Do Arrowhead Plants Like to Be Root Bound?
With time, as the root system of arrowhead plants develop, they will eventually end up becoming root bound.
When this happens, it’s usually time to transfer a plant to a bigger pot, so that the roots don’t become too crowded in the pot.
You may have heard, however, that arrowhead plants like to be root bound. While it is true that arrowhead vines don’t mind being a bit root bound, there are some downsides to not repotting your arrowhead plant in time.
I will explain what it means for a plant to become root bound, whether that’s good or bad for your arrowhead, and when you should transfer an arrowhead plant to a bigger pot.
What is Root Bound?
Healthy arrowhead vines have thick roots that need space to grow as the plant matures. At some point, roots will run out of space to grow and will become entwined with the soil.
If you were to take the arrowhead plant out of its pot, you would see how the roots basically hold the soil together.
This happens with almost every plant grown in a pot, and it isn’t specific to arrowhead vines.
The reason why some plants enjoy being slightly root bound has a lot to do with water absorption and protection against overwatering.
Below, I’ll explain why arrowheads enjoy being slightly root bound and how soon after becoming rootbound should you repot your arrowhead vine.
Is It Good for Arrowhead Plants to Be Root Bound?
Yes, being slightly rootbound can be beneficial to arrowhead plants. There are several advantages to being root bound including:
- Better water absorption: Water easily reaches all parts of the roots, allowing them to absorb nutrients.
- Protection against overwatering: With the pot being just the right size, there risk of the potting media taking too long to dry or to hold water is low.
- Better hold on the soil allows the plant more strength to grow upright: A slightly rootbound arrowhead has an easier time growing upright if it has a better grasp on the soil.
It’s important to note that these benefits of being rootbound don’t extend to severe cases.
You’ll even notice that an arrowhead plant that has visibly outgrown its pot will start being poorly if you don’t transfer it to a bigger pot.
With the root system of the arrowhead plant expanding, the soil in the pot gets displaced. The roots take hold of the remaining soil and grow twisted around each other.
As long as the roots are not poking out of the pot and the roots aren’t in a tangled mess, you can get away with keeping your arrowhead in the same pot.
As I will discuss further down in this article, there’s a turning point where being root bound is no longer good for your arrowhead vine and you must repot it as soon as possible.
How Do You Know When Arrowhead Plant is Root Bound?
Even if you’re not familiar with how plants behave when they’re severely rootbound, I still think you’ll notice that something is off with your plant, and your instinct will be to transfer the plant to a bigger pot. And you’d be right listening to that instinct.
Here are the signs of an arrowhead plant being rootbound:
- Roots becoming visible at the surface level of the potting mix
- Roots poking out of the pot’s drainage holes
- Stunted growth
- Weakened plant
- Roots growing in a circular motion around the root ball
When roots show up over the surface of the potting mix or poke out of the drainage holes, it means that the roots no longer have enough space to grow.
By then they will have displaced a lot of the potting mix, and they’re putting pressure on the pot. At this point, your arrowhead plant is no longer comfy in its current pot and needs a new pot, where its roots can be accommodated better.
You can even check to see the extent to which your arrowhead plant is rootbound by taking it out of the pot.
Make sure the soil is dried enough after watering and then tap the pot to disengage the roots or give the pot a gentle squeeze if it’s a plastic pot.
If the plant is so severely rootbound that you have a hard time getting it out of the pot, you may even need to break the pot or cut it to release the plant.
Once you manage to get the plant out of the pot, you can inspect the roots. If roots have grown in a circular motion around the pot and cannot be untangled, it means the plant is severely root bound.
You should make arrangements to find a larger pot to transfer your arrowhead plant.
When Should You Repot Arrowhead Plant?
It’s clear by now that the signs indicating that your arrowhead plant is rootbound are also a signal that you need to repot your arrowhead vine.
The best time to repot an arrowhead pot is in spring. The second best time is in summer. With repotting, there’s a risk of damaging the roots, the stem or the leaves. That’s why it’s important to schedule repotting accordingly.
