Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?

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Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?
« on: June 17, 2011, 05:12:07 PM »
Frequently, plants bought from nurseries look great but are seriously pot-bound with their roots going round and round in a great mass. And even plants I grow myself in England may be pot-bound before we have a chance to plant them out in southern Greece in the late autumn. I've been advised to take a slice off the roots of such plants with the aim of getting new roots to grow outwards from the root ball. But how drastic should the cut be? And should it be just at the bottom or off the sides as well, or instead? And are there any plants which would definitely not like this treatment (I would have thought that cistuses, for example, might be pretty intolerant). Any views on this approach or any other suggestions for overcoming this problem most welcome. (Because of needing to transport the plants to Greece and the very rocky terrain, potting on into ever larger pots isn't really an option.)
I garden and have a wholesale hardy cyclamen nursery in south east England. Also garden on the Mani peninsular in southern Greece and to a lesser extent in south-west France. Am an MGS and Cyclamen Society member, and have been involved with the journal for the latter for nigh on 20 years.

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JTh

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Re: Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2011, 08:06:18 PM »
I am not an expert on this, but I have read that if you need a crowbar to get the plant out of the pot, then it is not sufficient to tease out the roots to stop them from circling. You should make vertical slits (3 to 4 per plant), about 2'' deep (must be for big plants), or slice off 1/2 to 1 1/2'' of the matted roots around the sides and the bottom. Sounds drastic to me, but I guess it works if the roots are very old and matted.
Certain plants prefer to be root bound, like Agapanthus, otherwise they won't produce flowers, they seem to need some stress to flower.
I am curious, how do you transport your plants from the UK to Greece? I have propagated some plants in Norway from seeds I have collected in Greece, but bringing them to Greece again is a problem, specially on a plane.
Retired veterinary surgeon by training with a PhD in parasitology,  but worked as a virologist since 1992.
Member of the MGS  since 2004. Gardening in Oslo and to a limited extent in Halkidiki, Greece.

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MikeHardman

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Re: Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2011, 07:38:22 AM »
Pot bound - I'll show you pot bound!
Here's a big fig growing in a big pot in a garden centre in Paphos; the bare trunk is about 2m high (for scale).
OK, I suppose it is no longer pot bound, having escaped over the side, but let's not be picky, eh!
Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England

pamela

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Re: Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2013, 09:00:06 AM »
Are there any more tips and experiences on this perennial problem from which many of us suffer....I just want to re-activate this interesting question from Helena and hope to get more responses.  I read somewhere that pot-bound plants have a shorter life when planted out and thinking about this, most of the plants which have died on me within a couple of years were pot bound. 
Jávea, Costa Blanca, Spain
Min temp 5c max temp 38c  Rainfall 550 mm 

"Who passes by sees the leaves;
 Who asks, sees the roots."
     - Charcoal Seller, Madagascar

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Fleur Pavlidis

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Re: Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2013, 10:09:43 AM »
The Sparoza garden assistant, Isabel Sanders, gave a workshop on splitting up pot plants this month. She reminded us that pot-bound plants have to be treated a bit savagely. She chopped off all the twirling roots at the bottom and took a sharp knife and cut down through the roots which had grown at the side of the root ball in about 4 places. She teased out the remaining roots. The top growth was back just as hard. I planted a red-leaf Prunus using this method in the autumn and it's doing very well so far but the summer  has to be faced yet.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2013, 10:11:56 AM by Fleur Pavlidis »
MGS member, Greece. I garden in Attica, Greece and Mt Goulinas (450m) Central Greece

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Alisdair

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Re: Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2013, 10:53:48 AM »
This January we took out to Greece the first lot of cuttings (Nov 2011, potted off spring 2012) potted using Fleur's method of a layer of grit in the bottom. It seemed to Helena and me that this was a definite help in lessening rooit binding.
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society

David Bracey

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Re: Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2013, 11:41:55 AM »
There is a lot of stuff on the Forum regarding the transport of plants (by air) and on pot bound plants.

O Filippi predicted that all the oleanders planted for the Athens olympics would die since they all suffered from root twisting .  Fleur what has happened?
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Trevor Australis

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Re: Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2013, 11:38:21 PM »
We grow rather a lot of pot plants and have to treat them in a variety of ways to manage root growth. First group of plants are those we treat like bonsai eg. the Dessert Roses (Adenium sp.), Cyphostemma and other plants generally considered pachycaul or caudiciform plants; these do not require anything more than to be left to themselves. They do not mind being 'pot bound'.
The second group are plants such as Haworthias which make large succulent roots. These too, don't mind being pot bound. In this they are like agapanthus and cliveas but whereas it wuld be asking for trouble to cut off the roots of Haworthias (unless you are trying to ropagate sp. such as H. truncata) the much larger agggies and cliveas can be severely reduced with a sharp spade or serrated-edge bread knife.
Citrus and camellias we grow in pots too, along with bay trees, oleanders, olives, Paliurus spina-christi, brugmansias and brunsfelsia. These do need root pruning when they are re-potted. At the same time top growth is also cut back by about half to one third tho' some can be cut more without harm. Citrus are treated lightly, oleanders the hardest. As for root pruning we tip the plants out of their pots and slice off the complete root mass at the bottom, usually around an inch or so; then we shave the sides of the rootball by about half an inch, and then we plunge in a sharp knife (we keep an old serrated bread knife for the purpose) and make four downward cuts at regular intervals. The potting mix/ soil should be on the dry side when this is done. We then repack the bottom of the pot with an inch of new potting mix to which we add extra slow-release fertiliser granules. Next the plant goes back in the pot and the space around the perimeter of the root-ball is topped up with fresh potting mix, also with extra fertiliser and the lot gently tamped down - gently mind. Finally we leave the plants for a few days in a light but sheltered spot before drenching them with water and returning them to their positions in the garden. We do this to ensure severed roots have a chance to heal before the potting soil is made wet, which could run the risk of rots developing at the raw cuts. tn
« Last Edit: February 19, 2013, 09:41:33 AM by Alisdair »
M Land. Arch., B. Sp. Ed. Teacher, traveller and usually climate compatible.

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Fleur Pavlidis

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Re: Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2013, 12:03:30 PM »
David, I got my daughter who works in Plaka to take a quick look at the planting in the pedestrian street in front of the Acropolis which was part of the improvements for the Olympics and she said that it was neriums as far as the eye could see! Certainly the planting on the toll road from Elefsina to the airport has been very successful and when the 'cut-it-square' pruners haven't been playing it looks really good.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2013, 09:21:44 AM by Fleur Pavlidis »
MGS member, Greece. I garden in Attica, Greece and Mt Goulinas (450m) Central Greece

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John J

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Re: Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2013, 01:34:59 PM »
And I wondered why it wasn't thriving even after so many years..........!!!!??
Cyprus Branch Head. Gardens in a field 40 m above sea level with reasonably fertile clay soil.
"Aphrodite emerged from the sea and came ashore and at her feet all manner of plants sprang forth" John Deacon (13thC AD)

David Bracey

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Re: Pot-bound plants - any tips for dealing with them?
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2013, 01:56:26 PM »
Fleur, just read your reply, thanks.  I will let OF know! David
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 I have gardened in sub-tropical Florida, maritime UK, continental Europe and the Mediterranean basin, France. Of the 4 I have found that the most difficult climate for gardening is the latter.