RootBound Pothos: 5 Major Signs & How to Fix + Prevent

Rootbound is a common issue affecting many plants, including Pothos. When a plant becomes root bound, its roots have outgrown their pot and tangled together, preventing them from accessing water and nutrients efficiently.

This can cause stunted growth or even death in severe cases. Fortunately, it’s possible to save rootbound Pothos by pruning their roots and repotting them in fresh soil with a larger pot. You can also propagate to increase the number of plants and reduce the pot’s overcrowding.

We’ll help you identify and treat rootbound Pothos and how to prevent it from happening in the first place. 

Do Pothos Like to be Root Bound?

Pothos don’t typically like to be root bound. In addition, rootbound plants might grow more slowly and be more vulnerable to pests and diseases. They can, however, endure being root-bound for a while.

5 Signs and Symptoms of Rootbound Pothos 

How can you tell when a pothos plant is rootbound? Look for the following signs and symptoms:

1. Unhealthy Leaves 

When your plant is root-bound, the leaves might be smaller than usual, have yellow blotches, seem pale green, or even fall off. This condition can occur due to a lack of nutrients reaching the leaves, as the crowded roots cannot absorb enough from the soil.

You may also notice some dried-out leaves since root-bound plants don’t do an excellent job of absorbing water.

2. Stunted Growth

Root-bound pothos plants can also experience stunted growth. The crowded roots may struggle to absorb nutrients, leading to smaller leaves and fewer new growths. If left untreated, the plant might never reach its full potential.

3. More Visible Roots

If you notice roots growing out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot or the plant seems “stuck,” it’s time to repot your plant. Allowing the roots to grow this way will only aggravate the situation and may eventually kill your plant.

You should also check for cracks in the pot which is another sign that your Pothos is pot-bound.

4. Extremely Dry Soil

Pot-bound pothos plants tend to dry out quickly since their roots absorb water faster than what the soil can provide. As a result, the soil may stay dry for long periods, and the plant will not be able to absorb enough moisture.

If you notice this happening, your plant may be root-bound. You should check the roots and repot them into a larger pot with fresh soil.

5. Roots Tangled & Matted Together at the Bottom of Pot

Your plant is root-bound if you see a mass of tightly packed roots at the bottom of the pot.

Turn your pothos upside down and gently remove the pot from its roots to check for this. 

Harlequin or Manjula Pothos plant in white pot

What Makes Pothos Plant Rootbound?

Knowing the causes of root-bound Pothos can help you prevent them from happening in the first place. The most common causes of rootbound Pothos are:

Small Pots

One of the leading causes of rootbound pothos plants is growing them in small pots. As pothos plants grow, they naturally outgrow their pots and require larger containers. 

If you do not provide your Pothos with a larger pot as it grows, the roots will eventually become cramped and start to spiral on the inside. It will lead to several problems, including reduced growth and an increased risk of pests and diseases.

Over-watering

It would help if you watered Pothos regularly, but too much moisture can lead to root rot. If you leave the soil wet for too long, the roots will become waterlogged and unable to breathe.

Poor Drainage

Another common cause is poor drainage. If the pot does not have enough drainage holes, the water will be unable to escape from the pot. And it will result in waterlogged soil and root rot.

Under-watering

Under-watering your Pothos is another common cause of rootbound plants. When you don’t provide enough water, the soil will dry out quickly, and the roots may begin to wither and die. To prevent this, water your pothos plant regularly and never allow the soil to become completely dry.

Infrequent Repotting

Pothos will naturally outgrow their pots over time. The roots will become cramped and rootbound if you do not repot your plant into a larger container as it grows. Repot your pothos plant into a larger pot every one to two years.

pothos plants trimmed

6 Ways to Prevent Your Pothos From Becoming Rootbound

Take action before your Pothos is root-bound. Here are six tips:

1. Choose the Right Pot Size 

When selecting a pot, choose one that is large enough to accommodate the root system of your Pothos. A good rule of thumb is to choose a pot that is 2-3 inches wider in diameter than the root ball of your plant.

2. Repot Regularly

As your houseplant grows, it may outgrow its current pot. When this happens, it’s vital to repot the plant into a larger pot to give the roots room to spread out. A good time to repot your Pothos is in the spring when the plant is entering its active growth phase.

3. Use Well-drained Soil

Proper drainage is essential for healthy roots. Make sure to use a well-drained soil mix that allows excess water to drain away from the roots. Avoid using soil mixes that hold onto moisture, which can lead to over-watering and root rot.

