gauge the need for water. Fingers stuck an inch or two into the soil work ok for shallow pots, but not for deep pots. Deep pots might have 3 or more inches of soil that feels totally dry, while the lower several inches of the soil is 100% saturated. Obviously, the lack of oxygen in the root zone situation can wreak havoc with root health and cause the loss of a very notable measure of your plant’s potential. Inexpensive watering meters don’t even measure moisture levels, they measure electrical conductivity. Clean the tip and insert it into a cup of distilled water and witness the fact it reads ‘DRY’. One of the most reliable methods of checking a planting’s need for water is using a ‘tell’. You can use a bamboo skewer in a pinch, but a wooden dowel rod of about 5/16” (75-85mm) would work better. They usually come 48” (120cm) long and can usually be cut in half and serve as a pair. Sharpen all 4 ends in a pencil sharpener and slightly blunt the tip so it’s about the diameter of the head on a straight pin. Push the wooden tell deep into the soil. Don’t worry, it won’t harm the root system. If the plant is quite root-bound, you might need to try several places until you find one where you can push it all the way to the pot’s bottom. Leave it a few seconds, then withdraw it and inspect the tip for moisture. For most plantings, withhold water until the tell comes out dry or nearly so. If you see signs of wilting, adjust the interval between waterings so drought stress isn’t a recurring issue. Al

How To Prevent And Fix Root Bound Cannabis

Most cannabis cultivars, at least in colder climates, grow indoors in a tent or in a dedicated grow room. Growing indoors in containers means there is the risk of your plants becoming root bound. When this happens, it can lead to all sorts of growing problems. Let us take a closer look at what “root bound” means. Learn how to recognise the signs, so you can fix the issue and prevent it from happening in the future.


When your plants are root bound, it means that the roots have outgrown their container and don’t have any more room to grow. This of course happens when your containers are too small for any given reason. Outdoors in garden beds, plants becoming root bound is less likely, although it can happen when roots hit restricting barriers such as pipes or large rocks underground.


A healthy root system plays a vital part for your plants’ growth. After all, it is with their roots that plants take in water and nutrients.

Plants becoming root bound can lead to all sorts of issues. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms that your plants may be root bound:

Nutrient Deficiencies

Your plants may show symptoms of nutrient deficiencies. Among these signs could be yellowing, spots, or crumbling and wilting leaves. If you can exclude other issues such as incorrect pH, nutrient issues, and overwatering, your plants may indeed be root bound.

Containers Drying Out Too Quickly

When you find that the soil dries out after only a day or two and you need to water very often, it means that your plant needs more water than the container can hold.

Plants Get Way Too Big And Unsturdy

When your plants have grown too tall for their container size, they may easily tip over. This is usually a sign that your plants have become root bound, and that you should transplant them into bigger pots.

Other potential symptoms include:

  • “Nutrient burn” without excess nutrients: If you spot the signs of nutrient burn, but you are feeding your plants only lightly.
  • Smaller buds with stunted growth: If your buds grow smaller, or your plants’ overall growth is slower than usual.
  • Sick plants, wilting, drooping: If your plants have a sick appearance or start to wilt or droop unexpectedly.


If your plants show one or more of these symptoms, you need to look at their roots to see whether they have become root bound. To do this, you will need to remove them from their containers. Sometimes, it may be quite obvious that your plants have outgrown their containers, say when you see the roots through the holes at the bottom. Time to give your plants a new and bigger home!


You want to be careful when you remove plants from their containers in order to not damage the roots.

Get a good grip on your plant’s stem, right above the soil line. Rest your hand on top of the soil so that the stem is between your fingers. Carefully flip over the whole plant and then try to pull off the container. Most of the time, the container should come right off.

If you have troubles pulling off the container, carefully squeeze the container a few times around the side. This helps to loosen up the soil inside.

If your plant is still refusing to come out, take a long knife and use the back edge to slide around the inner edge of the container. If your plant is so severely root bound that nothing will help to remove it, consider breaking open the container as your last option.


When you have managed to pull out your root bound plant from the container, the roots will be running in a tight circle in the shape of the container. The roots are trapped and unable to grow freely any longer. Before you replant into a bigger container, you should try loosening the compact mess of roots so they can spread out again. You can carefully do so with your fingers.


