Root Bound – A Story Of A Girdled Houseplant

(don’t have time to read – check out the YouTube – The Cabin Fever House Plant Blues)

“Help Me!” it cried from the corner of the living room. “Please, somebody help me! I’m struggling to survive, I can’t help myself!”

The muffled cry just about send Claudia crazy. The cry persisted day and night, night and day. There was even a moment that she thought the house was haunted or possessed by a poltergeist with pants that were too tight.

Finally, one fine fall day (much like this one) she was attending to her normal housekeeping duties when she noticed her Peace Lily looked a wee bit more sickly than normal. The poor thing was limp and barely gasping, and that was where the sound of the cries originated from. The Peace Lily made one last gasp and asked “Please, get me out of this pot. Its killing me.”

Immediately Claudia picked the plant up and noticed it was light, but still damp. Oddly enough it had never occurred to her that she received Mr. Peace Lily as an office gift three years ago and it had never been re-potted since. Not knowing what to do, she ripped Mr. Peace Lily out of its pot and threw it into a nice big pot three times the size of what he was in prior.

With good intentions, we can accomplish great things. With improper knowledge in what we’re doing, we can sabotage all efforts success will be impossible.

Claudia had the right idea, but poorly executed the procedure.

Here are some tips on how to properly bump a house plant into a larger pot and keep it flourishing for years to come.

  • Make darn sure the plant wants to be moved to a bigger pot. Analyze the root system and see if there are any signs of “girdling” or roots growing in a circular pattern. If this progresses over a large period of time, those roots will act like a rubber band placed around your finger – and in time restrict nutrient flow to the plant.
  • When removing the plant from the pot, do so very gently. Think of it as it sleeping in a bed, sweetly and softly wake it up. If it is impossible to do so without ripping some of the roots, don’t hesitate taking a sharp knife or scissors to the pot to cut it away. If the pot is ceramic – its hammer time.
  • Select a pot that is only 1/4 again as large as the pot the plant is already in. A good analogy would be to think back to buying your first house after living in a tiny apartment – the size is great and open space wonderful, but you don’t quite have enough furniature to fill all that space. Work your way up to a mansion, start with a ranch first.
  • Use only high quality potting soil with Peat and Perlite. Too heavy a blend will cause your container to retain too much water and in turn be a problem in the long run. Too much water can instigate mold or even root rot.
  • Feeding should be a lighter concentration to what you typically feed your outdoor plants. Houseplants aren’t exposed to excellent conditions, therefore they don’t need quite as much to munch on. Just like people, plants like to get a broad spectrum of vitamins so don’t stick to a generic 10-10-10. Use fortified products like Superthrive for optimum results.
  • Don’t ever hesitate to show some tough love in removing leaves. Once your new plant is welcomed into its new pot home, it may drop some leaves. This is very normal, and upon any sight of yellowing or spots, pinch off the leaves so that the plant can focus on throwing out a new one instead of trying to heal the injured one.


There you have it, Claudia made some mistakes, but learned from them. Mr. Peace Lily didn’t make it, but that’s okay. There are other lilies in the sea.




This entry was posted in Inside and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.Posted on |