Anthurium Root Bound: How-to Prevent, Fix, Prune & Repot

When anthurium is rootbound, the plant’s roots have become so tightly packed in the pot that they cannot grow any further. And if you do nothing to salvage the plant, it will eventually die.

Anthurium root bound usually occurs when you don’t repot anthurium as often as you should. Generally, gardeners should repot anthuriums every two to three years (whenever the plant outgrows the pot) using a pot slightly larger than the previous one. 

Whether you have anthurium or a wide range of indoor plants, learning how to fix rootbound plants can help you maintain a healthy garden. This guide will help diagnose rootbound plants, prevent root binding, and fix rootbound issues. Let’s dive in!

What is a Rootbound Anthurium?

Anthurium is root bound when it has outgrown its pot or container and lacks adequate space to perform its functions. While rootbound anthurium isn’t a problem, it can lead to root rot and later disrupt flowering. 

Meanwhile, some think anthurium root bound may also signify that the plant is healthy because it is outgrowing the container. Many houseplant owners are thrilled to have a rootbound anthurium, especially if it’s newly grown. 

But that’s not helpful. If anything, rootbound anthuriums are a cause for concern. If you don’t take care of the problem, it can lead to plant death. The best thing you can do to preserve the plant is to pot it in a larger container.

What Causes Anthurium Rootbound?

The leading cause of anthurium root-binding is planting it in a pot that’s too small. As the roots grow, they crowd and start to circle the root ball. This circling action will cause the roots to become constricted, which limits the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients. 

Remember that anthurium can still become rootbound even if you plant it in a perfectly-sized pot. It’s because the roots continue to grow and will eventually fill up the pot. That’s why it’s best to repot an anthurium every two to three years.

Other causes of anthurium rootbound include:

  • Using potting mix that doesn’t drain well
  • Not repotting when the plant has outgrown its pot

How to Identify a Rootbound Anthurium

You can’t easily identify signs of a rootbound anthurium because they have similar symptoms to an under-watered plant. The most common symptom of a rootbound anthurium is roots growing out of drainage holes. Other symptoms include wilting, yellowing, or browning leaves, especially near the bottom of the plant, and stunted growth. 

In addition, a severely rootbound plant may have a cracked pot due to the pressure of the roots or roots pushing soil through the drainage soil. Meanwhile, you may not see all these symptoms, but if the roots are coming out of the topsoil layer, roots pushing the plant upwards and out of drainage holes indicate rootbound issues at first glance.

The easiest way to tell if an anthurium is rootbound is by checking the roots. Use the following steps to identify a rootbound plant:

  • Remove anthurium from the pot to have a close look at it. A fairly rootbound plant will come out of the container with ease. Meanwhile, you’ll have difficulty removing a severely rootbound plant from its container. 
  • To remove a badly rootbound plant, you can squeeze it in different directions, if it’s flexible, to loosen the rootbound plant. 
  • On the other hand, if the pot isn’t flexible, use a sturdy object or a long thin serrated knife to cut around the plant. In a more severe case, you may have to break the container to remove anthurium.
  • After you’ve removed the plant, check the root ball. If the roots curl around the root ball, you may have a little rootbound situation. 
  • But if the roots encircle the root ball, you have a severe rootbound anthurium. In addition, if the roots build a solid mass with little soil around the rootball, it indicates a bad rootbound problem.

Other signs of a rootbound anthurium include: 

  • Curling leaves
  • Stunted growth
  • The leaves turn yellow
  • The flowers are smaller than usual
  • The plant dries out quickly
  • Water runs through the drainage hole
  • Roots growing out of the drainage hole
  • Roots popping up at the surface of the potting mix

If you notice any of these signs, it is time to repot your anthurium.

How to Prevent Root Binding?

The best way to prevent root binding is by potting plants in containers that are slightly larger than the current pot. This approach will give the roots enough room to grow without becoming pot-bound.

It also helps to loosen the roots before repotting, and you can do this by gently pushing them back into the pot or using your fingers to loosen them up. Be careful not to damage the roots.

Lastly, add fresh potting mix to the new pot. This addition will provide the roots with the nutrients they need to grow. And remember to monitor the plant closely after repotting to ensure it doesn’t become rootbound again.