In severe cases of root bound plants, you may not be able to loosen the root ball with your fingers alone. You will then have to prune the roots to free them. By using a sharp knife, cut a few top-to-bottom incisions into the outer layer of the tightly-packed root ball. But be very careful and only cut thin roots. Do not cut any thick tap roots! 2-3 incisions evenly spaced out around the root ball should be all that you need to free the roots so that they can grow outwards again.


Take a new container with enough room so that your plant’s roots have plenty of space to expand. Fill the container with some soil, make a hole, and then align your plant in the middle. Make sure that your plant is at about the same soil level as you had it before. Likewise, ensure that you do not pack the soil too tight; the roots should be able to grow freely without trouble. After you have placed your plant in its new container, water the soil. At this point, you can also add root stimulant to help with things.

Your previously root bound plant is now happily sitting in its new and big container, but it is going to be quite sensitive for some time. To help it to recover from the transplant shock, you should keep stress levels low for a few days. Feed it only lightly and if you can, turn down your lights a notch or two as well. You will know that your plants have fully recovered once you see new, healthy growth. When this happens, which can take between a few days to a couple of weeks, you can return to your normal lighting and feeding schedule.


Preventing your plants from outgrowing their pots and becoming root bound is not difficult. Simply choose large enough containers from the start so this won’t ever happen. If you plan to replant during a grow, up-pot into bigger containers before it’s too late. Don’t wait until your plants have outgrown their current containers.

Signs Of A Root Bound Plant: How Do I Know If A Plant Is Root Bound?

Plants, by their nature, are meant to grow in the ground and spread out their roots, but humans often have other ideas for plants. Whether it is because we are growing a houseplant indoors, a container garden outdoors or are buying and selling them, plants often find themselves confined when in the care of people. The confined root system of a plant can become root bound if care is not taken to prevent this.

What Causes Root Bound Plants?

Oftentimes, root bound plants are simply plants that have grown too big for their containers. Healthy growth will cause a plant to develop a root system that is too big for its container. Occasionally, a plant may be put into a container that is too small to begin with. This will also cause a plant to become quickly root bound. In short, a root bound plant is just that, a plant whose roots are “bound” by some kind of barrier. Even plants growing outside in the ground can become root bound if their roots are caught between several solid barriers, like foundation walls, footers or pipes.

How Do I Know if a Plant is Root Bound?

Root bound symptoms above the soil are hard to pinpoint and often look like symptoms of an under-watered plant. The plant may wilt quickly, may have yellow or brown leaves, especially near the bottom of the plant and may have stunted growth.

A severely root bound plant may also have a container that is pushed out of shape or cracked by the pressure of the roots. It may also have roots that are showing above the soil.

To truly tell if a plant is root bound, you have to get a look at the roots. In order to do this, you will need to remove the plant from its pot. A plant that is only a little root bound will come out of the container easily, but a badly root bound plant may have trouble being removed from the container.

If this occurs and the pot is made of a flexible material, you can squeeze the pot in different directions to loosen the root bound plant. If the container is not flexible, you can use a long thin serrated knife or some other long thin sturdy object to cut around the plant. Try to stay as close to the edge of the container as possible. In very severe root bound plants, you may have no option but to break the container the plant is growing in to remove it.

Once the plant is out of its container, examine the rootball. You can make a cut down the side of the rootball if necessary to examine deeper into the rootball. If the roots wrap around the rootball a little bit, the plant is only a little root bound. If the roots form a mat around the rootball, the plant is very root bound. If the roots form a solid mass with little soil to be seen, the plant is severely root bound.

If your plant is root bound, you have a few options. You can either repot the plant in a bigger container, prune the roots and repot in the same container or divide the plant, if appropriate, and repot the two divisions. For some root bound plants, you may simply want to leave them root bound. There are a few plants that grow best when root bound.

Self-deliverance for Root Work, Hoodoo, Conjure, Voodoo and other forms of Voudon.

