Tiny Pothos root bound?

LynDemJuly 24, 2011

I've had a pothos for years that hasn't been growing great lately. I have been convinced that it was in too big a pot (3 quarts) so today I took it out to put it in a smaller one but found that it was pretty root bound. The roots aren't as tight as they could be but they filled the pot completely and held the soil well.

Now I have no idea what to do because all of the pothos plants I've seen growing elsewhere that are much larger than mine are in really small pots. So I don't understand how my tiny pothos with just a few long vines could be root bound?

Right now the pothos is sitting in water-I'm trying to loosen up the soil so I can fit it into a smaller pot. Should I plant it in a smaller pot or does it need a larger one?

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I forgot to mention also that the roots seem to be healthy.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 11:14PM
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You said:
"Right now the pothos is sitting in water-I'm trying to loosen up the soil".

This may be the true problem...if you have to soak the plant in order to get the dirt to loosen, then you do not have your plant in the right kind if soil. I suspect that the roots aren't getting any water, because the soil around them never gets wet enough to allow water through. Soil that acts like that usually has a lot of peat in it.
I would make up a much looser mix...mine is almost equal parts potting soil and perlite. The perlite allows the dirt to stay somewhat loose so that water and air can get to the roots. I even add a handful of small gravel/grit to make the mix more porous.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 11:55AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Don't leave the plant soaking (drowning) in water for very long! Plant roots MUST have oxygen.

I think that you have two choices. You could do some root pruning (bottom and sides) and replant into the same pot, OR you could make some shallow vertical cuts into the root system with a sharp knife and replant into a large container. Either way, some surgery is in that poor plant's future. ;-)

Be sure that your potting medium is a very porous one and your plant will thank you for it. You do NOT have to be afraid of a larger container as long as the medium drains rapidly and highly porous.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 12:22PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

I have grown Pothos in the aquarium for up to four years. I don't generally advocate roots in water but I don't think the Pothos is going to suffer overnight.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 1:41PM
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Your pothos might not be getting the light it needs if it's staying so small.
I have mine in a west window with part of a sheer curtain in front of it. It does get a small amount of direct sun as well, but not enough so the leaves wilt or burn. Let the soil "almost" dry out, not bone dry though, then give it a thorough watering so it comes out the bottom drain hole, empty any excess from the saucer

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 3:40PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

LD - please record my vote for a bare-rooting, root pruning, and a repot into a fast-draining soil, either in the same pot or a larger one. If the vines are untidy & leggy, I'd also prune them back at repotting time. Now is the best time of the year to undertake the work, and recovery time should be short.

If you need/want additional guidance, just ask.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 9:29PM
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Lyn..Did the soil loosen in the water?

Place your Pothos over a trash can or better yet, outside, and shake the plant to remove excess soil.

You said it was potted in a 3 quart pot, but didn't mention if your Pothos was a cutting or a large plant.

Discard all old soil. Repot in proper size pot according to roots, after removing excess soil.

IMO, a plant potted in too large pot can take several months to years to grow. Roots must fill the pot before new growth, 'foliage' grows.

There are other reasons some plants halt or have stunted growth, but potting in an extra large pot seems to be the number 1 problem.

Do you have a picture of your plant? And roots? Toni

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 2:14PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

LD - It's a widely known fact that, all else being equal, plants in larger containers grow much faster than plants in smaller containers, which is why the most conscientious nurserymen and greenhousemen bump plants to the next larger pot size BEFORE the root/soil mass becomes congested to the point it can be lifted from the pot intact. You might even consider growth of plants planted in very large pots and fast draining soils 'rampant', when compared to growth performance of plants left to their own devices in smaller pots with their roots in need of room to run.

You can plant very small plants in very large pots if the soil drains well enough and the amount of air in the soil (at container capacity) ensures drainage to such a degree that root rot is eliminated as a potential issue. Your choice of soils is actually what determines what size pot is appropriate for a planting. Heavy, water-retentive soils (those made with large fractions of peat, topsoil, sand, compost and/or other ingredients comprised of small particles) require that you remain ultra-vigilant about your watering habits and restrict your choice of pot size; while well-aerated and fast-draining soils allow a much broader margin for error (in the watering and fertilizing depts) and allow you to take advantage of the faster growth and added vitality afforded by bigger pots and their larger soil volumes.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 8:27PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Pothos is a plant I never bother to repot at all since they make new roots so easily. Just cut everything off at the soil level, fill pot with new soil, and rebury the cut ends.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 3:50PM
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All of the suggestions about using a larger pot and mixing half potting soil and half perlite are excellent. Also, you mentioned your plant has only a few long vines, if you wrap those vines in the top of the pot, they will take root and branch off new vines, this will help fill you plant out and have lots more vines.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 6:06AM
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