Transplant shock caused by the potential injury to the plant, or simply because the plant spends too much time taken out of the pot, can become a problem.
If repotting isn’t carried out at the right time or it’s carried out with too much disturbance to the plant, the plant can lose its foliage or – less often – it can even die.
Arrowhead plants do most of their growing in spring and summer. It’s when the plant’s metabolism is at its best, so repotting will not affect the plant as much, since it can quickly bounce back from being inconvenienced.
During the growing stage, the arrowhead plant puts out new growths with more ease and recovers better from diseases or other problems.
I can think of a single exception to repotting arrowhead plants in spring or summer – when the plant is on the verge of dying because it was overwatered.
If you’ve overwatered an arrowhead plant, allowing the soil to completely go dry may take too long; or if the rotting is in its advanced stages, you may need to quickly repot the plant in a fresh batch of potting mix to prevent further decay and plant death.
If this happens in autumn or even winter, the risks for the plant through a transplant shock are higher than in spring or summer. Transplant shock is a lesser evil compared to root rot.
Repotting a Root Bound Arrowhead Plant
If you’ve come to the decision to repot your rootbound arrowhead plant, the following step-by-step guide will help you to efficiently transfer your arrowhead to a larger pot:
Step 1: Choosing the new pot
When going for a bigger pot, choose one that’s a size bigger than the current pot. Usually, a size bigger is around 2 inches larger in diameter.
I don’t recommend choosing a pot that’s much bigger than the current one. If you think that a size bigger is not going to be enough, you can go up another size, but not more.
The risk with choosing a pot that’s too big is that the potting mix might take too long to dry or that water won’t reach all parts of the roots uniformly. Neither scenario is good for your arrowhead plant.
If you’ve been using a plastic pot, I recommend switching to a terracotta pot, which is more robust and can hold the weight of the plant better, but it also helps absorb excess moisture.
Step 2: Preparing the potting mix
Don’t reuse the old potting mix. You need to use a fresh batch. Use a mix for aroid plants or create your own potting mix by combining one part potting soil, one part perlite or pumice and one part peat or coco coir.
The potting mix should be well-draining, aerated and should hold on to just a bit of moisture without becoming saturated with water.
Step 3: Removing the arrowhead plant from its pot
Gently remove the arrowhead from the pot. It helps to water the plant and wait for the soil to dry a bit before you remove it from its pot.
Work gently, without tugging too hard. You don’t want to damage the stems or break off roots. Some roots may still break but try to minimize the force you’re using on the plant.
In the worst case, if you can’t remove the plant from the pot because the roots are trapped inside the pot, just break the pot or cut the plastic pot to remove the plant.
Step 4: Inspecting the roots
After removing the arrowhead plant from the pot, inspect the roots. Remove any overly long and thin roots. Likewise, remove damaged, rotted or otherwise diseased roots.
Try to detangle the roots a bit so they don’t all sit curled up in a ball. Work gently with minimal damage to the roots. The aim is to loosen them up a bit.
At this point, you can even divide the plant to create two or multiple separate arrowhead plants that you can each plant in a separate pot.
Step 5: Placing the arrowhead plant in the new pot
Fill the new pot(s) halfway up with potting mix then place the arrowhead inside the pot. Place some more potting mix into the pot to cover the roots. Tap the soil gently and add potting mix as needed. When this is all done, water thoroughly.
Even if your arrowhead plant isn’t root bound, I recommend changing the potting mix every 3 years or so. Make sure to clean the pot thoroughly and add a fresh batch of potting mix.
I also recommend doing Step 4 – inspecting and trimming the roots – even if you’re just changing the potting mix.
To sum up, arrowhead plants do enjoy being rootbound but only to a certain degree. If the plant is left in the same pot for too long after becoming rootbound, the disadvantages will far outweigh any initial advantage of being rootbound.
Once the signs of being rootbound become visible (e.g., roots appearing at the surface or drain holes), you need to transfer the arrowhead plant to a larger pot.