Does ZZ Plant Like To be Rootbound

ZZ plants should not be potted in overly large pots because they contain more soil which can lead to overwatering. They have swollen tuber-like rhizomes that need room to breathe and grow as they retain water. If there are too many of them packed closely into a small space, the chances of fungal infections and root rot increase.

ZZ plants don’t like being rootbound, although they prefer snug-fitting pots to large ones. Being rootbound affects your plant’s growth and ability to expand its root system. The roots also can’t get enough nutrients as they have entirely displaced the potting mix. Air circulation is also poorer. 

It is not recommended to prune the roots of a ZZ plant because you are cutting off its water and nutrient storage mechanism. This mechanism makes a ZZ plant so easy to maintain because it has access to water and nutrients in the bulbous rhizomes or tubers. You can’t usually see them because they grow just under the surface of the potting medium.

Read more: Big ZZ Plant

The Growth of ZZ Plants

As a ZZ plant grows and develops more stems, the number of rhizomes increases below the soil to support them. If you see a new stem growing, you can be sure that there is already a rhizome to support it beneath the surface of the earth. The rhizomes are white and round and take up more space than the root systems of other house plants.

ZZ plants are slow-growing and don’t need to be re-potted very often – maybe once every two or three years, depending on the conditions in which they are kept. However, they will eventually need to be re-potted to accommodate further growth.

In ideal conditions, ZZ plants can reach three or four feet in height and grow three feet wide as they mature. Re-potting will be necessary for your plant to attain its maximum size, especially if you bought it as a baby. In one season, they may grow just a couple of inches or as much as twelve inches, depending on their environment and how much attention you give them.

ZZ plants grow faster in bright light and warm conditions than in low light and cool conditions. While they don’t need fertilizer very often, their growth is enhanced with the application of a well-diluted liquid fertilizer now and then. If you give it water according to its needs, this is also conducive to increased growth.

What Does Rootbound Mean?

Does ZZ Plant Like To be Rootbound rootbound

When your ZZ plant’s pot has become too small for its root system, the plant is said to be potbound or rootbound. As the plant grows, the substrate is gradually displaced by the increasing number of rhizomes and wears thin. When you take a rootbound plant out of its pot, it looks like there is nothing but roots in the shape of a pot, and there is hardly any potting mix left.

Since the roots need access to the soil for water and nutrients, this means that the plant is not getting its needs met and will stop growing. In their natural habitat, the roots of your ZZ plant are not confined to a container and can spread out more freely as the need arises. If conditions are too cramped in the pot, fungal infections can set in and cause root rot.

Root rot can be deadly for a ZZ plant unless it is caught early. A sign that a plant is root bound can be roots protruding through the pot’s drainage holes. A rootbound ZZ plant may stop growing altogether. You will notice that it is no longer putting out new leaves and stems.

Another indication that your plant is rootbound is if the substrate seems to drain very quickly. As fast as you water, the liquid is running out of the drainage holes. The reason is that there isn’t much soil left, and the roots can’t absorb the water quickly enough.

If the tips of the leaves turn dry and brown, this is another clue. This usually happens when the plant is underwatered, but it can also be a sign that it’s rootbound.

 If you haven’t been underwatering or overwatering and the plant has relatively bright light, sufficient fertilizer, and warmth, a lack of further growth can indicate that it is root-bound. The solution is to re-pot it.

Re-potting A ZZ Plant

Repotting ZZ Plant

You only need a new pot one size larger than the old one to re-pot your ZZ plant. Using a pot that’s too big could result in too much water retention by the substrate, which is never good for a ZZ plant. Ensure that you have a well-draining potting mix on hand.

You can use half potting soil and half cactus and succulent potting mix or blend peat and perlite with regular potting soil.

Re-potting in a slightly larger pot allows you to give your ZZ plant a fresh potting mix and more room to grow. A pot that is only two or three inches larger than the old one is sufficient. Make sure that the new pot has several drainage holes in the base.

Put on rubber gloves before you handle the plant. Its sap contains skin and eye irritants called calcium oxalates that affect some people more than others. Although not highly toxic, they can cause an unpleasant, itchy red rash in sensitive people. Have a blunt knife or metal spatula handy to run around the edge of the substrate if the plant doesn’t come out readily.

Gradually turn the pot upside down with one hand and ease the ZZ plant out with the other. Be careful not to pull on its stems because they will break off. Gently remove any remaining soil from among the roots and rhizomes with your fingers.

Fill the new pot up to one third with the fresh substrate and then insert the plant. Cover the roots with the remaining substrate up to the rim of the pot. It is best to re-pot a ZZ plant in warm conditions, i.e., spring and summer, when it is waking up from its winter dormancy.

Also Check: Underwatered ZZ Plant

Dividing Your ZZ Plant

If your ZZ plant has already reached a goodly size, you may want to propagate it by division instead of re-potting. This entails removing the plant from its pot and cutting through the roots to make two or three smaller ones. It is called rootball division.

Only propagate a healthy ZZ plant. Don’t water the plant for two to three weeks if you are planning rootball division. Gently remove the plant from its container and brush away the soil so you can clearly see the root system. Separate a few of the rhizomes from which roots and stems are growing.

To achieve total separation, you may have to carefully slice through some of the roots with a sharp, clean knife. Sterilize it beforehand in diluted bleach or with some rubbing alcohol. Just make sure you rinse off the chemicals in clean water before using it.

Try to avoid wounding the plant any more than is absolutely necessary to divide it. Wounds take time to heal and are avenues for infection. You cannot use the division method too often because the plant needs considerable time to grow new rhizomes, and division inevitably damages the parent.

Allow the plants to dry out for several hours in a shady spot while the wounds callus over to decrease the chance of rot. Use a clean pot with drainage holes for each division. The potting mix must be light and well-draining.

Rootball division is the easiest and fastest way to propagate a ZZ plant, as the leaves and stems don’t have to grow like they would from a cutting. Be careful not to overwater the new plants! They may take a few days to recover from their trauma but should continue to grow.

Repotting rootbound ZZ Plant


A ZZ plant can be slightly root bound with no harm done, but you will have to re-pot it sooner rather than later. Being rootbound inhibits plant growth because the roots eventually can’t get enough water, oxygen, and nutrients. Only use a slightly bigger pot than the old one and a fresh well-draining potting mix.