The below article is a small portion of a booklet called:
by Ivory Hopkins, Deliverance Minister and Apostle
Below are warfare deliverances to fight against voodoo, root workers, conjure men, root doctors, Haitian, African, Black Southern, and any other country Witchcraft.
Some people have been around or have been exposed to what is called “roots,” which is nothing more than African witchcraft brought to America during the slave trading years. The following warfare prayers will help in Deliverance when someone is bound by these things.
(“The cross” is used as a symbol for conjuration (calling on demons for help). Sometimes an X is used to cross someone up.)
PRAYER: “I ask the true Lord Jesus Christ to come into my heart and mind. In the Name of Jesus the Christ of Nazareth, I loose myself from spirits of confusion and command the curse of the crossed X to be broken in the Name of Jesus. I command all demons to come out in Jesus’ Name.
PRAYER: “In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I take authority over all curses in my family line due to the practice of magic done by some ancestor in the past. I command prosperity to come forth on my business, farm, cattle, and family line, in the Name of Jesus Christ.
PRAYER: “Heavenly Father, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, I command spirits of divination, familiar spirits and death spirits to come out of me in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
PRAYER: “Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I loose myself and my family line from curses coming against us from those people burning candles, using psychic prayers and charms against me and my family line and cast these spirits out in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I also loose myself and my family line from any curses and spirits that I or a family member have opened the door to attack us in the past and cast them out in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
PRAYER: “Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I loose myself and my family line from curses that have come on me and my family due to me or my family members dealing with occult, voodoo, witchcraft, dream books, number books, and/or sorcery that has opened the door for demons to bind us. I cast them out in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
PRAYER: “Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command the power in and over the fetish to be broken and I cast out every spirit that is operating in any object and break its power over me and my family line. Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I cast out of me and my family line any demons that may have gained ground over our lives.
PRAYER: “Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I loose myself and my family line from any love spells sent against me or my family members. I repent of the love magic I have used against someone in the past and ask you to deliver me from these demons, in the Name of Jesus Christ. I break and loose the bondage that I have placed on any other individual by the use of spirits and command my mind, will and emotions to be restored to its proper place in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
PRAYER: “Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I take my stand against all conjure balls used against me and my family line. The angels of the Lord encamps about me to deliver me and I send them to destroy the power of these conjurations. I return these curses back from where they came and cast down and cast out any demons that have been sent against me and my family. I loose myself and my family from good tricks of witchcraft, and bad tricks of witchcraft and trick by using body parts, whether mine or someone else’s. I command, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ any commands of witchcraft or voodoo against me or my family to be broken and its power to be destroyed in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
PRAYER: “Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I break any curses done through the use of my picture by any witchcraft or voodoo worker. I command any demons to come out of me now in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Chewing the root and binding the problem or person is a type of witchcraft used in court rooms against the judge, lawyer and plaintiffs.)
PRAYER: “Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I break any roots worked against the judicial system and anyone involved with the Godly judgment of the judicial system. I command these spirits to leave now. I cast out and cast down their power of control on me or anyone involved. Father, I loose the protection of the Lord over all who are involved with the case or praying for it, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(A “toby” is a bag of witchcraft worn around the waistband or trousers or pocket to bring luck or a curse on your enemy.)
PRAYER: “Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I bind the power of any toby in this place that would try to control me or anyone in this room. I take authority over the demons that work through it and command them to come out in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
PRAYER: “Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I repent of all involvement in voodoo, obeah, witchcraft, sorcery, divination, or conjuration that I or any of my family members have been involved in the past. Forgive me Lord when I have innocently or ignorantly gone to or carried someone else to a root worker. I command all spirits to be weakened and bound and I cast them out in the Name of Jesus. I cut off their power over me and my family line in the heavenlies and on the earth. I cast out every demon who has been summoned to curse us to come out of me now in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I command all soul destroying demons to be bound and ask the Lord to restore my soul to its proper place in the Name of Jesus. I break the curses of candle burning to dead saints, rosary prayers and statue or idol worshipping of voodoo. In the Name of Jesus I break curses of the tongue coming against me from those who are bound by voodoo or witchcraft.

