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Indoor Gardening and Houseplants: Myth: This Plant Likes/Prefers to be Root-bound

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tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

October 24, 2009
4:18 PM

Post #7203556

I would like to talk a little about, and hopefully dispel the myth that certain plants 'like' or 'prefer' to be grown tight (under root-bound conditions). Maybe we can also understand that no plant will 'do well' when it's pot-bound, if you are using a plant with plenty of room for its roots as the standard to judge against. If plants did better growing under root-bound conditions, it would seem that Mother Nature would have arranged for in situ (where they naturally occur) plants to grow with their roots in tight little cones or cubes, yet we never see that occur. While it's true that we may be able to use the STRESS of our plants being root-bound to bend plants to our will and achieve OUR goals, the fact is that this serves US well, and not the plant.

Lets examine what 'growth' is. Growth is simply a measure of the increase in a plant's biomass, how much bigger it has become (the weight of the sum of it's parts), and is the actual measure of how 'well' a plant is doing. We know that tight roots restrict growth, reduce the amount of extension, and reduce the potential for an increase in mass, so even if we THINK plants are doing well because we use the stress of tight roots to get them to bloom or grow in a particular habit that we like, the truth is tight roots are stressful and plants would rather have plenty of room for their roots to grow so they could grow as mother nature intended. No one is more aware of the negative influence tight roots has on growth than the bonsai practitioner who uses that tool extensively to bind down the plant's growth habits so the will of the grower, not the 'will' of the plant, prevails. Using tight roots as a tool to achieve an end is all about the grower's wants, and not the plant's.

If we chase this a little further, we can see the reasons that it is suggested that particular plants might like root-bound conditions. Tight roots alter the plant's growth habits, and the stress of tight roots can cause other physiological responses like bloom induction. Again, this is happening because of stress, and is the plants unhappy response. Bright flowers make the grower happy, but from the plant's perspective the view might be entirely different.

Where I was really heading when I started to write this is: There is a relationship between plant mass (size), the physical characteristics of the soil, and the size of the container. In many cases, when we are advised that 'X' plant prefers to be grown tight, we are being told that this plant won't tolerate wet feet for extended periods. Someone somewhere assumed that we would be growing this 'X' plant in an out-of-the-bag, water retentive soil, and a big pot o' that soil stays wet for a long time, so we better tell these people to grow this plant in a tiny pot so the plant can use the water in the soil quicker; then, air will return to the soil faster and roots won't rot.

If you place a plant in a gallon of water-retentive soil, it might use the water fairly quickly, at least quickly enough to prevent root rot; but if you put the same plant in 5 gallons of water-retentive soil, the plant will take 5 times as long to use the water and for air to return to the soil, making it much more probable that root rot issues will arise. So lets tell 'em to grow these plants tight to save them (the growers) from themselves ... because we KNOW they're all going to be using a soggy soil.

Key, in this instance, is the soil. If you choose a very porous soil that drains well and supports no (or very little) perched water (that water in the saturated layer of soil at the bottom of the pot), you retain the capability of growing a very small plant in a very large pot, and making the plant MUCH happier than if you were growing it tight. You still have the option of choosing those plants you prefer to stress intentionally (with tight roots) to get them to grow as YOU please, but for the others, which comprise the highest % of houseplants, it makes much better sense to change to a soil that allows you to give the plant what it needs to maintain peak vitality, than to do something that stresses the plant as the large part of a strategy to keep it viable.

Al


This message was edited Oct 24, 2009 3:38 PM
daisylovn
(Tracey) Mobile, AL
(Zone 8b)

October 24, 2009
6:58 PM

Post #7203953

Al,
Thanks for posting this.. I was not clear at all about the subject. Your post really opened my eyes to the reasons behind "general discussions" regarding container gardening.

You did well wording it so we can all understand it. (laymans terms) ; )

Villiers
Chadds Ford, PA
(Zone 6b)

October 25, 2009
9:07 PM

Post #7207464

Very well written. Thank you for the information. Sometimes I keep my plants pot-bound because you know, you give them an inch.. they take a yard! This is back to convenience..
The only plants that seem to thrive in tight quarters are bromeliads and orchids. But that the way they grow in nature too.
plantladylin
South Daytona, FL
(Zone 9b)

October 26, 2009
2:44 PM

Post #7209750

Al, That is wonderful information, very well explained and easily understandable! I have made a request of Admin to see if we can have it in a "Sticky" at the top of the forum for future reference! Thanks so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge!

