Do Pothos Like to Be Root Bound? Debunking the Myth

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Pothos, a popular trailing houseplant, is known for its adaptability and resilience. However, one common question among plant owners is whether or not Pothos prefers to be root-bound. In this article, we’ll explore the answer to this question and provide insights into how to care for your Pothos plant.

Understanding Pothos Plants

Pothos plants, also known as Epipremnum aureum, are popular indoor plants due to their low maintenance requirements and ability to adapt to various growing conditions. These plants have several varieties, all of which showcase vibrant foliage, making them an attractive addition to any living space.

Types of Pothos

There are several types of pothos plants, each with their own distinct characteristics. Some of the most common varieties include:

  • Golden Pothos: Known for its green leaves with yellow variegation.
  • Marble Queen Pothos: Features green leaves with white marbled patterns.
  • Jade Pothos: This variety has solid green leaves.
  • Neon Pothos: Bright, neon green leaves make this variety stand out.

Growth Habits

Pothos plants are known for their fast-growing, trailing vines that can reach impressive lengths. In nature, they are often found climbing trees, rocks, and other structures. Indoors, they can be trained to climb or allowed to trail along shelves and other surfaces.

Proper care, including adequate light, water, and nutrients, is essential for healthy growth. However, when it comes to potting, pothos plants generally do not like to be root bound. Although they can tolerate smaller pots to a certain extent, being pot-bound puts stress on the plant, leading to symptoms such as yellow leaves and leggy growth (Houseplant Authority).

To ensure optimal growth and overall health, it is important to periodically check for signs of a root-bound pothos and repot as needed. This will promote healthy root development, allowing the plant to absorb water, oxygen, and nutrients more efficiently (Simplify Plants).

Root Bound Phenomenon

The root bound phenomenon occurs when a plant’s roots grow extensively and become matted, tangled, and cramped within the confines of their container. This can lead to a range of issues for the plant’s overall health and growth.


Root bound plants often arise due to a number of factors. The primary cause is when a plant is left in a container that is too small for an extended period of time. As the plant grows, the roots require more room to spread out and access the necessary nutrients and water from the soil. A lack of proper aeration in the soil can also contribute to the development of root bound conditions, as compacted soil makes it difficult for roots to penetrate and grow freely. Additionally, inadequate drainage in the pot can exacerbate the issue, as it results in waterlogged conditions that impede root expansion.

Effects on Pothos

Being root bound can have detrimental effects on pothos plants. While they can tolerate some level of root confinement, they generally prefer room to grow and expand their roots. When a pothos becomes root bound, it suffers from slow growth and may develop more severe issues, such as yellowing leaves, drooping, and persistent wilting.

Furthermore, the matted and tangled roots make it challenging for the pothos to take in adequate amounts of water and nutrients, leading to stunted growth and overall decline in health. As the tightly coiled roots hold onto moisture longer, these plants also become more susceptible to rot and disease.

Signs of Root Bound Pothos

Root bound pothos display a variety of symptoms that hint at their condition. One notable sign is a slow growth rate, where a healthy plant would maintain steady development, a root-bound plant’s growth is hindered (Houseplant Authority). Another indication is the appearance of yellow leaves, which can occur due to insufficient moisture uptake, causing dehydration and curling (RootGroot).

Variegated pothos may exhibit faded variegation patterns with yellow and brown spots, and the leaves may be smaller in size. This is often brought about by a lack of nutrients reaching the leaves, as the crowded roots struggle to absorb enough from the soil (Nature of Home). Some key signs of root-bound pothos include:

  • Slow growth rate
  • Yellow leaves
  • Dehydrated and curling leaves
  • Faded variegation patterns
  • Small leaf sizes

A more severe sign of a root-bound pothos is when the roots start to spiral along the bottom and sides of the pot. This dysfunction can be the result of repeatedly watering a plant with limited soil or failing to repot it into a roomier pot as its roots expand. The spiraling roots not only restrict oxygen flow but can also cause further damage to the plant’s health (Plant Comfort).

Managing Root Bound Pothos

Pothos plants do not like to be root bound, as this can lead to stunted growth, drooping leaves, yellowing, and legginess, reducing their ability to absorb oxygen, water, and nutrients from the soil effectively.

Repotting Procedure

When dealing with a root bound Pothos, the best solution is to repot the plant into a larger container, ideally 2 to 3 inches larger than the previous pot. First, gently remove the plant from its existing container and examine the root ball. If you notice roots are tangled, carefully untangle and trim them before proceeding. Prepare fresh potting soil and place it in the new pot. Position the plant in the new container, ensuring the root ball is supported by the fresh soil. Fill the pot with additional soil, avoiding packing it too tightly, which could cause waterlogging and suffocate the roots. Water the repotted Pothos plant well to help it establish in its new environment.

When to Repot

Being proactive in repotting your Pothos is essential to prevent it from becoming root bound. Signs that it’s time to repot include roots growing from drainage holes, cracking or bulging containers, yellowing leaves, persistent wilting, and long drooping. Generally, Pothos plants should be repotted every 12 to 18 months, depending on their growth rate and the size of their existing container. It’s better to repot Pothos plants before they show signs of being root bound, as this will ensure healthy growth and prevent adverse effects on their overall health and appearance.

Preventive Measures

Preventing root-bound conditions in pothos plants is essential to maintain their growth and overall health. One crucial aspect is to ensure that the plant’s container is large enough for its roots to grow freely. Choosing the right pot size can significantly reduce the risk of root-bound issues in your pothos plant. Repotting your pothos every two years in a pot that is one size larger than the previous one can also help maintain its growth and prevent root-binding issues (Simplify Plants).

Another important preventive measure is proper watering techniques. Overwatering or underwatering can lead to root-bound problems as well. Monitoring the soil moisture level and providing appropriate watering for your pothos plant will help ensure healthy root growth and reduce the chances of root binding.

Regularly monitoring the health of your pothos plant allows you to identify any signs of root binding early and take appropriate action. Look for symptoms such as slower growth, droopy leaves, and a lack of oxygen and water supply to the plant. Early detection and intervention can prevent further complications and help maintain the overall health of your pothos (Simplify Plants).

Common Mistakes

One common mistake people make with pothos plants is not recognizing when they are root-bound. Although pothos can tolerate small pots better than many other indoor plants, they do not actually prefer to be root bound. This misconception can lead to unhealthy plants that struggle to thrive.

Another mistake is failing to repot or divide a root-bound pothos. There are two main ways to address this issue: repotting or dividing the plant. Simply repotting a pothos into a larger container with fresh soil can alleviate the problem, but if the plant is severely root-bound, it may be necessary to divide the plant into smaller sections, each with at least one healthy stem and some roots attached, as suggested by Nature of Home.

It’s also important to be gentle when removing a pothos from its pot. Tilt the pot and tap the bottom gently to ease the plant out without damaging its roots. Refrain from yanking or pulling the plant out forcefully, as this can cause unnecessary stress and damage to the root system.

When pruning and loosening the roots, avoid cutting too much or too aggressively, as this can further damage the plant. Instead, use a pair of shears and follow the shape of the root ball, as described by Gardenine. This more cautious approach ensures that the plant has the opportunity to recover and grow healthily after being repotted or divided.

Lastly, remember that pothos plants have a wide range of light, temperature, and humidity preferences, so make sure the new potting environment suits the needs of your specific pothos plant. AVOID assuming that all pothos plants require the exact same conditions to thrive.

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