The Q&A Archives: root bound

Question: Do any of the following plants prefer to be (or cannot safely survive a replant) root bound vs. repotted into a larger pot?
Philodendren Monstera
Spathyphyllum Domino
Pathos Marble Queen
Pathos Golden
Boston Fern
Fern Birdnest
Sanservia Zeylanica


Answer: Some houseplants actually prefer to be rootbound. Including, peace lily, spider plant, African violets, aloe, umbrella tree, ficus, agapanthus, asparagus fern, spider lily, Christmas cactus, jade plant, snake plant, and Boston fern.

The reasons some house plants perform better as root bound house plants are varied.

In some cases, like with a Boston fern or African violets, a house plant does not transplant well and transplanting the root bound plant will be more likely to kill it then help it.

In other cases, like with the peace lily or Christmas cactus, the root bound house plants will not produce blooms unless they are under some kind of stress. So repotting a root bound plant like this means that while the plant will grow plenty of leaves, it will never produce the flowers that the plant is valued for.

In still other cases, like with spider plants and aloe, the root bound house plants will not produce offshoots unless the plant is cramped. Transplanting the root bound plant will result in a large mother plant which will have no baby plants. Being root bound signals to the plant that the environment could be threatening and it will go into overdrive to make sure that there is a next generation to survive.

Even with happier as root bound house plants, you will need to eventually consider repotting the root bound plant if you want it to get any larger. But before transplanting root bound plant, consider if maybe the plant would be more presentable and beautiful if it stays as root bound for a little longer.

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