Lin
plantladylin
South Daytona, FL
(Zone 9b)

October 26, 2009
7:41 PM

Post #7210776

Al, I hope you don't mind ... I asked Admin. to make your information a sticky! Such great information for new growers as well as the more advanced!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

October 26, 2009
7:49 PM

Post #7210807

Thank you - I'm glad you found some value in it, Lin. Thanks to all for the kind words. Much appreciated.

Al

palmbob

palmbob
Acton, CA
(Zone 8b)


November 16, 2009
3:10 AM

Post #7278075

I really can't speak for palms kept as indoor plants, as I have less experience with them than outdoor palms... but I have been growing palms for a long time now, and I know growers who have been growing them for many many decades. Although I can't say how 'happy' a palm is when it's rootbound, but I can say they grow very well rootbound, and they certainly grow faster when 'moderately rootbound' than when not. Whether this is simply a reflection of how well fertilized water passes through the roots, or how much oxygen passes through them, or how warm the roots are when the are more packed into a pot versus 'lost' in the soil somewhere, but most potted palms (I sure can't speak for all of them) grow faster and look better when their roots are relatively densely filling a pot than when they are not.

Many species of palms growing in nature have roots that take up very little space at least compared to other plants their size, and their roots are naturally compact. Anyone who has dug up a large palm could tell you how compact their rootball is and most appear to look about as rootbound as they are in my potted palms. So the arguement that plants do not grow like that in nature does not necessarily apply to palms.

Additionally palms transplant far more easily when the roots are packed together to the point of being pot-shaped when removed from the pot versus not. Few palms will 'shock' when planted this way as it disturbs their roots a lot less than when soil starts to fall away from more delicately planted palms in less compacted situations.

Dr. Don Hodel did a lot of research on planting palms in the ground and found potbound palms far surpassed their non-pot bound counterparts when planted in the ground (in terms of growth rate, lack of being set back etc.)... additionally palms planted in holes that were barely large enough for the compacted rootball to be fit in went through far less shock and setback than palms planted in larger holes with a lot of 'fill' or non-native soil alongside the rootball.. This works out well for several reasons as this makes for less work, and these palms are also less likely to blow over and need less support.

Unlike what one finds with many species of plants, one rarely finds palm roots wound around the insides of the pot 'strangling' each other as they will in many other species of plant. Most of the roots grow until they hit the bottom and either stop or find the holes and start growing out of them.

I grow a lot of other exotic plants as well (cacti and succulents) that don't seem to mind being root bound, but they do undergo root death the more bound they get, so I cannot argue that they prefer to bound. Fortunately many of these species rely less on their roots than their caudex or stems, and often most to nearly all the roots can simply be ripped off with little effect on the health of the plant when repotting them (thus allowing one to grow the same plant in the same sized pot for decades).

So though I do not doubt that your 'myth-busting' is correct for most all species of plants, it may not be so clearly correct with palms and possibly some other less 'typical' plants. Palms do have very different roots from dicot plants with all the roots being pretty much simple, relatively non-branching structures.. there is no tap root or main root. Root bound palms rarely have a lot of dead or damaged roots. I have grown hundreds of palms that have literally busted out of their pots and show little or no root damage. In fact, some have argued that planting a palm in the ground that is currently rootbound in a hole IN THE POT still is the best way to plant palms... though I seriously doubt this to be the case with most palms, it is obvious that this does not seem to set many of these palms back much if at all, and some species seem to prefer this method of planting.

As for pot size and soil type, that is a whole 'nuther' topic and I cannot argue with your comments above. I used to move palms up just a size at a time, but if well root bound, moving up several sizes at a time does not seem to slow them down too much (and sure saves on time and energy). And of course very well draining soils are recommended for all the plants I grow typically. IN fact, some grow best in pure pumice (of course these will need fertilization a tad more often than others).

Metrosideros

Metrosideros
Keaau, HI


November 16, 2009
4:13 AM

Post #7278238

Is it possible that if we gave plants their choice, none of them would want to be in a pot, but would rather be in a favorable habitat in the ground!

palmbob

palmbob
Acton, CA
(Zone 8b)


November 16, 2009
4:38 AM

Post #7278304

probably true in hawaii... but not true for some palm species here in California

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

November 16, 2009
9:36 PM

Post #7280026

All the dicots and monocots alike that I've grown in containers have exhibited (sometimes extreme) tendencies toward physiological dwarfing from being grown tight - even from being grown in containers when they are not grown particularly tight. If, in fact, palms grow better when they are root bound, they would be unique indeed. I cannot imagine a palm attaining a height of, let's say 8 feet in a container more rapidly than an in situ plant - nutrition, light, moisture levels, and temperatures being equal.

