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Do Calathea Like To Be Root Bound? (+When To Repot)

Calathea is a popular houseplant widely used to enhance the beauty of domestic and office interiors. It is a sensitive plant and requires proper care. Keeping your calathea in the same sized pot over the years can make it rootbound. 

Rootbound condition in houseplants is when the plant’s roots overgrow its pot, and this is caused due to small containers that allow no space for further growth.

So, it’s up to you to decide if you want to keep your calathea root bounded or repot them into a new pot. But before that let us learn if calathea likes to be root bound or not?

Calatheas don’t like being rootbound as it prevents nutrient absorption from the soil, leading to stunted growth and hampering the plant’s overall health. If your calathea is already root bound, you need to repot it in a larger container with fresh potting soil so that the plant keeps thriving.

This article will help you understand why calathea doesn’t like to remain rootbound and how you can save it from that situation.

Calathea root bound

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How do you know if Calathea is root bound?

A rootbound state in calathea can occur because of the wrong pot size.

Healthy plants tend to grow fast and often grow bigger than their pot. In the wild, they have unlimited space to expand, but they have minimal space in pots. This is the reason for houseplants becoming rootbound.

Identifying the exact reason is essential. Having proper knowledge about each stage of your root-bound plant will help to take the correct measures.

There are a few ways to know if you have a rootbound calathea.

Calatheas generally grow up to a height of 2 feet and then stop growing. In a pot smaller than the plant’s proportion, spreading and growing roots is impossible due to limited space. 

Limited space provides limited soil and nutrients, which leads to stunted growth. So, you should start by checking if the plant is growing properly.

Sometimes you will notice that while watering, chunks of soil is coming out. This is because overgrown roots break soil composition, and while watering, it runs out through the drainage holes. 

Less soil provides limited nutrition to the plant. Discoloration and wilted leaves are the most common issues due to a lack of nutrients.

Among all the signs, one is most prominent. You will notice that whenever you try to pull the soil, it feels way difficult than earlier. This is because the roots form a bundle inside the pot and start displacing the soil. 

Overgrown roots can even break the pot to accommodate the roots in it. 


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When should I repot my Calathea?

Calathea repotting in new pot

A healthy calathea grows at a medium rate or slightly slow. It grows up to a height of 2 feet. It has a delicate root system, and over-watering can cause root rot. 

Depending on its growth, an average calathea plant needs repotting every 1 year or 18 months.

Repotting a plant can be a bit challenging for newbies. Generally, spring is the best time to repot your houseplant. 

If you notice any of these mentioned signs, you must get ready to repot your calathea.

  • The growth rate of your calathea decreases. 
  • Roots peep through the drainage hole. 
  • The plant requires frequent watering than before. 
  • After taking the calathea out of its pot, you will notice tangled roots that hold the soil tightly. 
  • The roots of the plant try to break the pot to accommodate the overgrowth. 
  • The quantity of the soil gradually decreases.

All these are signs of a rootbound calathea.

There are different stages of rootbound calathea. In the first phase, the roots hold each other. You can easily fix this if you can identify it on time. Detangling the roots can help. 

In the second phase, the roots of the calathea wrap around each other near the root balls. Immediate repotting is the solution to save the plant.

Depending on its growth rate, moving the plant to a comparatively larger pot can stop the rootbound process. 

If you still ignore your rootbound calathea, you will notice the third and the final phase.

In the third phase, if the plant doesn’t receive immediate care, saving it might not be possible. In the last stage, roots start to form solid clusters and knots, pushing the pot to create space. 

These noticeable changes can indicate that the plant needs repotting. Repotting a plant requires proper soil mix and a comparatively larger container or pot. 

Before repotting your calathea, you should find out which soil and pot would be suitable for it. Let us help you! 

Best soil and pot for calathea

Calathea soil mix

Choosing the correct pot and soil is necessary to maintain the health of the plant. An oversized pot can cause root rot, and an undersized pot can lead to a rootbound plant. 

