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Does Chinese Evergreen Like To Be Root Bound? (+Save Rootbound Plant)

Aglaonema or the Chinese evergreen is a compact houseplant loved for easy management requirements and beautiful foliage. But one thing that comes with houseplants is that they often get rootbound when they outgrow their pot. If you are wondering if your Chinese evergreen likes to be rootbound, you are at the right place.

Chinese evergreen likes to be slightly rootbound at times, but it doesn’t prefer remaining extremely rootbound, restraining the root growth. Keeping the Chinese evergreen slightly rootbound can encourage blooming, but keeping it rootbound for too long can lead to slow growth and weak plant.

You should repot the Chinese evergreen in a pot that is one size bigger than the previous one whenever you find it rootbound. However, it will not get rootbound too often as it grows slowly to moderate speed.

Now let’s understand how you can identify whether your Chinese evergreen is rootbound and how you can deal with that situation.


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Do Chinese evergreen plants like to be in small pots?

A Chinese evergreen plant might enjoy remaining in a small pot only for a short while when it’s blooming, but it will not enjoy this state for too long.

Chinese evergreen is a slow-medium growing plant, so it will not require repotting too often, but when it is ready for repotting, you can move it to one size bigger pot.

If you keep the Chinese evergreen in a small pot without repotting it for an extended period, its roots will fail to grow and function correctly. They will not have enough space or proper airflow.

These will weaken the plant, and you will not see much growth either.

Without enough space for growth, the roots will start displacing the soil inside the pot and form clusters. The soil content will reduce, and thus the roots will not absorb enough water or nutrients.

Even if you water or fertilize the plant well, it will flow out of the pot’s drainage holes as there will not be enough water or soil that can hold them. 

And since the roots will start forming clusters, they will not have proper air circulation, due to which the oxygen flow will reduce. This can lead to root rot.

All these situations can occur if you keep your Chinese evergreen in a small pot. So, whenever you notice any signs of a rootbound plant, you should repot it in a bigger pot instead of letting it remain in a small one.

If you don’t keep an eye on your Chinese evergreen and don’t notice the signs of a rootbound state early on, the plant will undergo severe damages.

How do I know if my Chinese evergreen is rootbound?

It can be slightly difficult for you to identify a rootbound Chinese evergreen, especially if you are a beginner, but I am here to help.

The easiest way to understand whether your Chinese evergreen is rootbound is by looking at the signs. You can always take the plant out, check its roots and find out, but that is a lot more time-consuming and tricky.

But once you notice the signs, you can take the plant out of the pot and examine the situation of the roots and soil. Now, let’s take a look at all the signs that can tell you if your Chinese evergreen is rootbound.

  • The roots will start forming a bundle.
  • The roots will start trailing out of the drainage holes.
  • The roots will displace the soil due to a lack of space.
  • The roots will start showing above the soil.
  • The pot will start expanding.
  • The pot will develop cracks due to internal pressure.
  • The plant will dehydrate.
  • The plant will weaken and stop growing.
  • The leaves will get discolored.

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Different stages of a rootbound Chinese evergreen

Chinese evergreen root bound

When a plant gets rootbound, it goes through different stages. We decide the stage based on the signs and conditions of the roots. Let’s learn about these stages.

First stage: The roots start wrapping around one another and get tangled. Since this is the initial stage, you get a lot of time to treat the situation before it goes out of hand.

You can fix your Chinese evergreen by just moving it to a bigger pot.

Second stage: The roots start forming a cluster around the root ball. It gets trickier to treat a plant at this stage, but you still have time to move it to a larger pot.

Third stage: The roots start screaming for space and displacing the soil. You can’t wait if you find your Chinese evergreen in this condition.

You need to repot the plant as soon as possible before it gets too late.

When should I repot my Chinese evergreen?

Chinese evergreen has a shallow root system, so it doesn’t grow fast. 

It can grow at a slow to a moderate rate depending upon the environmental conditions it is exposed to or the plant species.

In general, your Chinese evergreen will need repotting once in 2-3 years.

If the plant gets root-bound before that, consider repotting it. But if it takes longer to get rootbound, you should still consider repotting it. The new potting mix will provide more nutrients to the soil to boost its growth.

If your Chinese evergreen is in the initial stage of rootbound, you can wait to repot it during summer and spring as these are the growing season, and repotting during this time will help the plant recover faster.

What happens when your Chinese evergreen is planted in the wrong pot?

Chinese evergreen root bound

Neither a small pot nor a big one is ideal for your Chinese evergreen. 