Al

Metrosideros

Metrosideros
Keaau, HI


December 10, 2009
5:10 AM

Post #7354426

If this Dioscorea vine does not get planted in the ground, it will get up out of it's pot and run away!

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palmbob

palmbob
Acton, CA
(Zone 8b)


December 10, 2009
3:26 PM

Post #7355191

Ah but it does happen... I have grown many palms in the ground that the pot bound palms quickly outgrew. This is fairly common 'knowledge' in the palm circles, up to a point, of course. As I said, whether this phenomenon is due to improved drainage in the pots, improved fertilizer availability, increase warmth, root protection etc. is not known for sure, but for many species a root bound plant will rapidly outgrow its planted neighbor, at least in my area where we just don't have Hawaiian temperatures and soils. And ammending the soils seems to make little difference, and often seems to set the palm back.

Next time you visit a nursery that specializes in palms, check out the pot sizes each palm is in... it might amaze you.

Very large palms (trees) eventually outgrow what a pot can contain, but I am talking about large plants at this point (hundreds of pounds). I do see some potted palms dwarfed, but these are usually ones that have been neglected, perhaps due to their ability to survive for such long periods without fertilizer or even water (few plants, save maybe cacti and succulents, seem to survive lack of water and fertilizer and still look 'OK' as do palms in pots)... but there is a point where this abuse will take its toll obviously.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

December 10, 2009
6:52 PM

Post #7355849

Assuredly, Bob, it is due to some cultural influence(s) other than the fact that the plant is potbound.

Al

palmbob

palmbob
Acton, CA
(Zone 8b)


December 11, 2009
6:51 AM

Post #7358015

perhaps, but the point is the palms do not seem to suffer from the pot binding
sitabrothers
Lone Oak, TX

December 11, 2009
12:56 PM

Post #7358352

Palmbob,

hope you can help me with this problem. What to do about 2 palms: a bismarckia in 25 gal pot and date palm also in 25 gal pot. How long can they stay in these pots, if they need repotting do I trim the root and keep in the same pot or do they need to be planted in bigger pots. The label said "do not cut root". It has become rather awful to have to haul them in and out of the greenhouse, so if at all possible I like to keep them in the same size pots. Thanks for any advice.

Sita
Lone Oak, TX. z-7b

palmbob

palmbob
Acton, CA
(Zone 8b)


December 11, 2009
3:03 PM

Post #7358658

no way for me to say if they need to be moved without looking at them... have any photos? Date palms move easily if you have to, but Bismarckias are very touchy... if you move a Bismarckia that large, it is best to move it to its permanent resting spot (ground preferrably or otherwise a very large box). Moves after that may end up killing the palm.
patgeorge
Nurmo
Finland
(Zone 4b)

December 19, 2009
6:01 PM

Post #7382455

I dislike bonsai. Whenever I see one I want to pick it up, tuck into my arm, and run away with it to some nice fertile open spot where I can 'liberate' it!

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

December 19, 2009
7:22 PM

Post #7382603

It's very possible, and I'm thinking probable, that you have some impressions of bonsai culture that you may not continue to hold if you knew a little more about it. Would you like to discuss it and share with us why it is you have those feelings, or are you unwavering in your dislike?

Al

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lorettadog
Maple Lake, MN

June 16, 2012
9:47 PM

Post #9168256

When a plant puts out a flower, it's an attempt to reproduce - every living thing is all about sex.
I don't know if a plant is happy or unhappy when it blooms, but what I have learned (through procrastination) is, if you want your snake plant to bloom, it needs to be rootbound.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 16, 2012
11:28 PM

Post #9168314

Actually, that isn't true. In in situ situations, no one runs from plant to plant, constricting the plants' root mass in order to make them bloom, yet they seem to bloom and reproduce admirably well. There is no physiological reason they can't/won't do the same grown under container culture.

