Do Pothos Like to Be Root Bound? Signs & Solutions for Healthy Growth

Do pothos like to be root bound? No, they don’t!

Pothos, a beloved and easy-to-maintain houseplant, may occasionally encounter issues that could impede its growth and overall well-being.

In this post, I will discuss root-bound pothos, the causes, and how to identify rootbound. I’ll also provide solutions for this condition and tips to prevent it in the future.

Keep in mind though that while pothos doesn’t necessarily enjoy being root-bound, there are instances where it can be advantageous for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Root bound pothos is a condition caused by the growth of the plant’s roots outgrowing its pot, leading to various side effects, some desirable and some not.

  • Repotting or dividing root-bound plants is an effective solution for rootbound.

  • In some cases, having a root-bound pothos might be a desirable situation, as it can help manage the plant’s growth rate and size.

Understanding Root Bound Pothos

Close-up shot of the root of a root-bound pothos plant

A root bound pothos plant is a condition where the plant’s roots have become densely packed, making it challenging for them to absorb water and nutrients.

This can occur when the plant’s pothos roots outgrow the pot.

Do Some Plants Prefer Being Root Bound?

Interestingly, some plants do prefer being root bound, or at least, they exhibit certain behaviors that plant owners appreciate when they are in this condition.

Two such plants are the Zamioculcas and the Spider Plant.

Zamioculcas, or ZZ plant, in a pot

The Zamioculcas, or ZZ plant, is known to produce more foliage when it is slightly root bound in a smaller pot.

This is a survival mechanism for the plant, as it tries to maximize its growth within the limited space. The result is a denser, more lush appearance that many plant owners find appealing.

Spider plant, or Chlorophytum comosum, with spiderettes

Similarly, the Spider Plant, or Chlorophytum comosum, starts producing spiderettes (pups or plantlets) when it is slightly root-bound.

These spiderettes not only can be easily propagated, but they also add visual interest to the plant. This makes the Spider Plant a favorite among plant owners who enjoy growing new plants from their existing ones and appreciate aesthetically pleasing greenery.

Do Pothos Prefer Being Root Bound?

So, does the pothos behave in the same way when it is root bound?

The answer is no.

While pothos can tolerate being slightly root bound, they do not prefer it and certainly do not exhibit the same responses as the Zamioculcas or Spider Plant.

Extended root-bound conditions can actually have detrimental effects on the health and growth of root bound pothos plants. Therefore, it’s important to repot your pothos plant regularly to prevent it from becoming excessively root bound.

Identifying Root Bound Pothos: Key Signs

A pothos plant with visible roots protruding through drainage holes

Some of the key signs of a root bound pothos include:

  • Slowed growth

  • Roots protruding through drainage holes

  • Roots visible from the surface

  • Soil escaping through drainage holes

  • Pot showing signs of damage (cracks) or distortion

The pressure exerted on the interior walls of the pot due to the further growth of the roots can lead to expansion, and in some cases, may result in cracking or breaking of the pot.

Pothos roots protruding through drainage holes

If you observe any of these signs, it may be time to repot your pothos to provide more space for root growth and better access to nutrients.

To ascertain whether a pothos plant is root-bound, you can carefully remove the plant from the pot and inspect the roots.

If the roots are cramped and spiraling on the inside, it indicates that the plant is root-bound and needs to be repotted.

How to Fix Root Bound Pothos: Effective Solutions

A pothos plant with root bound

If left unaddressed, a root bound pothos can suffer from stunted growth and may eventually die.

Fixing root bound pothos involves either repotting or dividing the plant.

Both methods aim to provide more space for root growth and better access to nutrients and require a new pot, fresh potting soil, and water.

Let’s explore each solution in detail to help you choose the best approach for your root bound pothos and other root bound plants with their respective root system.

Repotting Root Bound Pothos

Most mature houseplants, including root bound pothos, benefit from repotting every 2-3 years.

