Is It Important To Loosen The Roots Before Transplanting?

Last Updated on October 8, 2022 by Real Men Sow

It’s important to loosen roots before transplanting your plant from pot to ground. Especially if the plant is not fragile because it helps the plant establish a healthier foundation for growth. So here are the things you need to know about loosening the roots.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why Do Some People Say You Should Not Loosen the Roots Before Transplanting? 

It is widely believed that roots are fragile and weak, and that soil should not be disturbed during their transition from pots to the soil. Plants should be respected, but it is important to recognize that passive treatment might not be best for them.

Recent studies demonstrate it can help the plants in the long term to prune and loosen the roots before transplanting. Roots can become stressed if they are disturbed. This is logical, but it is beneficial to manage roots before planting. These are just a few reasons gardeners shouldn’t loosen roots:

  1. Teething roots can stress the plant’s equilibrium
  2. The roots could be dried out by loosening
  3. Seedlings require their roots

Will Loosening Roots Stress a Plant’s Equilibrium? 

Many believed that plants develop the root system they need to survive. Therefore, it is important that no part of that root structure be altered. This idea sounds great, but moving a plant from a container to the ground will change its environment and it will have to adapt. 

The plant will adapt by pruning, loosening, and trimming its roots. Pots can cause plants to develop bad habits and discussion about these issues will be later. Therefore, you must correct the root’s behavior before you place them in the soil.

Will Loosening Roots Dry the Plant Out? 

It is vital that the roots of a plant never become dry. Many people are afraid to correct the root bundle before they plant. Although roots can be loosened and dry out, it is still important to fix a bad root bundle.

Should I Loosen the Roots on a Seedling? 

Seedlings are quite different. Gardeners should be more careful when working with seedlings’ root structures. A gentle loosening of the roots won’t cause any harm to a seedling. There are some reasons seedlings may not be in the same category as larger plants.

Seedlings are generally not old enough to develop root structures that are harmful. Therefore, they need less care and can be loosened and pruned. A seedling’s root system is smaller and less stable than that of an established plant. Because they are smaller roots, they can’t hold onto the soil as well and are generally already quite loose so it’s not a good idea to continue to work with them.

How to Recognize Negative Root Structures 

We’ve already mentioned the possibility of potted plants developing negative root structures. We’ll now explain why these patterns should be corrected. Because plants were meant to be in the wild and in the soil, it shouldn’t surprise that problems can arise if a plant is kept in a pot for a long time. These are signs that a plant needs to be loosened:

Plant Roots that Circle the Inside of a Pot 

This will allow you to check the first problem. Once the root bundle has been removed, examine the location of the roots. It is possible that the root ball is circling if it looks like it has been wrapped in twine.

The result of circling roots is a noose around your plant that will cut off nutrients. It is important to correct root circling prior to planting.

Roots Growing Back Toward Potted Plants 

If you inspect the root ball of a tree, be sure to look out for roots that have reached the bottom of the container. They may now be growing back towards the center of the plant. These roots can become a problem.

The pots that are too small for the plants will eventually be outgrown. Overgrown plants will seek out space for growth if they aren’t moved into a larger pot. This space is usually found in the middle of the plant. These roots are hooked and long, so they can’t expand outwards when the plant is planted in the ground.

Large Wooden Roots in Potted Plants 

It can be a sign that a plant has outgrown its container if its roots grow large and become woody. These long, stubby roots may have difficulty adapting to the environment and could make it difficult for the plants to transition to the ground.

It is easier for smaller, more flexible roots to adapt to new environments. Planting older bulbs does not necessarily mean that a mature plant cannot be planted. 

The Best Way to Loosen Roots Before Transplanting? 

Nature is able to grow plants naturally without our intervention. The goal is to help plants thrive in their natural state. These are some of the best ways to loosen roots.

  1. To cut the sides of your root bundle, use a sharp knife
  2. Before you tease the roots, soak them in water.
  3. Massage knotted roots out of your hair and untangle them

How to Fix Circling Plant Roots 

First, remove the roots from the pot. Then using a sharp knife, because a dull knife can cause roots to be pulled out rather than untangled, cut an “X” in the bottom of your root ball. 

Next, use the X to guide you, and cut four lines along the sides of the root bundles. These cuts won’t cause any harm to the plants. They will prevent the roots from creating new circles and encourage their growth in the new soil.

Soak the Roots in Water Before Teasing Them 

If you are concerned about the roots drying out or having hard dirt stick to them, it is a good idea to soak them in water before removing them.

Water can do many things. It will first dissolve dirt and expose roots to allow a better view of roots and enable you to see any potential problems. It will also soften the roots, making them easier to untangle knots and loosen them.

Untangle and Massage Out the Root Ball

Massage is a helpful word because it reminds us to not be too rough with our roots and to remove any knots from the root. If you look at an existing plant in its natural environment, you will notice that the roots are well-placed and not tangled. This is how potted plants can achieve this natural state.

It should be easy to extract the roots from the root bundle after it has been soaked. Another reason to massage roots is that pot-shaped roots can be dropped in a hole in the ground. This creates a barrier between the potting soil & the natural soil. The roots can be easily mixed with the soil around them by massaging the root bundle and loosening it.

Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.