How to Tell If Your Monstera Is Rootbound

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Monstera like to be snug in their pot, but if they’re too rootbound, it can cause issues.

Don’t repot your Monstera unless you’re sure it needs it, because you can inhibit leaf growth.

Now, this isn't something you need to actually worry about - you're unlikely to kill your Monstera by putting it in too big of a pot unless you're also overwatering

Do remember that Monstera will grow roots rather than leaves if they're feeling a little...insecure in the pot. 
monstera deliciosa with big leaves

I don’t think it really matters when you repot houseplants, but I tend to repot Monstera at the end of the season so they can spend winter growing roots and be ready to go with leaves next year.

However, there does come a time when it’s time to do something about a rootbound Monstera. There are a few different ways to tell if a Monstera is rootbound.

I leave them alone until the last possible minute because I don't want to encourage root growth. 

I have a small house and a lot of plants. I can't waste a lot of space on a Monstera with an obnoxiously large root system. 

They don't even need it - they're just greedy.

If you’re new to Monstera, read this guide first. I packed everything I knew into one article and keep it under 3000 words.

There are more roots than soil

I don’t mean that you can see the roots when you take the plant out of the pot – I mean that you literally can’t see any soil any more. If it looks like this:

monstera roots

It doesn’t need repotting.

In this particular case, I just rearranged the roots so that they were higher in the pot. this particular specimen is already a slow grower, so I don’t like to disturb the roots more than necessary.

There are times, particularly, for some reason, with Monstera bought from supermarkets, when they’re INCREDIBLY rootbound and there’s no soil left at all.

The water drains straight through

If a plant is rootbound, then there isn’t going to be much soil left in the pot to retain water. Roots do absorb water, but they need a bit of contact time.

One of the first signs that a plant is rootbound is that the plant isn't absorbing any water. 

The easiest way to check is to measure out, say, 250ml of water and measure what falls out of the bottom. 

If most of it trickles out of the drainage holes, it's time to check the roots.

There are other reasons that the water isn’t being absorbed by the soil. Hydrophobic soil doesn’t absorb much water, so you may need to adjust your soil rather than repot your plant.

It needs watering every couple of days

Another sign that your Monstera might be rootbound is that it needs watering much more frequently than usual.

This happens because the roots displace soil in the pot and less water can be retained.

Again, just because your Monstera needs watering way more frequently than normal doesn't automatically mean that it's rootbound. 

There are many factors that influence how often a plant needs watering, such as temperature, humidity, speed of growth etc.

There are roots coming out of the bottom of the pot

Again, I’m afraid this isn’t necessarily conclusive proof that your Monstera is rootbound and needs repotting.

Remember the picture of the rootbound at the beginning of this article? These roots are what prompted me to check whether it needed repotting:

Just because roots are coming out of the bottom of the pot doesn’t mean it’s time for a repot.

Roots grow towards water, and the majority of the water in your soil will be concentrated towards the bottom of the pot, because…er, gravity.

Other factors like bottom watering can also cause the roots to grow straight down vertically and out of the bottom of the pot, rather than neatly winding around the soil.

You might also see roots coming out of the top of the pot. Again, not a sure sign it needs repotting – it can just be an errant aerial root that was poked into the soil and didn’t like the dark.

can it sense the pole??

There’s no new growth

There are a tonne of reasons why your Monstera might not be growing, and it could be that it’s rootbound, but it would have to be SUPER rootbound to inhibit growth.

Check the roots, and if you can’t see soil, repot. If it looks fine, then there’s some other reason your Monstera isn’t growing.

What to do with a rootbound Monstera

You might think that this is obvious – if a Monstera is rootbound, it’s time to repot. Buuut Monsteras are big plants and what if it’s in a pot that you like? What if you don’t have space for a bigger pot?

If you’re happy to put your Monstera in a bigger pot with some more soil then go ahead. Don’t increase the pot size too much because it can delay new growth for months.

So what other options are there?

Trim the roots

It seems brutal, but trimming the roots won’t damage the plant as long as you only take off a third or less of them.

The plant will only be able to support so many leaves, so you may only see new growth when old leaves die, but it’s a great solution for people who have a Monstera that’s a good size but don’t want it to get any bigger.

Leave it

You don’t need to repot the plant as long as you give the roots ample water and nutrition. Give the rootball a good soak every week in summer and every fortnight in winter and add hydroponic fertiliser in summer (or whenever it’s growing) every other time you soak it.

It can be a pain, but if you don’t have many plants/don’t mind the hassle, it’s a good way to keep the plant in the same pot without having to trim the roots.

You still may have to trim them if the roots continue to grow a lot because they get wobbly when there are roots coming out of the bottom of the pot.

moss pole

Give it a moss pole

I mean a proper moss pole here, filled with sphagnum moss that you have to water, not a coir pole.

I don’t like moss poles because I’m too lazy to water them, plus I tend to support my Monstera by planting their aerial roots.

However, by adding a moss pole, the aerial roots can grow into the moss and form another root system.

The roots in the pot will continue to grow (though perhaps less quickly) BUTyou can chop them off safe in the knowledge that there's a whole other root system that your Monstera doesn't need*, but can fall back on.
*Monstera do grow aerial root systems in the wild, but they're not as efficient as underground roots for absorbing moisture and nutrients. 

When aerial roots grow into moss, they turn into subterranean roots, and are very efficient at absorbing water and nutrients. 

For the best results, water your moss pole with nutrient water.

Final thoughts

Like all things to do with houseplants, there are only a couple of symptoms for a billion issues, so check all your fundamentals first, like light, humidity, and whether your Monstera has healthy roots.

Whilst a rootbound Monstera can decline in health, it’s not usually much of an issue.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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