(In Deliverance, a person who has been in voodoo must be sure that the Gifts of the Spirit in them are not a mixture of the old voodoo and witchcraft spirits.)
COMMAND: “In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I loose myself and my family members from any curses from my involvement in voodoo or black witchcraft. I command all related spirits to come out of me now, in the Name of Jesus Christ.
PRAYER: “Father, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I call upon you to loose me and my family line from any spirits that have gotten into our praise and worship. I take back any part of my body that the enemy is using to mix worship with. I command spirits of rhythmic worship, hypnotic worship, trances in worship, jerking spirits, false Holy Ghost spirits, false anointing in worship, false laughing spirits, spirits of false quickening, any spirits of false holy dance to loose me and my family line now, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I only receive that which comes from the Spirit of God in worship.
PRAYER: “Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I take authority over any curses that are being sent or that I or my family line have opened the door to by using scriptures to curse me or my family line. I cast these demons out in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
PRAYER: “Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I take authority over spirits of false prophecy, false gifts, and false inherited gifts of the spirit realm counterfeiting the Holy Ghost, false dreams and visions, I cast them out in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(“Gris-Gris” means to bewitch; “Loa” refers to familiar spirits)
COMMAND: “In the Name of the Lord Jesus, I take authority over the strong man of the gris-gris or grigri and command them to come out now. Also I command the objects used or sorcery used to loose its control and power over this person, family or congregation to leave now in Jesus’ Name.
COMMAND: “In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I loose myself and my family from the ancestral or family line curse of the ruling Loa or spirit and I command it broken over us and I command all demons associated with it to come out now in Jesus’ Name.
PRAYER: “Father, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command the spirits in the drums that conjure up demons to be broken and come out in the Name of Jesus Christ.
(“Govi” is the supposed jarred souls of parents or grandparents in clay pots.)
PRAYER: “Father, In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I loose myself from the demons of my parents and grandparents and command the jarred demons to be turned into hell, and come out of me and my family line.
COMMAND: “In the Name of the Lord Jesus, I command my soul to be loosed from the earthen vessel that holds it and put back in its proper place.
COMMAND: “In the Name of the Lord Jesus, I set myself free from the spirits that have been given me at infancy and reverse them from the left hand of demonic bondage and translate them into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, who is seated on the right hand of the Father, where I am now seated also in heavenly places.
COMMAND: “In the Name of the Lord Jesus, I take authority over Abaddon or Appollyon, rulers of the bottomless pit and I command every African, Haitian or Black Voodoo curse to be broken in the Name of Jesus Christ, and command the crossroads to be closed to me and my family line forever. I command all demons associated with this curse to come out in Jesus’ Name.
COMMAND: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I bind the spirits of Legba, Samedi, and Ghede and cast them out of me in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, I loose myself from the control and conjuration of the priest or priestess.
COMMAND: “In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I take authority over spirits of python, zombie spirits and divination spirits. I command the power of the priest and priestess to be broken over me and my family line, in the Name of the Lord Jesus and I cast out all related demons in Jesus’ Name.

(The following is not a complete list.)
EXORCISM: “In the Name of Jesus I cast out African, Haitian and Black Voodoo and Witchcraft; spirits of infirmity that has entered because of the effects of voodoo or witchcraft.

COMMAND: “I renounce and turn against all household gods and command these demons to come out of me and my family. I command all voodoo soul destroying demons to be bound in the name of Jesus and to come out. Spirits of death and false gifts by voodoo and witchcraft, I cast you out in Jesus’ Name. Demons of candle burning, rosary prayers and idol worship come out now in Jesus’ Name. I command all hidden demons to come out of me in the Name of Jesus.

“I command the following demons to come out of me in Jesus’ Name:
Confusion, crossed X, roots, superstition, charms, burning candles, psychic prayers, sorcery, divination, bibliomancy, love potions, nine day tea, potions of any kind, mind control, occult mind control, death ritual, fear, magic, love spells, beauty rock, conjurations, conjure balls, toby or hand, veil over the eyes, divination, Creole curses, hoodoo, curse of roots, roots in love or lust potions, graveyard dust demons, Dr. Buzzard demons, candle burning, fetishes, curse of seeking help from witchcraft workers.

“I command the following demons to come out of me in Jesus’ Name:
Jerking, twitching, spasms, shaking, rocking backward and forward, dancing, idolatry, false prophesy, false gifts, false inherited gifts of the spirit, false dreams and visions, false praise, false worship, false holy dance, false shouting, false dancing in the spirit, burning in the stomach called the Holy Ghost, false voodoo tongues, false baptism of fire, false voices, false preaching spirits.