Repotting a root bound pothos involves the following steps:

  1. Take out the plant from the pot by putting it upside down. The root ball should easily slide out of the pot.

  2. Loosen the roots by gently massaging the root ball.

  3. Discard the old soil and remove any damaged or diseased roots using clean, sharp scissors.

  4. Dust the cut places with cinnamon or charcoal to prevent root rot.

  5. Transfer the plant to a larger pot filled with fresh potting mix.

Make sure to never remove more than one-third of the roots when repotting to avoid shocking the plant and causing damage.

Breaking up the roots can be beneficial in promoting new growth, but it is important to be cautious to avoid causing any harm.

A repotted pothos plant requires sufficient watering to prevent root rot. Water the pothos lightly and maintain a moist soil environment after repotting.

The recovery time for root bound pothos varies depending on the severity of the condition and the conditions provided after treatment. With an ideal environment, recovery can take 6 to 7 days.

However, if root rot has occurred, it may take a few weeks to a month to recover completely.

Dividing Root Bound Pothos

Dividing root bound pothos involves separating the plant into smaller sections, each with roots, stem, and leaves, and repotting them individually.

Dividing a root-bound pothos requires a few tools: a clean, sharp knife or clippers, a rake (optional), a new planting container, a rooting medium or water, and a rooting hormone (optional).

To divide a root bound pothos, follow these steps:

  1. Take out the plant from the pot by putting it upside down.

  2. Use a sterile pair of clippers, scissors, or a sharp knife to cut through the root ball and separate it into smaller sections.

  3. Dust the cut places with cinnamon or charcoal to prevent root rot.

  4. Each section should have enough roots and leaves to survive.

  5. Plant each divided section in a separate pot with fresh soil.

  6. Water the newly divided plants thoroughly.

Finally, place the plants in a suitable location for growth, ensuring they receive adequate light and moisture, allowing their roots grow.

Choosing the Right Pot and Soil for Pothos

Selecting the appropriate pot and soil for pothos plays a key role in fostering healthy growth. Here are some tips to consider:

  1. The pot should be 0.5-1 inches (1-2 cm) larger than the current one.

  2. Do not take a pot that’s too big, as unused soil may start rotting, negatively impacting the pothos plant.

  3. The soil should have both moisture-retaining and well-draining capacities to prevent root rot and ensure the health of the roots.

A variety of pots and soil mixes are available on the market, such as those on Etsy and eBay.

I use this one:


It is designed specifically for pothos:


Root Bound Pothos: A Natural Growth Condition

Root bound is a natural condition that occurs as your pothos plant grows.

It’s an inevitable part of the plant’s life cycle and is not something that can be entirely prevented.

However, while it’s not possible to stop this condition from occurring, it is indeed possible to fix it.

Therefore, understanding the signs of a root-bound pothos and knowing how to address it is essential for maintaining the health and vitality of your plant.

When Root Bound Pothos Can Be Advantageous

A huge pothos plant cascading down

While it’s true that pothos plants don’t particularly enjoy being root-bound, there are certain situations where this condition can actually be beneficial for you as a caretaker.

For instance, if you have a large pothos plant that is growing at an accelerated pace, you might want to slow down its growth. Having a root-bound pothos plant can be one way to achieve this. When the roots of the pothos plant fill the pot, they have less room to grow, which can slow down the overall growth of the plant.

This can be particularly useful if you’re dealing with space constraints or simply prefer to maintain the current size of your pothos plant. However, it’s important to monitor the plant’s health closely, as prolonged root-bound conditions can lead to health issues.

Remember, this should be a temporary measure, and eventually, your pothos will need to be repotted to ensure its continued health and growth.


In conclusion, knowing the causes, signs, and solutions for root bound pothos is vital for its health. The right pot and soil, along with repotting and dividing, can help address these issues.

Follow these guidelines to help your pothos thrive.


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