4. Water Properly

Over-watering and under-watering can both lead to a pot-bound Pothos. To prevent this, water your Pothos when the top inch of the soil is dry. If you don’t know when to water, use your finger to check the moisture level in the soil before adding water. Alternatively, you can use a moisture meter to get a more accurate reading.

5. Check for Rootbound Pothos Regularly

Regularly checking your Pothos helps to catch rootbound issues early. Gently remove the plant from its pot and check the roots for signs of over-crowding or root rot. If you notice any problems, repot into a larger container as soon as possible.

6. Prune Roots Regularly

Pothos plants produce long, trailing roots that can quickly become rootbound. Prune the roots regularly to keep them from becoming too dense and constricted.

How to Fix a Rootbound Pothos Plant: Two Options

If your Pothos is currently rootbound, there is still time to save it. Here are some of the tools you’ll need to get started:

  • A new, larger pot.
  • Well-drained soil
  • Pruning scissors
  • A moisture meter or soil probe to check the soil’s moisture level.
  • A balanced, all-purpose fertilizer

Now that you have the necessary tools, here’s how to save your plant:

1. Repot Your Pothos

The most effective way to fix your plant is to repot it into a larger pot. It will give the roots more room to spread out and allow it to absorb more nutrients and water. When repotting, choose a pot that is 2-3 inches wider in diameter than the root ball of your plant. 

Here’s how to successfully repot:

Prune

Before repotting, prune the roots to remove any damaged or diseased roots. It will help the plant to focus its energy on healthy, new growth. To prune the roots, gently loosen the root ball and cut away any damaged or diseased roots using clean, sharp scissors.

Repot Pothos in a Better Soil Mix

It would be best to use a well-drained soil mix that allows excess water to drain away from the roots. Avoid using soil mixes that hold onto moisture.

Water Your Pothos Plant but Don’t Overdo it

Once you’ve repotted your plant, it’s essential to water it properly. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings and avoid over-watering, which can lead to root rot. Use a moisture meter or probe to check the soil’s moisture level.

Apply Fertilizer

Fertilizing your Pothos can help to promote healthy growth and aid in the recovery process. Use a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer and follow the instructions on the label for proper application.

Monitor Your Pothos Plant

It can take a few weeks for your plant to recover, so monitor and watch for any signs of stress or root rot. If you notice any issues, address them immediately to prevent further damage.

girl mixing different pothos varieties in one pot

2. Split Rootbound Pothos

If your Pothos has become especially rootbound and is struggling to recover, consider splitting it into two or more plants. This approach can reduce root congestion and allow each plant to receive more space and nutrients. 

Each section should have at least one healthy stem and some roots attached. You can plant these smaller sections in separate pots with fresh potting mix and care for them as a single Pothos plant.

Splitting a rootbound plant gives each new plant more space for its roots to grow. The best time to do this is in the spring or summer when your plant is actively growing. Splitting a rootbound plant can be stressful, so take extra care. 

A step-by-step guide:

  • Carefully remove the plant from its pot by placing it upside down, then softly pulling the base of the stem. Avoid packing the soil too firmly since this might inhibit root development.
  • Use a sharp, clean pair of scissors or pruning shears to cut through the rootball and separate it into smaller sections. Ensure that each section has at least one healthy stem and some roots attached.
  • Plant the divided sections in separate pots using a well-drained potting mix. The pot should have drainage holes to help prevent water from getting trapped in the bottom of the pot.
  • Water the newly-divided plants well and place them in a sunny location but out of direct sunlight. Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy.
  • Monitor the plant growth, check for any signs of stress and adjust the watering or location accordingly.
  • Fertilize the new plants about a week after transplanting, using a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer, and follow package instructions for usage.
watering pothos plants by a window.

How to Care for Newly Transplanted Pothos Plants

Now that your pothos has space to flourish again, you will need to care for it. Here’s how:

  • Water your plant regularly, but be careful not to overwater. The soil should be evenly moist but not soggy.
  • Place the Pothos in a location with bright, indirect light. Pothos plants do well in various lighting conditions, but direct sunlight can scorch their leaves.
  • Fertilize the plant once a month during the growing season (spring and summer) using a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength.
  • Prune the Pothos to remove dead or damaged leaves and maintain the desired shape.
  • Monitor for pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites, and take appropriate action.

Final Thoughts

A Pothos plant that has become root-bound will likely experience a range of issues with its growth, such as wilted leaves and a slowed rate of development. Please don’t neglect the plant when this happens and let it wither. Take prompt action by following the steps in this guide to try and revive it.