“I command the following demons to come out of me in Jesus’ Name:
Papa Damballa, Mistress Erzulie, Maori, Mwuetsi, Morongo, Mahomey, Nanan-bouclou, Damballah, the Chromo of Lazarus, old Legba, St. Ulrique, Agwe, St. Isdore, Azacca, Bline Gawd, Rosary, Serpent, Python, Li Grand Zombi, Magnam, Monsieur Agoussou, Loa Racine, Grand Bois Doilet, Spirit of the Tree, evil soul & sex ties, fire walking, serpent spirits of Voodoo, sickness by Voodoo, death spirits of Voodoo, family line curse of Voodoo, fear of Voodoo, and Voodoo icing.

“I unstack the Kundalini in me down to elementary demons. I command the elementary demons to leave me and go to where the true Lord Jesus would tell you to go.


Getting the demons out of yourself is a good start. Next, get them out of your family, properties, environments and your persecutors, whoever they might be. Use the deliverances above for these people and things as well.

edited: April 19, 2017

Information On How To Prune Roots On Houseplants

Sometimes, to cultivate plants for indoor use you end up doing some root cutting. This is an acceptable way of dividing plants to either bring indoors, or to divide those that are pot bound so you can separate them into new pots.

Whenever you have potted plants in your home, you end up with the issue of rootbound plants. This is when the pot is full of mostly roots and very little dirt is left. This happens as the plant matures. Eventually, the roots grow to the shape of the pot and you end up with a pot shaped clump of roots.

How to Prune Roots on Rootbound Plants

Most plants will tolerate simple root pruning. You will want to do root cutting on the thread roots, not the tap roots. The tap roots will be the larger roots and the thread roots will be the small roots that grow off the tap roots. All you have to do is take the plant and cut the tap roots apart, removing no more than one-third of the thread roots in the process. You shouldn’t shorten the tap roots at all during this process, but using clippers to trim the thread roots is acceptable. Also, prune roots that are dead looking away.

Root pruning is nothing more than stunting a plant for repotting. You don’t want the pot to have a huge clump of roots in it because this means the plant will not get much nourishment from the dirt. This is because less soil will fit in the pot. Root cutting keeps the plant smaller and, therefore, in a smaller pot longer.

Rootbound plants will eventually die. If you start seeing that the leaves are turning yellow or the whole plant is wilting, check the root system in the pot. Chances are you have one of those rootbound plants and will have to perform some root pruning to help this plant survive.

Keep in mind that whenever you cut roots, you need to be careful. When you cut the roots, you are injuring them, and some plants that are sickly or unhealthy cannot handle that. This means that if you have to cut roots to repot your plants, be sure to do it very selectively and carefully.

Pruning roots is a normal part of helping your houseplants grow. You just have to be careful whenever handling the root structure of any plant, and be sure to give plenty of water and fertilizer, if recommended in the plant instructions, after you do root pruning on any of your plants.

The Root-iments of Planting

Sun | Features

By Adrian Higgins | Washington Post — Jul 10th, 2005

No. 1 | Here is some guidance on moving a plant from pot to garden bed. Yes, this buddleia needs help before planting, with a sharp knife for scoring the sides and slicing the root mat at the bottom. Ricky Carioti | Washington Post

No. 2 | The hole is dug three times the width of the pot and about the same depth.

No 4 | A deep soaking chases away air pockets and buffers the shock of summer planting — but work on a cloudy day.

No. 3 | The base of the stems, the crown, is set an inch or two above the soil level. The earth is tamped down and a watering basin formed.

The simple plastic pot came along after World War II and revolutionized the gardening industry. Plants that once were available only in early spring, bare-rooted and dormant, could be grown, shipped and sold at virtually any time of year.

This has been a boon to grower and home gardener alike: Almost 80 million annuals alone are sold each year in some form of plastic container. In garden centers throughout the land, perennials, shrubs and trees in pots

as large as five gallons are consumed by homeowners looking to fill out their yards or plant virgin landscapes.

But a plant’s life-changing transfer from pot to garden bed is not an easy passage, and for its new owner there may not be a lot of guidance available at that critical, lonely moment. In that vein, we offer these thoughts:

Roots develop quickly in young, nursery-grown plants, because they are fed and watered a lot. When they reach the wall of the pot they start circling, in time taking on the shape of the container. Heavily congested roots are called pot-bound, and they yearn to be set free. But when you do release them, they have to be coaxed out of their orbit or they will go on spinning in circles. The plants have to be set in loosened soil as well, so the roots can venture forth, developing a network that will grow big and healthy.

