If you struggle with root binding happening to your plants, you might consider using a different pot. But, many gardeners aren’t sure what to use. You might’ve heard that fabric pots can reduce the chances of plants becoming root bound, but how true is that?
Plants aren’t likely to get root bound in fabric pots due to air-pruning. Roots don’t grow above ground, so they stop growing when they “feel” air. Air-pruning is when roots are exposed to the air, causing them to be trimmed back. This process occurs in fabric pots because of how porous they are.
So, switching to fabric pots is an excellent start if you want to prevent your root binding in the future! There’s more to learn about the topic, so keep reading.
Why Plants Can’t Become Root Bound in Fabric Pots
Plants aren’t likely to become root bound in a fabric pot due to air-pruning, which is the process of roots being “burned” by the air. Since fabric grow bags are very thin and porous, air can easily make its way inside, causing the roots to be pruned when they grow too close to the edges of the pot.
In conventional pots, like the ones made from ceramic or plastic, the air has a harder time getting inside. When the roots don’t touch the air, they grow in circles and can become tangled. The plant becomes root bound if left alone for too long without transferring to a larger pot.
Plants that are root bound won’t survive for long. The condition causes the plant a lot of stress, makes it difficult to absorb nutrients, and can leave less room for water in the soil. Over time, the plant will start to wilt. Although, you can save it if you notice the signs of root binding early enough.
Overall, air-pruning can save plants from becoming root-bound, making fabric pots beneficial to gardeners. By switching from a conventional planter to a fabric one, the roots are exposed to air much more frequently, which helps prevent them from overgrowing and tangling.
Are There Exceptions?
Technically, any plant can get root bound in any pot if you let it keep growing long enough. Air-pruning drastically reduces the chances of it happening but won’t eliminate them entirely.
Say you leave a plant in a fabric pot for years without repotting it into a larger one; it will probably be root bound at some point.
Some plants also grow more prominent, stronger root systems than others, which leads to faster root binding. For instance, a tree will take much less time to become root bound than a vegetable plant.
Now would be a good time if you haven’t checked on your plants’ roots before. You may catch early signs of root binding, and it’s easier to deal with the sooner you notice.
Overall, you don’t need to worry about your plants in fabric grow bags becoming root bound nearly as much. While it’s still possible, it will only happen if you neglect the plant for long periods. However, the air-pruning can help prevent root binding for a very long time.
Will Roots Grow Through Fabric Pots?
Roots won’t grow through fabric pots unless you’re growing a tree. Most plants stop growing roots in a specific direction when they feel the air, focusing on root growth in other areas. Air pruning can also prevent roots from pushing through fabric pots.
Most roots aren’t strong enough to break through a fabric pot since air-pruning stops them from reaching the edges of the fabric. However, leaving a root-bound plant in a ceramic planter could eventually break the pot since no air-pruning takes place.
That said, leaving any plant in a container that’s too small for a long time can cause harm to the roots. You’ll want to upgrade to a larger fabric pot when you can.
How To Save Root-Bound Plants
Do you have a plant at home showing signs of being root-bound? You can still save it by moving it to a fabric pot. However, you need to take several steps before replanting it to ensure it survives.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Take the plant out of its container. You can do this by grabbing the base of its stem and gently pulling up while pulling down on the container. Use a tool along the edge of the pot to break up the dirt if the plant won’t come out.
- Clear out the dirt and gently shake the plant until you can see the root ball.
- Soak the roots in water overnight.
- Untangle the roots as best you can.
- If the roots are severely tangled, you can cut some of the roots away to make them easier to separate. Running a fork through the roots can help you with detangling, but be careful not to pull too hard.
- Prune the roots to ensure it doesn’t become root-bound again.
- Repot the plant in a larger fabric pot.
I recommend repotting your plant in a fabric pot so it can experience air-pruning. Plus, scaling up the size of the fabric pot should give the roots enough room to spread out and grow quickly. You generally want the pot’s circumference to be at least one inch wider than the plant’s roots.
In short, you can save root-bound plants by removing them from their container, untangling their roots, and replanting them in a much larger fabric pot.
Can a Root-Bound Plant Recover?
Root-bound plants can recover only if you notice their symptoms in time. You’ll need to act quickly to detangle the roots and replant them. After repotting the plant, make sure it gets enough water. If successful, it will take at least two weeks for most small plants to recover.
Your root-bound plants won’t recover if you simply move them to a fabric bag. You’ll need to make sure that you follow the above steps to give your plants the best chances of survival.
Here are the signs of root binding in plants that you’ll want to keep an eye out for:
- Stunted growth
- Yellowing or browning leaves
- Dropping leaves
- Curled or burned leaves
- Small, underdeveloped leaves
You’ll want to dig up the plant and check its roots if you notice these signs. You can repot it into a larger fabric grow bag if needed. Acting quickly gives your plants the best odds of surviving.
Once you’ve let the plant grow in a fabric pot for some time, it should be safe to move it to your outdoor garden. It’s easy to transplant plants from fabric pots to other containers or the outdoors. However, letting them grow in the fabric pot for a while first allows air-pruning, which helps the plant recover from root binding.
So, root-bound plants can recover, but you have to put in a good effort to save them!
Fabric Pots That Are the Best for Air-Pruning
Any fabric pot is suitable for air-pruning, but some will be better at it than others. You want to find a grow bag that consists of a very thin, lightweight material. That way, you know that air can easily pass through the fabric.
So, you’ll want to make sure that you choose a large, thin fabric pot when you want the best air-pruning. If the material’s too thick, you won’t get the results your plant needs to thrive.
What About Root Rot and Fabric Pots?
Finally, you might also wonder about root rot and how often it happens to plants in fabric pots. Root rot and root binding are different— root rot is when the roots start to break down, while root binding is when the roots grow too long and become tangled.
You can prevent both of these conditions from occurring by switching to fabric pots. Since the fabric offers better aeration and drainage, root rot and overwatering are less of a worry.
Overall, fabric pots benefit gardeners, no matter what you’re growing. They ensure the roots of your plant are healthy and have plenty of other advantages.
To summarize, it’s doubtful that your plants become root bound when you grow them in fabric pots. The process of air-pruning prevents the roots from traveling along the edges of the pot, where they become tangled.
You can save a root-bound plant by moving it from a conventional pot to a fabric one. The fabric bags are much more porous and can offer the plant more benefits. You should consider switching to fabric pots if you’ve had many issues with root-bound plants.