From the OP:

Lets examine what 'growth' is. Growth is simply a measure of the increase in a plant's biomass, how much bigger it has become (the weight of the sum of it's parts), and is the actual measure of how 'well' a plant is doing. We know that tight roots restrict growth, reduce the amount of extension, and reduce the potential for an increase in mass, so even if we THINK plants are doing well because we use the stress of tight roots to get them to bloom or grow in a particular habit that we like, the truth is tight roots are stressful and plants would rather have plenty of room for their roots to grow so they could grow as mother nature intended. No one is more aware of the negative influence tight roots has on growth than the bonsai practitioner who uses that tool extensively to bind down the plant's growth habits so the will of the grower, not the 'will' of the plant, prevails. Using tight roots as a tool to achieve an end is all about the grower's wants, and not the plant's.

If we chase this a little further, we can see the reasons it is often suggested that particular plants might like root-bound conditions. Tight roots alter the plant's growth habits, and the stress of tight roots can cause other physiological responses like bloom induction. Again, this is happening because of stress, and is the plants unhappy response.

Al

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palmbob

palmbob
Acton, CA
(Zone 8b)


June 17, 2012
12:46 AM

Post #9168327

Can't speak for Sansevierias and their flowering, as mine flower fine in the ground without any root constriction... But as far as palms in pots, the end sought as rapid, healthy growth, and that is certainly seen with a good deal of roots in the pot, as opposed to just 'swimming' about in the soil. The plants definitely grow faster, tall and healthier (not all, but certainly many- at least most of the species that I deal with) when there is less room in the pot (not necessarily NO room in the pot, though). Flowering in palms is certainly not related to root binding as most palms flower only when mature, and most palms are too large to be in a pot once mature.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 17, 2012
8:40 AM

Post #9168651

We know with certainty that root constriction slows growth and saps vitality, even in palms. For this reason, commercial growers try to remain diligent about bumping plants before the roots become congested to the point root/soil mass can be lifted from the pot intact. IF a grower feels that a particular plant grows better when grown tight, you can be fairly certain the reason lies in the limitations imposed by a soil that ensures a lot of potential is left lying on the table. The only reason the plant seems to grow better with tight roots is because a small container speeds the return of a favorable volume of air to the soil, where the limitations imposed by the soil would be much greater in a container where a soggy layer of soil at the bottom of the container limits root function.

If you eliminate the limiting effect of the soil by switching to a soil that doesn't support perched water, all else being equal you can achieve the same growth rate in containers as plants in situ. This remains true until about the point where the root/soil mass can be lifted from the container intact, at which point growth begins to slow and vitality wane. If you eliminate the ill effects of a soil that holds enough water that it becomes limiting, you can grow the tiniest palm in a 55 gallon drum and achieve growth far superior to its counterpart with congested roots in a smaller container.

If Mother Nature felt that palms or any other plant grew better with tight roots, she would have arranged for root systems to grow in tight little knots directly beneath the stem. Such is not the case, however. There is no physiological reason to believe that tight roots produce better growth or healthier plants, in fact, the contrary is true and there is plenty of evidence to support it. Tight roots simply help to eliminate the limiting effects of an overly water-retentive soil, but in essence that is trading one limitation for another - unnecessarily.

If you switch to a soil that supports no/very little perched water so impaired root function due to excess water retention is off the table, you'll see exactly what I mean. We can actually provide better nutrition in containers than plants normally get in situ. If we do that, and make sure light/temperature are not a limiting factor, containerized palms still grow far more slowly than their in situ counterparts. For what reason? Root congestion.

Al



This message was edited Jun 17, 2012 11:12 AM

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lorettadog
Maple Lake, MN

June 17, 2012
3:20 PM

Post #9169101

Having lived almost my entire life in cold places like Minnesota and New Hampshire, I can't speak about snake plants that grow in their natural environment. And I'm sure that any plant growing in a pot has to make adjustments, no matter how much room you give it. What I do know is that any snake plant I've ever had never bloomed until I got lazy about repotting a particular one I've since passed on to my sister. It was only a few years old. I was so excited about it's flowering that I told everyone I knew, and they were all amazed - none of them had ever seen, or heard of, a snake plant blooming either! I didn't try to make it bloom, it just happened. That begs the question - if snake plants in pots with plenty of soil, room for their roots, and all other conditions being optimum, tend not to bloom (I certainly had never heard of it happening) - why not?

