Do Alocasia Plants Like to Be Root Bound?
Being root bound may sound like something terrible to happen to a plant but it’s in fact something normal for many houseplants.
Despite being grown in pots, houseplants will develop intricate root systems, which may become too large for the pot they’re currently growing in.
When this happens, we say the plant is root bound. The solution to this is to transfer the plant to a larger pot.
But how soon should you transfer a root bound Alocasia plant and how long can you leave it in its root bound state?
Turns out there’s a sweet spot for Alocasia plants in which they can enjoy being root bound.
However, after a certain point, repotting becomes essential.
Below, I will explain when and how to repot a root bound Alocasia plant.
What is Root Bound?
When we talk about a houseplant being root bound, we refer to its roots running out of space to grow and becoming tangled and entwined.
The roots that have grown too large will end up holding on to the soil and in more advanced stages, pushing up to the soil surface.
Any houseplant with a large enough root system can become pot bound and the symptoms of being root bound are always the same – roots poking out or popping up somewhere where they shouldn’t be.
Is it Good for Alocasia Plants to be Root Bound?
Yes, to a certain degree it’s good for Alocasia plants to become root bound.
There are several advantages to being slightly root bound. Here are the most notable ones:
- Roots have a better grip on the soil, which aids the plant in growing upright.
- Root bound plants are less likely to suffer when overwatered; the potting media dries faster.
- Water easily reaches all parts of the roots, allowing for better water absorption.
These advantages however extend only to slightly root bound Alocasia plants.
Those that are severely root bound have a hard time growing and developing normally.
When the soil in the pot is displaced and the roots are all twisted and tangled over themselves and even poking out of the pot, the plant will start to struggle with water absorption, nutrient uptake and delivery.
You might even notice that your plant will stop growing. Eventually, the plant will become weak.
How Do You Know When Alocasia Plant is Root Bound?
When your Alocasia is only slightly root bound, you won’t see any visible signs only if you take the plant out of its pot to examine its roots.
Severe cases, however, are unmistakable. Here are the symptoms of a root bound Alocasia plant:
- Roots poking out from drainage holes.
- Roots displacing the potting mix and becoming visible at the surface of the pot.
- Roots growing twisted on themselves.
- Stunted growth and a weakened plant.
So, even if you would not be familiar with the concept of plants becoming root bound, you’d still notice these symptoms, and you’d still make the judgement call to move the plant to a bigger pot.
But there’s a good time and a bad time to be repotting Alocasia plants.
Below, I will explain when and how to repot your root bound Alocasia plant.
When Should You Repot Alocasia Plant?
Being root bound is one of the reasons why you should repot your Alocasia plant. It’s not the only reason to repot, however.
Here are some other cases in which repotting is also recommended:
- A couple of years (2-3 years) have passed since the last repotting and the potting mix needs refreshing.
- You’ve been overwatering your Alocasia and now it has root rot.
- You’ve been over-fertilizing your Alocasia and simply flushing the soil with water isn’t helpful.
- When the current pot is damaged.
As you can see, outgrowing the pot or becoming root bound aren’t the only reasons why you may need to transfer an Alocasia to a different pot.
Regardless of the cause of repotting, there are a few things you must know about when to repot an Alocasia plant.
I recommend repotting Alocasia plants only in spring or summer. The plant does most of its growing in spring and summer. Its metabolism is at its peak during these times.
Because of this, repotting is a lot less shocking to the plant if it’s carried out when the plant is in its growth stage. During the growth period, an Alocasia is a lot more resilient.
Transplant shock can arise if you don’t handle the plant with care, if the plant is damaged during repotting, or if it’s kept too long out of the potting mix.
Most often, a plant that undergoes transplant shock will lose its foliage. Therefore, it’s important to move quickly with minimal stress to the plant.
It’s also crucial to schedule repotting to spring or summer. Since the plant is entering its dormancy in autumn and winter, it’s best not to disturb it.
Of course, there are situations when you might need to repot your Alocasia in autumn or winter. This is usually when the plant is affected by root rot and repotting might be the only thing to help it recover.
