The most pot-bound plant I've ever seen.

Corry_EngelbrechtFebruary 21, 2013

Just bought this spider plant today at Home Depot. Got it home, took it out to repot it, and discovered that beneath the thin layer of soil, there was nothing but roots. Tons and tons of roots. There are actually there separate plants in there, and before I discovered this, I was hoping on separating them (I bought it for a specific spot at work, and it's a bit too big), but I'm not sure it's possible without killing all of them.

Does anyone else think it's possible? If so, how would I go about doing it?

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Below is a link to another post about spider plants. You'll have to scroll down a bit before you see a photo that looks similar to yours (a very root bound spider plant). It's one of Purple's and below that photo you'll see another post by hers with a second photo of how many roots she removed from it. Just to say from her pictures, I'm sure it's possible, but I'm honestly not sure how to go about it. Sorry I can't help with that aspect of your questions, but hopefully the post is overall helpful.

Here is a link that might be useful: Spider Plant Post-GW

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:36AM
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Wow, that does look a lot like mine! Purple, if you read this, I've gotta ask: how did your plant do after cutting that much off?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 9:33AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I do that to it at least once a year, sometime twice. The plant doesn't really like it but bounces back just fine. Whenever the tips start turning brown, I know the pot is full of roots, and that is why I do it.

If one wants a spider plant in a hanging basket, that's really the only way, unless you have much larger hanging pots than I do. This plant has lived in this same size pot for decades. As you see, they make HUGE roots that quickly fill a small pot. Once that happens, there's no way to keep the plant looking nice without intervention, the tips will start to go brown, the leaves will be more droopy. The options are to trim the roots or a bigger pot.

Compared to a plant with hard, woody roots, it's not as necessary to untangle roots or worry about their structure, just trim enough for there to be significant space for them to grow again for a while once put back in the pot. After a severe root pruning as pictured in the other discussion, assuming it's done during spring/early summer, it's pretty safe to assume your plant will soon produce flower/baby stalks, as soon as it gets comfortable at the roots again.

The only way I know to actually kill a spider plant is to drown it, or let it bake in the sun for a month (it won't die until all of those fat roots have given their moisture to the foliage and then dried up.)

If you have a pedestal or table to put a much larger non-hanging pot on, (so the babies can still dangle in the air,) that would be a way to keep spider plant looking good for a much longer time. If so, there shouldn't be a problem with just putting the untrimmed roots in the bigger pot. But if they are already crammed and packed that tight, I would try to at least "fluff them out" a bit.

These silly plants don't die over winter outside here, and my Mom let some go loose in a flower bed. Those roots can go more than foot deep, and they don't turn unless they encounter an obstacle. Before I finally dug them up a few weeks ago, they had been there for about 5 years. The tips of those plants never turn brown.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 9:59AM
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Thanks for the detailed information. I have a baby "Curly" spider plant that only has but a couple of roots right now but I'll remember this information when it comes to tips browning. I did notice with my other Spider Plant (I gave it to my MIL) that it outgrew pots rather fast... I should have trimmed it back!

On a different unrelated note, I read somewhere that with better care, the "Curly" spider plants look more straight leafed and with more neglect, they're more curly. How odd. I'm a over babier so mine will probably never be all that curly. :\


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 10:30AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Maybe the curl is wilt? LOL! J/K.

I don't know why I keep this plant around, habit and sentimentality, it's been through most of my life with me. Just because it's indestructible doesn't mean it isn't fussy if one wants a good-looking one ALL of the time, yet in a too-small pot. I guess it's just like one of those bad kids a mother loves anyway, overlooking the bad behavior and unkempt appearance. Why don't I just stop trying to cram it into the same little hanging basket?

Also forgot to mention that the number of individuals in a pot would affect how quickly the pot fills with roots. There's 5-7 in that trimmed clump in my hand. That's a lot for such a small pot and I know that. A single plant in the same pot would "last longer" but I like the appearance with a ton of leaves and many babies, even if it causes the plant to decline more quickly and repotting to come more often. If it was in some dark stuffy corner, it wouldn't grow as fast, there's that too.

There's a whole gray area between just up-potting undisturbed roots and the drastic pruning from my pic. One could choose to trim less overall, or just remove the biggest "carrots." Or separate individual plants and just trim the roots of one. Braid them. (Just seeing if anyone read this far.)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 12:10PM
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Haha. I have a couple of plants that I call cast-iron, it seems like no matter how much I under/overwater, overpot/underpot, heck even burn with direct sun (one of my PL's is still recovering...), they keep growing and appear happy. Sounds like your spider plant is one of those cast-iron plants. May not always look the best, but it lasts through the abuse (I think burning a plant with direct sun is also a form abuse, albeit forgetful... forgot to turn the blinds, but still abuse).

I think this "Curly" has 3-5? plants in it, I like the more full look myself. HAHA, I kept reading and was like "braid them?" ;)


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 12:47PM
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After reading this thread, and an older thread referenced in an earlier post, I have decided that I HAVE to have a spider plant. The pictures posted are just too pretty. I think I will name her "Charlotte". :)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 5:34PM
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GW has that effect on people hehe. My spider plant is named Curly. Not very original since it's a "Curly" spider plant but I like the name. :)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 6:06PM
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Thanks for the info! I'll trim the roots back next time I repot it so I can keep it in the same pot I just put it in. It's a perdy pot. :P

Meanwhile, I have a beautiful little curly spider plant that I got a few weeks back at home that I have yet to repot because I haven't found the right pot for it yet. I wonder what I should expect from that as far as pot-boundness? :P

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 1:31AM
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I would imagine the Curly would be the same although I can't speak from experience as mine is just a pup with a few roots.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 7:14AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

That's a good question. I'm sure some of these variegated ones are not C. comosum. If only Wiki would attach decent pics to the species in their articles...

190 Comosums.

Hope those taxonomy nerds didn't stray far from the recent discussion. Chlorophytum is not one of my "pets" of knowledge as a whole genus.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 9:53AM
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Why does root-bound-ness make tips turn brown?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 8:21PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

If the roots are unable to grow in proportion to the foliage, the foliage will not have the support system it needs. Probably a lot like some fish that won't get bigger unless/until they get a bigger tank. A confined environment limits growth. Probably also similar to bonsai - where roots are regularly trimmed so they have room to grow again in the same tiny pot. If it was OK to leave the roots crammed full in the pot, practitioners of bonsai would probably just skip that part. Just my hunches/theories... Maybe someone already knows a more technical explanation, or has the inclination to look up the science-y stuff, I just don't today...

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 10:28AM
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