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 17, 2012
6:43 PM

Post #9169362

First, no one I know of denies that tight roots can contribute to bloom induction in some plants. That's a given, but it's not logical to make the leap that tight roots are a requirement for sans or any other plant to bloom if they are containerized, because it's not a requirement in in situ situations. The logical fallacy has several names - questionable cause, confusing cause and effect, or ignoring common cause, and takes this form: Yesterday Bill was scratched by a cat. Today, he came down with a fever and died. Bill died of cat scratch fever, which ignores any number of other potential possibilities for Bill's demise. In the case of your plant, if it was in a red pot when it bloomed, it would be just as logical to assert that a red pot is a requirement for sans to bloom. We dispel that myth with the counter-assertion that in situ plants are not in red pots, yet they still bloom. Why would tight roots be a requirement for sans to bloom in containers when it's not where they occur naturally? They aren't.

While root congestion can impact bloom profusion, photoperiod (technically, it's the length of the dark period - not day length) and ontogenetic age (growth phase) of the plant are critical in their impact on a plant's ABILITY to bloom. Your plant was old enough (sexually mature), photoperiod favorable, and the plant had the energy reserves to support blooms ... so it bloomed. Is it possible that the stress of tight roots might have had part in moving the plant to bloom - YES. Are tight roots a requirement for the plant to bloom, either in situ or in containers. NO.

Al
lorettadog
Maple Lake, MN

June 29, 2012
11:09 PM

Post #9187086

I get your point, but think you're stretching it with the red pot analogy. Neither I, or anyone I know, would make that assumption.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

June 30, 2012
8:51 AM

Post #9187401

I understand you wouldn't make that assumption that red pots would produce better growth, and wasn't implying that you would. If you got that impression, it wasn't intentional and I apologize, though I can think of two instances where growth might be better in a red pot AND several instance where a red pot might increase bloom profusion, so you can count me as one that thinks there's some merit in the thought if it's considered carefully. My intent was to draw a parallel between a similar lack of logic in the assumption that tight roots are a prerequisite for blooms in any plant. Obviously, the roots of in situ plants aren't restricted, yet they bloom perfectly well w/o our manipulations or ministrations. All that's needed for a plant to bloom is that it's old enough (sexually mature) that it's the right time in the plant's growth cycle (photoperiod), that it has enough energy in reserve, and that its chemical messengers signal it to bloom. Is it possible that the chemical messengers resultant of the stress associated with tight roots might play a part in bloom induction or profusion? Yes, it's possible. Can we say that tight roots are a requirement for the bloom process to occur in pots. NO, absolutely not. You assumed that because you procrastinated in potting up, tight roots are what caused the plant to bloom, while ignoring things like the plant's ontogenetic age, and the other factors I mentioned. That we notice a relationship in occurrences is no reason to automatically assume that there is necessarily a cause:effect relationship.

I covered this issue in my OP: If we chase this a little further, we can see the reasons that it is suggested that particular plants might like root-bound conditions. Tight roots alter the plant's growth habits, and the stress of tight roots can cause other physiological responses like bloom induction. Again, this is happening because of stress, and is the plants unhappy response. Bright flowers make the grower happy, but from the plant's perspective the view might be entirely different. What I said acknowledges the fact that tight roots can contribute to bloom induction, but they are not a requirement. It's a small point, but one that for the sake of accuracy, should be understood. We're not so far from agreeing that we can't close our case and let the jury decide.

Let me know if you're curious about what I said about the red pot and how it can contribute to better growth and more blooms in many cases. ;-)

Al
Karrie20x
Spokane, WA
(Zone 5b)

January 21, 2013
7:31 PM

Post #9393004

I know that under the ground there are conditions that we don't see with the human eyes - like big rock formations. Some plants thrive on them, and the limited space for roots because of them. Not everywhere outside is just soil.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 22, 2013
11:32 AM

Post #9393769

I think I'm missing your point ...

Al
Karrie20x
Spokane, WA
(Zone 5b)

January 22, 2013
6:47 PM

Post #9394201

some plants DO prefer to be root bound, in their natural habitat.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 22, 2013
6:57 PM

Post #9394212

No, that's not true. If that were so, Mother Nature would have some plants growing with their roots in compact little balls or cubes directly under the stem. I know of no plants that grow that way. Some plants TOLERATE growing in rocky cracks and crevices, or in duff that collects in rock depressions, but that they tolerate growing there is no clear indication they prefer a habitat that forces root restriction to one where roots are free to run.

