Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Roots Must Be Pruned

If you are a gardener, you are familiar with the term root pruning. Often, the pots you buy at the nursery are root bound. When you tip the plant out of its small container, the roots are visible on the outside of the soil, running around and around the pot, holding the soil firmly in shape.

If you don't prune the roots by cutting them with a knife or a sharp shovel, or by disentangling the roots with your fingers if they're not too tightly interwoven, the plant will never grow beyond its current size and strength. The roots of a  root bound plant will continue to grow in the known direction--in a tight circle.

I have seen this in pre-planted pots sold in the spring. They are a beautiful mix of flowers and colors that bloom prettily for awhile, but last only a short time. When the blooms die out, I pull out the plants to move them to a new location and find the exact shape of the nursery pot, the roots still conformed to the form of their first tiny container.

To encourage new growth, the roots must be sliced at intervals around the root ball in order to provide room for growth of new root hairs, the critical, fragile part of the root that soaks up the water and nutrients from the soil, transporting it to the plant to provide strength and health and growth and beauty.

When you divide perennials, the roots are also severely pruned. Depending on the plant and the type of root system it has (runners, tap root, bulbs, etc.) the division is done differently; but for each, the roots are cut back, returned to the soil and given room to spread and encourage new growth in the plant.

Some trees respond well to root pruning, a process involving a large tool dug into the ground to sever the roots at points around the tree - again, in order to encourage new, stronger growth.

My roots are being pruned. Being moved to a new location, a new home in September. The good news:

  • I have roots, and will continue to have roots, which will grow stronger through this pruning
  • The result of root pruning is increased productivity and fruitfulness
  • Newly cut, freshly replanted roots will provide abundant growth.  I do want rich, full growth rather than a limited, narrow, confined perspective
Although the sharp edge cutting through the roots seems painful and severe, the intended result is increased beauty and blessings. I am ready for the pruning.

Many opportunities for Traveling Lighter on the horizon.
Snug in their new home, ready for growth


  1. Thanks for posting this thought, Maureen. If you read my blog today, you'll see that I, too, am being root pruned. Old comfort zones and jobs have been pruned away - I start my new work tomorrow. I feel so very inadequate to the task ahead and wonder if I've made the right choice to "re-arrange the furniture" (check out the link in my post on this). Been a tough few months of pruning - and I expect it is not quite over yet. Hoping to travel light through it all.

  2. I love your analogy of the plants to your personal "pruning" experience. It's wonderful you're ready for the pruning and looking to the next opportunities. Very encouraging and inspiring post, Maureen :)