Monsteras are a delight to have and grow faster than any other houseplant. If you don’t realize that and act upon it, you may end up with a root-bound Monstera.
These beautiful tropical plants become root bound when they outgrow their pot. That’s their way of telling you they need to move to a larger container.
In this article, you’ll learn more about your Monstera plant. Additionally, you’ll know the signs of a root-bound Monstera and when you must repot it.
With the healthy growing conditions available, Monsteras can grow up to two feet per year. If you do the math, this means about half an inch per week, which is relatively fast.
Obviously, it’s not just the leaves that grow bigger, but the roots also grow longer. Unlike the leaves, roots get restrained by the size of the pot they’re inside.
So, the plant becomes root bound when its roots grow too large to fit into the pot.
Some people are first-time Monstera owners and just aren’t familiar with the plant’s repotting needs and schedule. Luckily, a few telltales can indicate a root-bound Monstera.
These signs may imply other issues. However, it’s vital to consider root-bound problems, especially when all the other fixes don’t work.
So, if you notice one or more of these indicators, you should address the issue immediately.
Take a look at some of the most common root-bound Monstera signs.
- Roots are growing out through the drainage holes or sticking out of the soil’s surface
- Leaves are yellowing and becoming droopy (ruling out all the other reasons for that)
- The plant showing signs of dehydration or needs watering more frequently than before
- Water seems to flow right through the pot instantly after watering
- Soil dries up quickly
- Slower growth rate and unhealthy overall look
- Pot starts to warp, change shape, crack, or break down due to internal pressure
Some people claim that Monsteras like being root-bound, but is it true?
Sadly, it’s not true. These gorgeous plants don’t like to be root bound, as it can affect their growth rate and health.
In fact, you shouldn’t leave your houseplant of any kind in a small pot for long. That’s because doing this deprives the plant of the oxygen, nutrients, and space it needs to grow.
Root-bound Monsteras suffer from severe problems as a result of not getting enough nutrients. That’s because plants get most of the essential elements through their roots.
So, when the roots on a Monstera suffer, the plant itself suffers too. As a result of outgrowing the container, Monstera roots may face serious issues, such as:
- Displacing much of the soil and becoming unable to absorb water and nutrients
- Becoming tangled and forming a complex root ball
- Finding nowhere to expand and starting to become damaged
- Putting pressure on the inside of the pot, which may cause it to break down
If you notice any of the mentioned signs of root-bound issues, you need to further inspect your plant.
You can simply check if your Monstera is root bound or not by following these steps:
- Lay the plant’s container on its side
- Support the plant with one hand gently to avoid any damage
- Try to loosen the soil either by squeezing the pot if it’s flexible or sticking a ruler around the edges
- Avoid squeezing or tugging on the Monstera’s stem, as this may cause more harm than you think
- Let gravity do its magic and slide out the soil
- Pull the Monstera out once loosened (note that you may have to break the container if the plant gets stuck inside)
- Carefully examine the roots of the plant to verify if it’s root bound
Once you free the plant from its container, it’s time to look closely at the roots. A root-bound Monstera would have tangled roots in the form of a lump taking the shape of its pot.
If you can’t see much of the soil from between the roots, your Monstera is definitely root-bound.
A healthy plant should have a white root ball with a good amount of loose soil around it. If you don’t see that, then there’s an issue you need to address.
Basically, there are three stages of root-bound Monsteras. Depending on how bad the issue is, you may need to decide whether to repot your Monstera.
The three stages of Monsters root bound severity are:
- Slightly Root Bound: The roots are just beginning to wrap around the root ball
- Root Bound: The roots are starting to mat around the root ball
- Severely Root Bound: The roots are forming a mat around the root ball that’s too solid to allow you to see the soil
Fortunately, root-bound Monstera is a fixable issue. So, once you confirm your plant is root bound, you have two options.