Using the correct-sized pot will ensure that the plant is growing properly in the given conditions. 

Following are the effects of an oversized pot:

OverwateringIf you have a bigger pot than the plant, you will need more soil to fill it. Some soil is very good at holding moisture and keeping the roots wet. The soil might dry out, but the roots will still be wet.

Root rot: This can cause severe damage to your plant. A large pot will hold more water and take longer to get it out of the system, leading to soggy soil, wet roots, and ultimately root rot.

Bacterial growth: Larger pots hold a large quantity of water, ideal for fungal and bacterial growth. Pest, fungus, and bacteria deteriorate the health of the plant. 

Now, let’s read some effects of using small containers or pots:

Soil reduction: Due to lack of space, the roots try to replace the soil. It compresses the soil and drains it through the drainage holes along with water. Inadequate soil leads to a lack of nutrition.

Dehydration: If the soil is reduced, the plant fails to receive enough water and moisture. Lack of water in the soil leads to dehydration. 

So, whenever you choose a pot for your calathea plant, keep in mind that the pot should be one size larger than the former one. 

It should also be 2″ larger than the size of the plant. A proper pot will help the plant recover from a rootbound state.

I always prefer earthen pots over plastic ones. Pots made from clay, ceramic, and terracotta will allow smooth airflow and water movement within the soil. 

Now let’s find out the ideal soil for your calathea. 

Different types of soil have different moisture-holding capacities. Calathea plants have small and delicate roots. They generally prefer moist soil, not soggy. Thus, try to choose a soil with higher moisture content.

Try a balanced mixture of organic potting soil, bark, charcoal, and perlite. 

Calathea hates to get dry, so try to keep the atmosphere around your plant moist.

Also read: What Kind Of Soil Is Best For Calathea? (Best Soil Mix For Calathea)

How to save a rootbound calathea plant?

You can save your rootbound calathea with the following methods.

  • Repotting the root-bound Calathea
  • Cutting off the extra roots
  • Splitting the plant 

Now, we will discuss the above methods in brief. 

Repot the rootbound Calathea

This method is the most effective one. Transferring the rootbound plant into a bigger pot will allow it to spread out its roots.

It will also provide the plant with ample nutrition from the fresh potting soil, which will gradually improve the plant’s health. 

Take your calathea plant out of its old pot. Then carefully detangle the roots and soil. Add a fresh mix of potting soil to the new pot and plant the Calathea carefully. If necessary, trim the damaged leaves and stem.



Cut off the extra roots from your Calathea

A rootbound plant grows extra roots which at the worst stage form bundles. Carefully trim the unwanted roots without damaging the primary roots.

If necessary, you can also trim the unwanted or damaged leaves. It will encourage the plant to produce new leaves rather than wasting energy on the damaged ones. 

It will also promote new root growth rather than pushing the old damaged ones.

Split the plant

Calathea propagation

Other than the two mentioned methods, you can split the plant in half or as required. Split it carefully so that the cells are not damaged.

Dividing the plant will help it to cure itself naturally. Rather than stressing on a whole plant, the separated plants will work on their respective halves. Take proper care of both halves. 

The methods mentioned above are the most convenient methods of saving your rootbound calathea plant. 

Final words

Calathea doesn’t like to be rootbound as it causes many side effects to the plant, such as reduced growth rate, lack of nutrients, dehydration, soil reduction, and many more. 

If you have a rootbound calathea, you should immediately replace its pot with a larger one. Always remember, while repotting, choose a pot that is one size larger than the previous one. Observe your plant and repot it whenever necessary. Repotting every 12-18 months is suggested. 

Repotting keeps the plant healthy in the long run and prevents not only a rootbound state but also root rot, dehydration, brown and crisp leaves, etc. 

If you notice any signs of a rootbound calathea, try to fix it as soon as possible to avoid any severe damage.


Source: NCBI, University of Florida, Wikipedia,  Growing Indoor Plants with SuccessAgriculture, and Natural Resources, University of CaliforniaMissouri Botanical Garden.