How often I have taken a plant, dead or alive, out of it’s pot only to see it’s roots packed tightly in it, often curling round in the pot. I lost a lovely acer, which I had had for many years because I didn’t check the bottom of the pot. It was a heavyweight earthenware pot which I didn’t really want to try to handle.
The plant very suddenly died, I had expected it to be covered in a mass of leaf buds but by then, it was actually very dead. I couldn’t lift the pot. Eventually, when I got it up and it was clear what the problem was, the root had grown through the drainage hole, blocking drainage and was firmly anchored to the ground below. Our weather had been so wet for so long, the compost didn’t have a chance of drying out so a waterlogged pot and sub-zero temperatures was too much for it. The pot split in two, although it is reassembled and put out of harms way until I get around to fixing it.
Pot-bound plants are not uncommon with container gardening, so when I saw strange pots full of protruding holes, I was curious. It is delivered flat, and assembled when you need it. The protrusions have holes in them and this is to allow roots to grow through where they will be ‘air pruned’. I understood the theory of it but was curious about what it would be like in practice. I already have fabric bags, which work on a similar principle, but they are being used this year for the first time.
Searching the internet for the best price, I stumbled upon a ‘budget’ air pruning pot, which is a ribbed pot full of holes. The theory for these pots is the same as their more expensive counterparts, small roots are encouraged to travel round the pot and when they reach a ribbed bit with holes, the little roots find their freedom. Being exposed to air, the root dies back leaving the main roots to get on with the job in hand, thus providing a stronger, healthier plant.
My budget air pruning pots arrived today and I was surprised at how big they are. You probably could save a bit more money by making them yourself by cutting out several holes in a large pot. At one time I used a plastic laundry basket to plant in, but I hadn’t known about air pruning before, so lined it with plastic to stop the compost from falling out or drying up.
I think I also lost my Chilean Guava to being root-bound, again it may have survived a little longer if we hadn’t had such a wet winter with sub-zero temperatures. I have another Chilean Guava on order and it will be trying out it’s new-style home. There may be another few plants I think will be better being air pruned and I do have plenty of pots which can be used, but I would need to drill a lot of holes.