zz plant repot--help!

tampopo(z6 Ohio)December 13, 2011

I'm in the course of repotting a zz plant. Why's the poor thing sitting there waiting to be put back in the planter? B/C someone's having a ridiculous argument w/me over cutting the roots which were peeking out of the bottom holes of the former pot. I've repotted plants and never once purposely cut the roots. She said she has too, and cut roots off. I know you're supposed to break apart the mass at the bottom a bit (this is pretty solid so good luck there), but cutting off healthy roots? I don't think so! I'd appreciate if someone can answer soon though I've got it in the pot now, roots and all. Oh, and she's telling me some weird thing about plugging the bottom with a piece of terra cotta or some such. I've repotted and brought a sanseveria my not-that-bright ex-roomie nearly killed back to life--no, not making it up, and never did this weird thing. Isn't that why you have a hole in the first place, for excess water? (I admit, things have died on me; I don't get why people insist on giving azaleas as a houseplant and why I'd kill it if I planted it outside and how it's preferable to my killing it indoors. But the people I'm arguing with now don't understand the concepts of "low maintenance" "not everything needs to be constantly fed and put in moisture-retaining soil" and "root rot"). I have no problem cutting the roots if I can--I heard these things grow from tubers anyway, IIRC--but I've never purposely cut the roots off a houseplant and can't see why I would (other than maybe trying to start babies). Any reasons? Thanks for your help!

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jessiec777(Washington State 5)

I do put things at the bottom open hole, but something like a piece of screen or a couple rocks so the water can flow through, but the dirt doesn't. That is the only purpose in my eyes. I repotted my zzplant a couple months ago and actually separated the plants rhizomes and gave a few away. During the process of separating some of the roots did break off. My plant seems to be doing perfectly fine. I personally wouldn't cut roots if you don't have to (ie. the look unhealthy or by accident).

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 6:18PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Don't argue with anyone about how to keep your plants, It isn't worth the trouble. Do some research and decide what is best for what you have and are trying to do.

Yes, you can root prune those plants, It doesn't hurt them. Don't cut the tubers. You can cut the roots if you need to re-pot but don't want to change up to a large sized pot. Some folks live under the misconception that plants like to be potbound so you can give them the snip and stuff it back into the small pot.

And Yes, you can cover the hole in the bottom of your pot with a piece of terra cotta as long as you are not "plugging" the hole, If your pot has a large hole then you'll wash out the soil near it and have a hollow space there instead although that might help aerate the roots so it may not be an entirely bad thing. I often use a piece of plastic screen or mesh in mine.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 7:27PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Tampopo,

I'm w/ Dellis on this -- it's your plant -- YOU decide. Let the person go do as they advise to THEIR plant, if this one is yours.

The info above is all correct, the aim of covering the drainage hole is simply to keep the mix in the pot. I trace outline of the bottom of the pot onto a couple of layers of newsprint & then cut out the circle of newsprint & it line the inside of the pot w/ it. The mix stays in the pot, yet the water comes out fine.

It's not a crime to cut the roots, you've heard of root pruning, right?

These ZZ plants grow from both tubers AND roots, it may be too late tonight for me to find the pix (tho' I posted them here this year, likely a search would find them) which showed ZZs & their tubers WITH roots, both.

What on Earth pls. is IIRC?

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 11:44PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Here are the plants:

closer up

closer still: notice that there are roots as well, some of which seem to come out of the tubers

closest, rather potato looking.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 12:12AM
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Sometimes roots just naturally get ahead of the plant and there's no reason not to remove the overabundance of them since it will cause no harm to the plant.
Often when a plant is replanted the cutting back of some of the roots is a good thing to do since we wish to clean up the plant before giving it a fresh start---which repotting will do.
Now some will suggest you not repot until spring...when the plant is encouraged to add new growth--something the roots can feed. Repotting in the winter--since there is much less sunlight (intensity) the plant is not growing, ergo, doesn't need as much roots since cutting back of the amount of water is recommended. The plant, since its not growing, doesn't require the amount of water it normally needs when the sun's intensity is higher. The roots therefore can be much less to feed what foliage is above.

As far as plugging a hole with something....what's the point?
Plants must drain. A simple adding of material at the bottom of the soil allows such drainage and can prevent overwatering and root rot.
Plugging a hole encourages the roots to go around the bottom of the pot--the plant becomes root bound and what water is not used by the plant sits at the roots. Subsequent watering, then adds to the volume which can result often in the roots not being able to take up the excess, and root rot results. The bottom leaves are the first to diagnose the problem.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 10:54AM
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I agree, I think you have to grow your plants to suit you, not someone else.

I have a couple of ZZ plants I started from leaves also, very similar in size to Karen's. Lately I have lifted the plant higher in the pot, to expose some of the tuber, which I find interesting. If it thrives like this, I will keep it that way.

Yes, the terra cotta pot shard partially covering the drain hole is just to help keep the soil from spilling out, but there are better ways of doing this, as already mentioned.

In my view, each one of us has unique growing situations and lifestyles, so one general rule for growing certain plants will not work for everyone. We experiment a bit, and when we see what works best for our growing conditions, we stick with it. Just my humble opinion.


From My Pictures

    Bookmark   December 14, 2011 at 7:48PM
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deburn(6 - Boston MA)

PG, iirc is If I Remember Correctly!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 10:20PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Tampopo - if you're still around, I can offer some information that puts root pruning in the proper perspective.

In some ways, our plants are like our automobiles - we don't have to maintain them, but we know they will perform better and last longer if we do. I won't bother going into detail unless you're interested, or even still following the thread.


    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 10:41PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hey there Deburn,

Thanks for defining IIRC, NOW I get it!!!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 3:40PM
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deburn(6 - Boston MA)

You're welcome, PG! next up: what's AFAIK?


    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 11:09PM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

AFAIK = As Far As I Know

If your still around, there's no wrong or right way to do it. I like a little bit of the "bulb" showing. Here's mine.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 8:03AM
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