So, if you dig a hole the size of the container but fail to spread out the roots, you might as well bury the plant still in its container. Such a plant is marked for slow decline; it will never develop a root system large enough to supply moisture and nutrients to an ever-growing top. And it may girdle, a condition in which the encircling roots actually strangle the trunk.

Most people understand this, but still fear they will harm the plant by tearing at the roots.

“Where people err is on the side of being too hesitant to rip at a root ball,” said Jon Traunfeld, a horticulturist at the University of Maryland Home and Garden Information Center. “That will just stimulate the plant if it’s otherwise healthy.”

But one standard procedure for doing this does not apply to every plant, because each root system is different: A lavender’s roots are fine but fibrous, those of a liriope are thick and fleshy. Also, root density is directly related to how long a plant has been in a pot.

The best tools for this job, I have found, are a pair of bare hands and a sharp knife, in that order. By kneading the root ball with the palms of your hands, you discover quickly whether the mat of roots is thick and solid throughout the pot. This determines how deeply you score them with the knife.

A root system that is not excessively pot-bound can be scored north, south, west and east, and the bottom third of the ball is then butterflied and planted. Roots that are thicker benefit from a light scoring every two or three inches around the root ball. The knife goes deeper in thick root balls: One of the key objectives is to break up the mat of roots that inevitably grows at the bottom of the pot.

Fred Miller, extension director for Catawba County, N.C., suggests shoppers at a nursery slip off the pot to see the state of the roots. Roots growing through the drainage holes on the bottom may make that difficult, but they hint that the plant within is seriously pot-bound.

Perennials and shrubs with congested roots can be fixed, but container-grown trees with seriously pot-bound roots may struggle their whole lives. “I advise (consumers) not to purchase a pot-bound tree,” said Miller. “Oftentimes these trees will give them a lot of problems: It’s more difficult to grow out of those girdling characteristics.”

With a heavily pot-bound shrub or perennial I want to keep, I have patiently hosed away all the growing medium and then set about untangling the mess as if it were a badly knotted ball of yarn.

Most annuals are purchased between late April and early July, and have been started from seed in greenhouses in January. Their root systems, being young, are typically far more frail than those of hardy plants that have had a season or two to develop. Go easy on them. Often, the roots have formed a mat at the bottom of their pot, which will unravel to form a long strand. This either can be planted intact in soil that is deep enough, or trimmed off.

In planting, don’t set the plant too deeply, a practice that can induce root rot. The hole should be no deeper than the pot and three times its diameter. In clay soil, the sides of the hole should be broken up to prevent the clay from forming a barrier to roots.

Often, breaking up the root ball results in a root system that is shallower than when it was in the pot. You may have to backfill some of the hole to establish the correct height. On more fragile annuals, herbs and small perennials, I hold the plant at the proper height with one hand and backfill the hole with the other.

I form a basin around the plant that will trap water and funnel it to the roots. After watering and tamping the soil to remove pockets of air, you may find the plant crown sitting too proud of the soil. Add more soil to fix that.

Plants may emerge from pots with most of their roots, but transplanting them in active growth, especially in the heat of the summer, is still traumatic and is best done on a cloudy day. After planting, give the roots a good soak — I like to add some fish emulsion or seaweed extract to the water. Don’t repeat daily, even if they are wilting; this will drown them. A good soak once a week (more if they are in containers) will suffice until they are established.

High summer is a tough time for new plants, even those grown in pots, and the operation is best done on a cloudy or rainy day or, at the least, a time of day when the new plant is shaded. At this time of year, I find less transplant shock if the roots are soaked in a bucket of water for an hour or two after preparation for planting. A little low-nitrogen fertilizer in the water will help.

Container Grown Trees and Shrubs – Fix those roots before you plant

This system of transplanting worked well as long as the roots were kept moist and the tree or shrub planted before it broke bud.

Today most of the shrubs and many small trees are being grown in a light plastic container at nurseries around the country, allowing us to transplant these plants at almost anytime throughout the growing season. The shrubs and trees are grown in a soilless media such as pine bark and perlite and continuously irrigated in the nursery, often by drip irrigation, which increases growth and keeps the plants alive. Containerized plants do not require the labor-intensive digging that bare root or balled and burlap plants need before plants break bud. They also do not lose roots during a digging process and undergo transplant shock.