How to Fix Rootbound Anthurium

Being pot-bound prevents the healthy growth of anthuriums after a while. There are three major ways to fix rootbound plants: repotting and root-pruning. Repotting is probably the best way to correct rootbound issues, and it is a better option if you want your plant to grow in a larger pot. 

However, if you don’t want your plant to grow larger or have a favorite pot you don’t want to discard, root-pruning can be a good choice. Besides these two ways, you can also divide your anthurium. Let’s consider the various ways to fix rootbound plants.

Repotting Anthurium

As stated earlier, repotting is the best way to fix rootbound plants. This anthurium care routine contributes immensely to healthy growth. 

Some benefits of repotting include the following:

Growth

As anthurium grows, they become cramped up in space, preventing the root system from absorbing water and nutrients. Repotting increases anthurium’s growth potential, providing enough room to grow and thrive.

Replenishes Soil

Pot-bound anthuriums are usually short on nutrients and have low moisture retention. This deficiency alters soil structure and results in stunted growth. Repotting helps replenish the soil to support anthurium growth.

Controls Pests and Diseases

Many pests and diseases are harbored in the soil, causing great harm to Anthuriums. Unfortunately, some of these diseases also hide around the crevices and roots of plants. An excellent way to keep these destructive agents at bay is through repotting.

Below is a step-by-step guide to repotting rootbound anthurium.

  • Rootbound anthuriums are typically dehydrated due to the pot’s constricted space, contributing to water-repellent and hard soil. Giving the plant a good soaking will help detangle the roots. You can soak the root ball overnight to facilitate easy detangling. 
  • Make ready the required items for repotting. Bigger-sized pots, warm water, and fresh soil mix are some items you need for the process. Sterilize the tools before using them on plants; you don’t want to spread diseases. Furthermore, use gloves when handling the plants.
  • Uproot anthurium from the previous pot. If untangling roots by hand doesn’t yield much success, consider cutting into the root ball to free up the roots. Use a knife to create incisions into the balls for easy removal. 
  • Evaluate the condition of the rootbound plant. If it’s a severe rootbound plant, dip it in lukewarm water to loosen the roots while removing the surrounding soil.
  • Add soil to the new pot and repot if it’s not severely rootbound. For rotten roots, you’ll need to cut them. Then, immerse the existing healthy roots in a hydrogen peroxide solution to prevent bacterial and fungal infection.
  • After repotting, water the plant to keep the soil and root hydrated.

Division

For anthurium that seems too big, dividing it is the best way to fix the rootbound issue. And this may also be the best approach to propagate rare anthurium species and solve rootbound problems. Here are some benefits of propagating by division.

  • It resolves rootbound problems.
  • It is the easiest and most successful method to produce genetically identical plants.
  • Plants propagated by division grow faster, thanks to their roots and leaves.
  • You can grow any size of the plant, depending on your preference. To raise a medium-sized plant, split plant parts into two. If you want many young plants, split them into various parts.
  • As anthurium matures, it can bloom less. Splitting and producing new plants help to fix the problem.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to splitting anthurium:

  • Water the plant thoroughly before dividing it, which helps moisten and loosen the soil. 
  • Prepare all the materials needed for propagation. These materials include potting mix, clean pots, pruning shears, or knives.
  • Add some potting mix into the new containers or pots but don’t fill them to the brim. Instead, tamp down the soil till it reaches one-third or half of each pot’s height. 
  • Wear gloves to protect yourself against irritation resulting from sap.
  • If you’re propagating indoors, you’ll need newspaper or other sheets.
  • Check the plant base to identify potential areas of division.
  • Hold your anthurium by the base and turn the pot upside down to remove the plant. Loosen the soil around the root using water if needed.
  • Grab the two sections of division by the base to separate the roots. Ideally, the offshoots should join at the root level. You need to be careful when doing this so you don’t rip the plant apart. Apply gentle, steady force when using pruning shears or a knife to split the roots.
  • Depending on the number of plants you want, you’ll have to repeat the steps as necessary. Ensure each section has a few roots and 3-4 leaves. 
  • Prune any dead leaves and trim any long roots, especially if they’re very long to facilitate easy planting. You can remove stipules as well.
  • Repot each division into a new pot using a well-drained potting mix or soil medium. Water immediately to remove large air pockets and settle the roots.

Pruning

Pruning is an essential care practice for houseplants. While some plants require more pruning than others, this practice does a lot for the growth and development of plants. 

Here are the benefits of pruning houseplants.

