Which House Plants Have Shallow Roots?

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I really, really hate repotting plants. It’s a pain. Especially when a plant is looking great in a certain plant, and then it outgrows it.

If you have a specific pot that you love, but it’s on the smaller size, you can always fill it with a plant that has naturally shallow roots so that it either will never need to be repotting (though you will need to recharge the soil at some point)

Succulents/cacti

I would have thought that succulents had deep roots, so that they could get any water deep in the ground but no. The reason for this is that they tend to live in very dry places where the water simply…isn’t there. They could grow long roots but there’s no guarantee that there’ll be water there, so they might just be wasting their time and energy.

cactus

Succulents are not a plant I’d recommend to beginners unless they have a tonne of good light, because I think there are more rewarding plants to grow. If you love succulents/cacti, then absolutely go aheaad and get them, but don’t get them just because you think they’re easy to care for.

They are easy to care for IF you have a LOT of really good light. Like, a LOT. A restaurant I used to work in has succulents in a south-facing window that gets incredible light but they’re still etiolating (stretching towards the sun) because the sun here in Yorkshire is weak. WEAK.

African violets

African violets are a great choice if you want to use small pots because not only do they grow much shallower roots than a lot of other house plants, but they like to be especially snug in the pot.

I don’t like to use the term rootbound, because that’s when they’re TOO snug, and I guess even an African violet can be too snug but don’t use a pot much bigger than the root ball of the plant.

If your African violet isn’t flowering, and you think you’re doing everything right in terms of watering and light, try putting it in a smaller pot. Some plants like to establish a solid foundation of roots before doing anything exciting like producing blooms.

String of hearts

You can grow extremely long, luscious strings of hearts from pretty tiny pots. Even if you chop and prop a lot so that you can have a fuller plant, the roots aren’t very deep.

They’re great to have on shallow shelves, or on a bookcase because they only need a small pot, but you can get a lot of plant out of that pot.

That made no sense.

You know what I mean,

Fittonia

Fittonia is once of the few water-loving plants that only establishes a narrow root system.

That being said, I found that when I grew my fittonia in a terrarium under grow lights, the leaves AND the roots grew a lot bigger. But if you grow it in a more traditional house plant setting they don’t tend to grow that quickly, or that large.

Hoya

Hoya grow epiphytically, so they start off with normal roots, but then as they grow, they climb trees, and use adventitious roots to climb and get nutrients and moisture from the air.

hoya krimson princess

You CAN grow hoya the normal way and up-pot them every time they get too big for their pot OR you can grow them on a piece of driftwood or something, and have them develop adventitious roots.

Adventitious roots are roots that grow out of a plant in a non-traditional, ground-root place, like an aerial root. Any root that isn’t in the ground is an adventitious root.

You might be thinking 'aren't they all aerial roots?'. Er, no. I thought that. But it turns out that there are other types of roots, including some that are specifically designed to strangle other plants.

Plants can be so mean!

Orchids

Er, pretty much the same as hoya, except on a larger scale. Orchid roots can be BIG.

This one is technically cheating, because it’s not like they can’t have a large root system because look at these:

orchid growing without any substrate

If you have an orchid in a pot that you like and it’s growing long roots, you can just take them out of the pot. They’ll grow FINE. Like hoya, they grow epiphytically in the wild, so growing with the roots outside of the pot is more natural to them. Also, orchid roots photosynthesise and so create energy for the plant, so they’re better off growing outside of the pot.

Final thoughts

This bit is secret and you’re not allowed to discuss it outside of the group. It’s like house plant fight club, except WAY more controversial.

If you want to keep your plant in a smaller pot you can trim the roots. I have an article on it. It’s not ideal, but it’s fine as long as you don’t go too wild.

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