Containerized plants sound great, but several problems can cause root problems and the death of your new plants.

  • The first major problem has to do with the expanding root system in a small pot. Trees and shrubs will quickly grow root systems which hit the sides of the container and turn. Within no time the container is full of circling roots, and the plant becomes “pot-bound.” Several years after planting, these circling roots will begin to girdle or strangle the stem or trunk, ultimately killing the tree or shrub.
  • The next issue is the soilless media which quickly becomes dried out when planted in a landscape that is not irrigated. The plant’s root system that was continually irrigated in a nursery is now stressed after being transplanted into dry soil. Because containerized plants have 100% of their root system, they quickly struggle to survive if not watered regularly.
  • The last concern involves the depth of the stem and root system in the container. Too often the trees or shrubs are planted a little bit too deep in the pot, causing root defects. When transplanted into the landscape the root system will often adjust by growing up and then circling or girdling the stem.

Preventing or correcting these problems is not difficult. First, examine the root system of the plants you are about to purchase. Pull them out of the container and look to see if it already has many circling roots and is “pot-bound.” If so, you might want to look for another plant. You can also ask the nursery if they are using new containers that air-prune roots or containers painted with “Spin-out” that reduces circling roots.

Once you have purchased containerized trees and shrubs, be prepared to cut and manipulate roots before you plant it. According to research, it is best to sever roots with a sharp utility knife, handsaw, or a sharp spade. Don’t worry; it won’t hurt the plant. A containerized plant has 100% of its root system whereas, bare root or balled and burlapped plants leave behind lots of roots when dug out back at the nursery. Studies show the roots that are cut regenerate quickly and grow into the landscape soil, helping the plant get established and survive dry spells.

For more information contact your local Extension Office or visit Penn State Extension Trees and Shrubs

Planting Annuals

Annuals, also referred to as bedding plants are sold in a variety of ways. Depending on the grower and the size of the plant you are looking for, you can buy annuals in cell packs or individual pots. Cell pack annuals are sold in plastic trays with individual cells or growing pockets. The cell numbers can range from 3 to 4 to 6 per pack with the cell packs sold in units called flats. These are smaller plants and are a good plants value when many plants are needed to plant a particular location. A few weeks may be needed for them to grow out and fill the planting bed. Annuals can also be bought as individual plants in 3, 4, or 6 inch pots. These annuals are much larger and more mature plants and are useful when only a few plants are needed for small garden spaces, containers or to fill in as the season progresses. These larger size annuals require less time to produce a “finished” look in the landscape.

If the plants will not be planted immediately after purchasing, place the flat or pots in a shaded location and be sure to water them as needed. Just prior to planting make sure the soil in cell packs or pots is thoroughly moist.

When ready to plant, remove the plants from the cell packs or pots. The best ways to do this is to either gently squeeze or push up the bottom of the cell pack if it is pliable or turn the container upside-down, tap the edge of it lightly against a firm surface and the plant will fall out into your hand.

Most cell pack and container grown annuals will have roots that are very well developed and dense. It is a good idea to loosen the roots slightly before planting. Do this by either breaking the root ball apart gently or cutting down the sides of the root ball with a knife. This helps to encourage better rooting into the soil of the garden bed. Some bedding plant growers offer multiple plants grown in containers with without individual cells. In this case, separate the plants by cutting between them with a knife.

When transplanting plants grown in individual peat pots, remove the rim of the peat pot that sticks up above the soil surface of the pot. If left on and if the rim sticks up above the soil in the garden, the peat pot will act as a wick drying out the soil in on the inside of the pot. Also be sure the peat pot is thoroughly moist before planting. Roots have an easier time penetrating a moist peat pot than a dry one.

Plants should be planted into the garden at the same level or slightly lower than they were grown in the container.

Spacing depends on the type of annual you are planting. Refer to the planting guidelines on the label for proper spacing. A general rule of thumb suggests that annuals be planted a distance apart that equals one-half of their mature height. Closer spacing obviously will result in a bed that fills in much quicker.

Carefully firm the soil around the plant and water well to work soil around the root ball and to eliminate air pockets. A starter fertilizer could also be applied at the same time plants are watered in. Water as needed to maintain uniform soil moisture around the roots.

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