Large pot bound plants can be difficult to remove from the pot. The simplest way is to make a single cut down one side of the pot to allow more room for the plant to move. Lay the pot and the plant on its side and gently slide it out grabbing it by a main stem. If the plant is very pot bound you can cut the bottom out to peel the pot away.
This article will explore the easiest way to get a pot bound plant out of a plastic pot in a few easy steps. This will prevent any damage to your plant and allow you the space to tease the roots before putting it into its new pot or on the ground.
8 Steps to get a pot bound plant out
Here are my easy steps to get a pot bound plant out of the pot without damaging the plant.
1. Lay the plant on the side
The first step to get a pot bound plant out is to lay it on its side. This is particularly important for large plants and will stop it from falling over and help to prevent any stem damage.
I am planting this large canna lily out into my garden this year. It was an impulse buy at my local nursery but well worth it. Yellow cannas have been hard for me to find so I grabbed this one when I could.
Note: Canna lilies are often sold as rhizomes in spring, they can be planted out early in the season ready to grow flowers by summer.
2. Use sharp secateurs to snip the pot
The next step is to take some sharp secateurs and make a cut from the top of the pot to the bottom. Good quality sharp secateurs will do this easily but take care to get your fingers out of the way. Gently cut the pot down and pull the plastic away from the secateurs as you cut.
3. Gently wiggle the plant grabbing the stem low down
The next step is to pull the plastic pot apart with one hand and gently wiggle the plant by the main stem. If you feel it come free then it is ready to slide out of the pot.
My canna lily is only partly pot bound so started to move easily when the pot was cut.
4. Gently pull the plant out from the pot
The next step is to pull the plant gently by a main strong stem and pull down on the pot. This will start to slide the plant out from the pot. You can also pull down on the pot to take it off of the roots. Pulling the plastic pot out will help it to move.
5. If the plant is still stuck, snip the pot base out
If the plant is not coming out of the pot, the next step is to cut the base from the pot. Cut from one drainage hole to the next so the pot can be completely peeled off the plant this will leave you with a circle from the bottom of the pot and the plastic wrap from the outside.
6. Tease the roots a small amount
The next step is to inspect and teas the roots of the pot bound plant a small amount. How much you tease or cut the roots will depend on how sensitive the plant is. For my canna lily I teased the roots out a small amount while for my bird of paradise, I could chop and remove the roots that were circling the pot.
7. Gently place the plant in the prepared hole
You can slide the plant over to the prepared hole once it has been removed from the pot. I like to do this process right next to the hole that I have already prepared so that there is not far to move the pot. This prevents any damage to the stems and leaves and means that heavy plants do not need to be moved far.
Get a friend to help if the plant feels too heavy to pick up easily on your own.
8. Move it to a new pot
If you are repotting the plant then choose a pot that is at least 2-3 inches wider and deeper if the plant is large. This will give the roots room to grow without overwhelming it with soil. Too much soil can stay wet, cold and cause fungal root rot.
Plant in good quality potting soil and avoid adding fertilizer for at least 4 weeks. Premium potting soil will have some slow release fertilizer and can last up to 3 months. I like to add mulch around my potted plants if I have some on hand. Bark mulch works best and will last up to 6 months.
How to Get a Pot Bound Plant Out | Summary
Getting a pot bound plant out of a plastic pot can be tricky but the easiest way is to sacrifice the pot. Cutting the pot is much better than damaging a large established plant. Laying the plants on their side is the best way to keep the plant safe while you remove the pot. Do this process near the spot that you are planning to plant. This means you won’t have to drag it far!
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.