Al

blomma

blomma
Wyoming, WY
(Zone 4a)

January 22, 2013
8:02 PM

Post #9394260

I don't know if some plants likes to be rootbound or not since I don't speak their language. However, my Hoya blooms better when rootbound. I think that may be true for other plants as well.
Karrie20x
Spokane, WA
(Zone 5b)

January 22, 2013
11:32 PM

Post #9394377

what I am trying to say is that mother nature is different everywhere. Some places have rocks under the soil that cause them to be root bound. The plants that thrive in that environment are natural to being root bound. I agree with Hoyas being root bound, and also my Clivia.
Karrie20x
Spokane, WA
(Zone 5b)

January 22, 2013
11:34 PM

Post #9394378

this is just nature

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 23, 2013
4:46 AM

Post #9394431

That was all addressed in the original post, The STRESS of being root bound can cause the plant to put more energy into the reproductive side of growth (blooms). This pleases the grower, but it doesn't please the plant. The plant actually shows it's displeasure by trying to ensure its genes are passed along, and produces more blooms. You guys are taking a very simplistic view of how plants respond to their environments and making observations that can't be supported by science.

Often too, plants you think are "thriving" in seemingly inhospitable places, are being out-competed for space by other more vigorous plants in more favorable nearby environs.

From the OP: Lets examine what 'growth' is. Growth is simply a measure of the increase in a plant's biomass, how much bigger it has become (the weight of the sum of it's parts), and is the actual measure of how 'well' a plant is doing. We know that tight roots restrict growth, reduce the amount of extension, and reduce the potential for an increase in mass, so even if we THINK plants are doing well because we use the stress of tight roots to get them to bloom or grow in a particular habit that we like, the truth is tight roots are stressful and plants would rather have plenty of room for their roots to grow so they could grow as mother nature intended. No one is more aware of the negative influence tight roots has on growth than the bonsai practitioner who uses that tool extensively to bind down the plant's growth habits so the will of the grower, not the 'will' of the plant, prevails. Using tight roots as a tool to achieve an end is all about the grower's wants, and not the plant's.

If we chase this a little further, we can see the reasons that it is suggested that particular plants might like root-bound conditions. Tight roots alter the plant's growth habits, and the stress of tight roots can cause other physiological responses like bloom induction. Again, this is happening because of stress, and is the plants unhappy response. Bright flowers make the grower happy, but from the plant's perspective the view might be entirely different.


Al

palmbob

palmbob
Acton, CA
(Zone 8b)


January 23, 2013
9:58 AM

Post #9394816

Sometimes its the growers wants that are the more important I am afraid, and I completely understand this. Perhaps you should be an advocate for 'plants rights'. Well, coming from a point of view of a grower and not a plant, and having colleagues who's plants are often purposely stunted or bonsaid, grown for floral production and for particularly attractive and ornamental looks (looks is personally the really ONLY reason I like plants... I do not want them to die, but being 'unhappy' is acceptable if they are otherwise healthy enough and look far better), I think I will continue on in my 'abuse' as the plants still grow on and look far better and fare better when moved. We often stress our succulents on purpose to give them the reds and other colors as well as compact shapes we treasure so much... but I suppose were we advocates for plants rights, this would be a criminal offense, and we should be watering them and protecting them for the cold and sunlight, providing ample root space etc. that would not make them 'stressed' out so much that they become 'more beautiful' (obviously this beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or grower, not the plant, who would most likely prefer to be more coddled, green and not put in a dinky, flat-bottomed pot with almost no root space). So perhaps cramped roots in palms makes them less 'happy', the plants certainly look better and perform better, showing far less shock at transplant from pot to pot and into the ground, so I for one vote for the grower's desires when it comes to my sorts of plants and not the plants desires themselves. The trick sometimes is just knowing I guess how far one can go without doing too much 'damage' to the plant that it sets it back or possibly even allows it do succumb to some illness.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 23, 2013
12:40 PM

Post #9394997

You're making points that have already been made, so it's difficult to disagree. The grower's wants are ALWAYS primary, but sometimes the grower's wants need tempering if the plant's health and growth are the focus. When you change focus, an entirely different set of tactics might come to play. I might not wish to repot regularly, but I know it's necessary for the healthiest plants and best growth. If I want small leaves on a maple I'm going to show in Aug, I completely defoliate it in early July. That's not good for the plant's health or its growth rate, but I find it a perfectly acceptable method of achieving a tree with a full flush of very small, vibrant leaves.

