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Have Root-Bound Plants? Here's How to Fix the Problem in Minutes

If you have root-bound plants, you need to fix the problem quickly. Here's how a gardening pro trims and teases the roots.

Written by
Kristine Nguyen

You've probably dealt with a root-bound plant before even realizing what "round-bound" means. Just like us humans, your plants need room to grow. Without enough space, the roots become "bound," completely taking up every inch of the pot.

Oftentimes, the first sign of a root-bound plant is when roots begin to emerge from the drainage holes. If you don't give it more space quickly (so it can soak up more water and nutrients!), your beloved houseplant probably won't be alive for much longer.

"Without any intervention, the plant will eventually strangle itself," says Nick Cutsumpas, the plant coach behind @farmernick, in an Instagram video. "Checking your plant's roots every six months is a great way to ensure your plant isn't outgrowing its home. If you notice roots coming out of the drainage hole, it's a good indication that it's time to repot."

Cutsumpas says he does a full repotting every 12 to 18 months, where he "teases" the roots. By doing so, he's able to prevent his houseplants from becoming root-bound and keeps them as happy and healthy as possible.

"Teasing the roots involves gently (and sometimes not so gently) loosening the root system with your fingers or even a small knife," he says. "Many plant parents are hesitant to use this method because it inevitably involves breaking and cutting roots, but nearly all your houseplants have a fibrous root system and will be absolutely fine as long as you don't get too overeager with your shears."

Have a root-bound plant of your own that needs detangling? Here's Cutsumpas' step-by-step guide on loosening those roots.

How to Deal With a Root-Bound Plant

What You'll Need:

Plant pot
Shears or small knife


1. Gently trim the roots that have grown through the drainage hole.
2. Carefully remove your plant from its pot.
3. "Tease" the roots of your plant by gently loosening them with your fingers or a small knife.
4. Move your plant to a new pot with fresh potting soil.
5. Water and watch it thrive.