You must keep the plant in a pot that is one size bigger than the plant, but if you choose a bigger one or avoid repotting it and keep it in a small one for too long, you’ll notice different issues.

If your Chinese evergreen is planted in a small pot, it will:

Become rootbound: You already know from this article that keeping your Chinese evergreen in a small pot will make it rootbound where the roots will not have enough space for growing or breathing.

Lack of soil in the pot: When the Chinese evergreen remains rootbound for long and doesn’t get enough space in the soil, it starts displacing the soil in search of space. Without enough soil, the plant doesn’t get enough nutrients or water.

Dehydration: In a small pot, the plant will get rootbound, and therefore, the roots will fail to perform their essential functions like carrying water and nutrients from the soil to the plant. This will lead to a dehydrated Chinese evergreen.

Stress: A small pot can make your Chinese evergreen stressed with all the above problems. The roots that hold the plant and send it nutrients from the soil will not function well inside a small pot, and naturally, the plant will become unhealthy and stressed.

But if you choose a big pot, your Chinese evergreen will undergo these:

Overwatering: A bigger pot will hold more soil that will require more water. Since the Chinese evergreen will not require as much water, the soil will get soggy, making the plant overwatered.

Root rot: An overwatered plant can have root rot if you miss the signs and don’t take action. The roots will remain wet and not get enough oxygen due to the excess water and start decaying.

Pest infestation: An overwatered Chinese evergreen with root rot will attract pests. They will make the plant weaker by feeding on it.

Fungal infections: A bigger pot that holds too much water and makes the soil overwatered will also lead to fungal infections. You might notice mold on the soil and other fungal diseases.

Therefore, you should never go for a very large or too small pot and select a 2″ larger pot than the current one for your Chinese evergreen.

Here are three things you should keep in mind while selecting the correct pot for your Chinese evergreen.

  • Choose a pot that is only 1-2″ bigger than the old one.
  • The pot should have drainage holes.
  • Choose the material wisely. A clay or terracotta pot will allow more airflow in the soil, while a plastic pot will be lighter and easier to lift and handle.

How to save a rootbound Chinese evergreen?

You can save a Chinese evergreen from the rootbound condition by using any of these three methods.

  • Prune the roots and some foliage and repot it in the same pot.
  • Repotting the plant in a bigger pot
  • Propagating the plant

Let’s discuss these in detail.



Prune the Chinese evergreen

If you don’t want a big plant and want to keep your Chinese evergreen compact, you can opt for this method.

You need to get a pair of sterilized scissors or pruners and prune the excess roots that have grown long or that are extra. Don’t harm the healthy roots in the process.

After pruning the roots, you must also prune some foliage to reduce stress and ensure that the foliage is not more than the roots.

After this, you can repot the Chinese evergreen in the same pot. However, you can use fresh potting mix while doing this.

Repot the plant

Chinese evergreen repotting

Repotting is the ideal solution for treating a rootbound plant. Since the rootbound state indicates that the roots don’t have enough space for growth, repotting in a big pot will ensure that the roots can grow again.

You must get a pot that is 2″ bigger than the current one and prepare a fresh potting mix that will be suitable for your Chinese evergreen.

You can prepare a simple potting mix by adding 3 parts regular potting soil with 1 part perlite. Add some potting mix into the pot and place the plant in the middle of the pot.

Hold the plant upright and add soil from all sides. Tap the pot to allow the soil to settle down.

Water your Chinese evergreen after repotting it to ensure that the soil sits appropriately. It will also reduce the repotting stress.

Also read: What Kind Of Soil Does A Chinese Evergreen Need? (+Best Soil Mix)

Propagate the plant

Another way to deal with a rootbound Chinese evergreen is to propagate the plant by dividing it into two or more plants. The best time for doing this is in spring.

If you have a mature Chinese evergreen plant that has become rootbound, you can take a clump of roots and divide it from the main plant.

You can repot the new plant in a new pot with fresh soil mix and give it enough light, water, and all its other requirements and watch it grow.

While pruning the plant, you can even propagate the healthy stems instead of throwing them away.

Final words

Chinese evergreen is a beautiful foliage tropical plant that can thrive with little care. But, if the plant becomes root-bound, you must take action to fix it.

A rootbound plant will have issues when the roots lack space for growing and functioning.

You can either prune the extra roots, repot the plant in a bigger pot, or divide and propagate it. Since a Chinese evergreen takes time to get rootbound, it will require repotting once in 3-4 years.

Be aware and watch out for the signs of a rootbound plant, and if you notice any sign, act fast before it gets too late.


Reference: WikipediaNasa clean air studyMissouri Botanical GardenThe University of KansasNC State University.