As a bonsai practitioner of 20+ years and a regular manipulator of plant material, I'm no stranger to using various forms of stress as tools to bend plants to my will, and I don't care one way or another if others follow suit - regardless of the plant material, but facts are facts. The plant simply doesn't appreciate being root bound - even if the grower does prefer the results obtained by subjecting the plant to that stress.

Let's be realistic, too. The OP is clearly aimed at broadening the understanding that if growers want their plants to come as close as possible to reaching their growth/vitality potential, increasing root congestion is more than a significant encumbrance to that end - it makes it an impossibility. That I recognized the usefulness of employing the stress of tight roots to achieve certain ends should illustrate that the discussion is about growth and vitality, and separate from appearance. It's wise to gain a full understanding of what effect limitations like tight roots have on the plant before we endeavor to use the stress as a tool. Understanding the effects of root congestion allows the grower to decide if he/she wants to accept the limitations that come with tight roots, do something to correct the limiting effects of stress, or even put those limitations to work for the grower to achieve a desired end.

It's not about a vote. Tight roots affect growth and vitality. Period. If there is a vote, it comes in the form of the decision to A) ignore the stress of tight roots entirely and leave the plant to its own devices B) act to eliminate the source of the stress C) use the effects of the stress to achieve a desired end. In this case, you are certainly trying to walk a line that provides for acceptable levels of growth and vitality while working toward an end that partially compromises both. The grower might ultimately think the stress is useful because he thinks the plant looks better, but the plant would prefer to do without the limitations.

Anyone can allow a plant to decline because of a tightly compacted root mass. As growers, our aptitude is first defined by our ability to isolate and eliminate limiting factors to the greatest degree possible. Choosing to live with or even employ limiting factors doesn't change their effect on the plant, and the focus of the thread is on just that - the effects of a factor that limits growth and vitality. Tight roots are stressful. Stress results from an organism operating at or near the limits it was genetically programmed to deal with. From the perspective of maximizing the potential for growth and vitality, that can't be viewed as a good thing, even though a compromise in growth and vitality might be perceived as a good thing when that compromise results in a more attractive plant; BUT, we need to be very clear that in most cases, the stress of tight roots is not made manifest in a more attractive plant. In fact, in most cases, the opposite is the rule.

The pictorial below increased this little boxwood's potential immeasurably, and reversed the decline associated with its root-bound condition.

Al


This message was edited Jan 23, 2013 6:14 PM

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blomma

blomma
Wyoming, WY
(Zone 4a)

January 23, 2013
6:15 PM

Post #9395369

palmbob
I agree with you 100%

We seem to have a plant psychiatrist among us. When my plants bloom, I am happy.
BirdieBlue
Winston Salem, NC
(Zone 7a)

December 4, 2013
7:45 PM

Post #9721610

I want to know about the red pot please.
Also. I wish to try my hand at Bonsai. What books or articles would you recommend?

Thanks!
BB/ Sheri

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

December 9, 2013
6:53 PM

Post #9725026

If you mean the red pot immediately above, it's just a terra cotta (low-fired clay) pot, something I prefer to pots w/o gas-permeable sides to help ensure a healthy root system. A healthy plant is impossible w/o healthy roots, so I always try to make sure my plant's feet are in something that makes them happy.

I encourage you to try bonsai, but I have to tell you that you'll need to show some perseverance. Proficiency doesn't come over-night, something evidenced by the fact that the number of those who give up on bonsai is very close to the number that try their hand. In order to avoid the frustration that comes from having to replace trees continually as they die, you'll need to be armed with information enough that you can keep your trees alive and healthy. You usually don't find that basic information in bonsai books. Most only touch on soil science and plant physiology - the two elements most important to proficiency.

The soil part is easier than the physiology. If I was going to suggest some starting points, I would strongly encourage you too gain an understanding of what is written in this post:

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1055230/

The information is an important key to bringing along healthy plant material in pots.

You would need a good overview of basic plant physiology, but it's difficult to suggest something w/o some idea of how much you already understand.

If you want a basic book on Bonsai, the out of print Sunset book "Bonsai" is surprisingly good at providing an outline. You can find copies here & there online. You want the 2003 edition ISBN #0-376-03046-1 .

Al

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