Eliminate Fading Leaves and Blooms

After a while, anthurium leaves begin to wilt, and the plant may likely die if left untreated. Pruning flowers and foliage gives room for new plant growth. However, leaving yellowed leaves and blooms on anthurium is a drawback. The foliage uses the energy needed to grow fresh flowers and leaves.

Reduce the Spread of Disease

Leaf blight usually presents itself as yellow and brown spots on anthurium leaves. The disease spreads quickly, causing havoc in plants. Pruning can be a control measure to curb the spread of diseases before they engulf the plant. 

Maintain Plant Shape

Typically, young anthuriums sport few slender stalks, which end in curvy leaves. As they mature, they develop twisting stalks and creeping roots, giving the plant a shabby look. However, snipping the leaves gives anthurium an orderly shape, improves plant aesthetics, and boosts blooming.

Rejuvenate Dry and Dying Anthuriums

During the fifth or sixth year of their lifespan, anthuriums begin to experience slow growth. The plants may produce fewer blooms and flowers soon after. Cutting off stalks rejuvenates anthurium, promoting new growth. 

Pruning Methods

Aggressive Pruning

Aggressive pruning may be a good option for those who don’t have time for repotting or are occupied with work. While this is an easy way of fixing rootbound plants, there are drawbacks. 

Aggressively pruning anthurium aggressively results in new open wounds that you must attend to as soon as possible, increasing the healing time. 

In addition, when you prune aggressively, the root-to-plant size changes. To fix this, anthurium needs to bloom instead of growing roots for some months. Follow the steps below to prune your anthurium.

  • Prepare all the tools needed 
  • Use rubbing alcohol or household bleach to clean the blades of your pruning shears, scissors, or knife.
  • Prune from the top, starting with discolored, diseased, or shriveled leaves.
  • Cut the petiole alongside the affected leaves
  • Cut smoothly to reduce ragged edges where bacteria can thrive.
  • Clean blades in between snips with rubbing alcohol or disinfectant.

Root Pruning

In contrast to aggressive pruning, you only prune the roots, not the entire plant. This process will temporarily change the root-to-foliage size ratio to fix the rootbound issue. 

If your plant isn’t too big, you might consider this approach to fixing rootbound plants. You’ll need a hand cultivator, fork or pronged cultivator, pruning shears or knife, and a small potting mix in root pruning. Follow the steps below to root-prune your anthurium.

1. Examine the Root Ball

To root-prune your anthurium, first, look closely at the roots. If you have a delicate anthurium, be extra careful when removing the plant from its pot. For plants that aren’t too big, turn the pot over and tap the rim. 

2. Trim the Roots Using Pruning Shears or a Knife

Using a sharp knife, pruning shears, or scissors, cut around the plant’s root ball to remove soil and roots. You can aggressively cut away large and small roots; it won’t harm your anthurium. If your anthurium is severely rootbound, cut out the bottom quarter of the old roots to promote growth.

3. Loosen the Rootball Using Your Fingers, Pronged Cultivator, Fork, or Stick

Use your fingers to untangle the rootball. If the rootball is tightly meshed, use a fork, stick, or pronged cultivator to loosen the soil and root around the rootball. This helps to detangle the roots, enabling them to grow into the soil instead of encircling the plant. 

4. Prepare the Pot by Adding Potting Mix to It

Add potting mix to the pot. Ensure you pour enough soil so the smaller root ball will sit comfortably on the soil. And place the crown of the plant at the soil level.

5. Repot the Plant While Adding Soil Around the Newly Trimmed Rootball

Return the plant to the pot and add soil around the pruned rootball. Next, pour soil around the crevices and spaces around the root ball and pot. To ensure you fill all areas, use a stick or trowel to move soil around the pot. 

6. Water the Plant Generously and Add Additional Soil If Needed

After repotting, ensure you water your anthurium consistently for some weeks to boost recovery and growth. Bear in mind that your anthurium does not need much watering.

Final Thoughts

Anthurium root bound is a common issue for many gardeners. If you’re facing this problem, you can try any of the methods discussed in this article. With time and proper care, your anthurium will return to its healthy self in no time.

Better yet, regularly observe your anthurium and repot it before it becomes rootbound. Doing so ensures you don’t have to deal with a stressed plant struggling to survive. As a general rule of thumb, it is best to repot your anthurium every two to three years.