- Repotting (transferring your Monstera to a larger pot)
- Splitting (dividing your Monstera over more than one pot)
Before diving into the details of fixing your root-bound Monstera, you need to consider the toxicity levels of this plant.
As listed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Monsteras are toxic to humans and pets.
That’s because they produce calcium oxalate, which is a harmful substance.
You might recognize this substance as clear or slightly whitish sap produced by the plant. Ingesting this chemical compound may make you sick.
Furthermore, it can cause irritations or trigger an allergic reaction when it contacts the skin.
So, to be safe and minimize the risks of handling Monsteras, you should protect yourself by doing the following:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching your Monstera plant
- Wear gloves when handling your Monstera
- Avoid touching your face so as not to accidentally get this sap into your eyes or mouth
If your Monstera isn’t severely root-bound, you may choose to leave it in its current container. Although it may forgive you for a while, there comes a point when you’ll have to repot it.
Therefore, experts recommend transferring your Monstera to a larger pot, even if it’s slightly root bound. That’s to skip the hassle of dealing with other side effects and not to stress your plant.
Not only does repotting give your Monstera extra space to grow, but it also allows room for more fresh soil. In turn, your Monstera will have more nutrients to keep it healthy.
So, don’t wait for your Monstera to become root-bound before repotting it. Instead, check and identify early signs to maintain a healthy plant.
Here are the correct steps to repot your Monstera without damaging the plant.
- Move the plant to the sink or work area
- Remove the plant from its current container
- Scrape off the soil from around the root ball
- Loosen up some roots so that they don’t continue to grow in the same pattern
- Trim any damaged parts of the roots
- Bring the new pot and fill it with fresh potting mix up to one third
- Place your Monstera into the new pot (the top of the root ball should sit a few inches below the top of the new container)
- Refill the edges around the root ball with fresh soil while supporting the plant with one hand
- Make sure not to bury the plant too deep into the soil
- Add a support stake for your Monstera to climb onto
When repotting your Monstera, you shouldn’t consider going any more than one size larger.
For example, if your Monstera is in a four-inch pot, you should transfer it into a six-inch pot, and so forth.
The size of the container is quite critical to any kind of plant. If you go larger than needed, the excess volume of the soil may take a long time to dry out after watering.
This, in turn, may cause the roots of your Monstera to rot, alongside several other issues. That’s why Monsteras require multiple repotting throughout their life.
When your Monstera is still young, it needs regular repotting (preferably once every year or two). This encourages its growth, freshens the soil, and provides it with more nutrients.
Once you reach pot size with a diameter larger than eight inches, topping the soil with a couple of inches of fresh potting mix should suffice.
Theoretically, you can repot your Monstera any time of the year. However, for ideal conditions, experts recommend doing so in spring or early summer.
That’s because, around this time, Monsteras go through a kind of growth spurt. This happens right after coming out from the dormant state during the winter.
Splitting a Monstera plant is the perfect solution, especially for those who don’t have enough space for a larger pot.
Once you take the necessary precautions, the process of splitting your Monstera should be quick and easy. Here’s what to do.
- Water your Monstera thoroughly
- Allow a day or two after watering for the soil and roots to loosen up
- Take the Monstera out of its container
- Use a sterilized knife (or clippers) to split the stems and roots of the plant
- Follow the parts where the plant divides naturally
- Make sure each part has enough roots and leaves to continue growing at a healthy rate
- Prepare the needed number of new containers filled with fresh potting mix
- Dip the divided parts of Monstera into rooting hormones (this is an optional step)
- Pot the plants into their new containers and fill the empty areas with the potting mix
- Water your freshly potted Monsteras thoroughly
A root-bound Monstera can go unnoticed for quite some time. However, you may suddenly discover yellowish droopy leaves on your beloved houseplant.
Fortunately, you can save your Monstera by transferring it into a larger pot or splitting it up.
Either way, make sure to choose the right container and the right time to repot your Monstera. This way you get to enjoy a healthy-looking houseplant for more years to come.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.