Even so, try to manage the watering needs of your Alocasia plant to prevent root rot issues. Watering the plant only when the top layer of potting mix feels dry and making sure you use a well-draining potting mix are crucial to ensuring optimal watering.
Repotting a Root Bound Alocasia Plant
If it has become clear to you that you need to repot your Alocasia plant, it helps to have a step-by-step guide to walk you through the whole process:
Step 1: Finding a new pot
One of the first aspects to consider is the material of the pot. Plastic is usually the go-to choice for houseplants but it’s not ideal for plants that are sensitive to overwatering.
While plastic is cheap and widely accessible, terracotta pots are a much better option. Although they might break or chip more easily if dropped, they allow for better moisture absorption. That is, if they’re not glazed on the inside.
A terracotta pot will help mitigate some of the effects of overwatering by helping the soil to dry faster. They’re also heavier and can support the weight of a larger Alocasia much better.
Besides the material of the pot, another thing you need to focus on is the size of the pot. Naturally, you will need a larger pot than the current one. But just how much larger?
You’d think the larger the pot, the better. But that assumption is wrong. The larger the pot, the more potting mix and water you need.
In a pot that’s too big, the potting mix will take much longer to dry. This increases the risk of root rot.
To avoid this issue, I recommend going only one size up. Find a pot that’s only around 2 inches larger in diameter than the previous pot. If it still seems too small, you can go up another size, but never more than that.
Step 2: Using a suitable potting mix
Now that you have the right pot, you can go ahead and choose a potting mix that will meet the requirements of Alocasia plants – well-draining, fertile, optimal moisture retention, and well-aerated.
If you don’t know which potting mix meets these demands, you can look for tropical plant mixes, or mixes for aroid plants.
You can even create your one mix by using one part peat moss, one part perlite and one part coarse sand.
Alternatively, you can substitute coarse sand for orchid bark or coconut coir or even vermiculite. Adding a bit of compost will also help with soil structure and drainage.
Any commercially available potting mix formulated with these substrates will work great for your Alocasia plant as well.
Choosing the right potting mix can prevent many problems associated with poor drainage, extending the lifespan of your Alocasia plant.
Step 3: Removing the plant from its pot
Once you have the right potting mix, you can go ahead and remove the plant from its current pot. Depending on how severely pot bound the plant is, you may have a hard time dislocating it from the pot.
When I know I have to repot one of my plants, I usually water it a day or two before and that seems to make it easier to take it out of the pot.
If the Alocasia is in a plastic pot, simply squeeze the sides of the pot a bit and then turn it on the side to take the plant out. Don’t tug too hard or you risk damaging the stalks or roots.
When the roots simply don’t seem to release from the pot, I might end up just breaking or cutting the pot, especially if I don’t plan on reusing it after.
Step 4: Cleaning up the roots
Take this time to inspect the roots and check for any soft segments or rotten parts. You want to cut these down and keep only the healthy, strong parts.
Roots that are too long or very thin can also be removed. You should try to trim these and loosen the root ball a bit.
If your Alocasia is larger, you can even divide up the roots and create new Alocasia plants that you can plant separately.
Step 5: Placing the plant in a new pot
After you’ve cleaned and trimmed the roots, place some potting mix in the new pot. Fill the pot about half way up. Place the Alocasia in the pot and then add some more potting mix.
Gently tap the soil around the roots and add more soil if needed. Water thoroughly. Then allow the top layers of potting mix to dry before you water next.
I generally recommend that you move as fast as possible with the transfer to inflict as little stress on the plant as possible. Even when transplanting in spring or summer, transplant shock is still possible.
You want to move fast, with as little damage to the plant as possible.
So, there you have it – 5 easy steps to repot your Alocasia plant. Regardless of your reason for repotting, make sure to follow my recommendation on the timing, type and size of pot, and the type of potting mix.
Don’t hesitate to repot an Alocasia even if it hasn’t outgrown its pot but its potting mix hasn’t been replaced in 2-3 years. Your Alocasia will benefit from having its potting mix refreshed.