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Succulents come in all shapes and sizes, and they’ll grow however they like-- which is unfortunately why many a succulent may become root-bound. When your babies outgrow their pots, it’s best to find them a new home as soon as possible to enable healthy growth. When transferring a root-bound succulent to its new home, follow these tips:
Before getting into how to repot root-bound succulents, let’s first take a look at what makes a plant “root-bound.” Root-bound plants are essentially plants that have outgrown their pot. All plants eventually outgrow their pots, and when the roots grow to press directly against the edge of your pot, they sometimes twist together to form a web-like network of roots.
Root-bound succulents cannot extend further than the constraints of their container and thus cannot absorb extra nutrients from the soil to keep growing. Without extra nutrients, the succulent will stop growing, which may seem fine if you want your succulent to stay the same size for a while. However, all plants need room to grow, and root-bound succulents won’t be able to get the nutrients they need to do so. Additionally, if a succulent is left without fresh soil for too long, it won’t have enough nutrients to sustain itself and will eventually die.
Without removing your succulent from the pot, it might be a bit difficult to tell if it is root-bound. Root-bound succulents often look underwatered and will have drooping leaves, discolored stems, and a dry top layer of soil. Your succulent’s leaves may also be softer to the touch and at the bottom of the plant, crispy or pruney and brown. Other signs a succulent might be root-bound include fast drainage after watering and stunted growth.
Succulents that are severely root-bound may also have damaged their pot, or have started to grow through the pot’s drainage hole. You can check for cracks or warped areas of the pot to determine if it is root-bound. To check for excess roots from the pot’s drainage hole, lift your pot and examine the bottom for signs of root growth.
The best way to check and see if your succulent is root-bound is to remove it from the pot and examine the rootball. If your succulent’s roots aren’t too tightly bound, you’ll have a much easier time removing them from the pot, but a seriously root-bound succulent may need a little extra help since the roots have started to stick to the walls. Using a knife, you can dig around the outermost edges of the pot to remove any stuck roots. When your succulent is free from its pot, examine the rootball: if the roots are compacted around the rootball, it is mildly root-bound. If the roots are tightly packed around the rootball or take the shape of the pot with little dirt to be seen, your succulent is severely root-bound.
There are two main ways to help your succulents recover from being root-bound:
1. Root Pruning
If you aren’t too keen on replacing your succulent’s pot, you may find pruning its roots to be the best option. It’s best to prune roots at the end of your plant’s growing season, but you can trim roots at any point if your succulent is in dire need.
To prune a root-bound succulent, first, take it out of the pot, and brush away any dirt from the roots. Next, you’ll need to attempt to detangle the roots. Gently using clean fingers, attempt to separate any loose roots from each other. If the root doesn’t come loose immediately, don’t touch it!
As you work, trim away any roots that look discolored, infected, or exposed to the air. You’ll most likely need to replace your succulent’s soil after trimming the roots, so when you clean out your pot, refill it with fresh soil before replanting your succulent.
When trimming roots, always use clean scissors, a knife, or pruning shears. Always make sure your succulent has enough roots to sit comfortably in the pot but still absorb enough nutrients to continue growing.
2. Repotting Root-bound Succulents
If you’re transferring your succulent from one pot to a larger one, the best time to repot succulents is right before the growing season. That way, your plant will have plenty of space to grow and adjust to its new home with little difficulty.
Just like removing the succulent to see if it’s root-bound, gently remove the plant from its container using a clean knife or shatter the pot with a hammer if you encounter some resistance. Trim away any damaged roots if you can, and shake out any old soil from the roots with clean hands. When you’ve removed the succulent from its pot, you’ll need to free the rootball to allow the succulent to grow freely. Using clean hands, gently pry away matted roots from each other to release the rootball. Once the rootball is freed and detangled, you can begin replanting your succulent.
When repotting your succulent, make sure the pot is at least 10% larger in volume than the previous pot. You can follow our succulent repotting tutorial here. Be sure to let your succulent’s roots dry after repotting them, and stick to your usual watering schedule after switching pots.
For Types of Succulents Careguide. Read more information here.
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