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I just repotted my spider plant (chlorophytum comosum ocean) away from a deep pot without drainage holes.

Back when I planted it in this pot, I made a structure out of plastic pots placed at the bottom of the container, which would provide support and empty space for drainage.

The plant sat in this pot for 3 months and ended up growing many thin, long roots all the way to the bottom of the pot, where water was pooling.

While taking out the plant, I unavoidably tore all of those roots off. The big tuberous roots were still intact however.

My questions are:

  • Will the tearing of these deep roots affect the plant negatively?
  • Is there a risk of root infection or rot if the plant is repotted right after some of the roots are torn?
  • Is it safe to water the plant after repotting it in this case? Will it promote the creation of new roots?

In general, what's the best way to care for a spider plant in this situation?

Pictures:

The plant in its new pot:

The biggest torn root I found:

The plant in its old pot:

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These are tough plants, so it should recover well, but if you haven't watered it into its new pot yet, do so now. Water it well, to the point where water drains freely from the bottom of the pot - allow it to drain down for an hour, then replace it in its outer pot or tray. Water again when the surface of the potting soil feels just dry to the touch, but not so dry the soil is shrunken from the sides of the pot, and always empty out any excess water which remains in the outer container after 30 minutes.

After root damage, it's important to keep the plant well supplied with all the water it needs while it regenerates root material, but its equally important that you allow the plant to drain properly afterwards and don't leave it sitting in water. If you notice any wilting of the topgrowth, you may need to give more water more frequently for a week or three, until those fine roots have regrown.

  • The "big tuberous roots " of spider plants store water. If they are undamaged, the plant will start to grow new thin roots searching for water, without any watering at all. Over-watering runs the risk of rotting the tuberous roots, which is a good way to kill the plant. A week or two with no water won't do it any harm at all. – alephzero Feb 19 '17 at 17:38
  • Hmm, well yes and no - tuberous roots are often a stress response, and not necessarily for storing water, see here gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/spider-plant/… but the fine, fibrous roots are the ones that seek out water to supply the rest of the plant. – Bamboo Feb 19 '17 at 20:11
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  1. On the short term the plant will need extra time to grow up to the level it would with its roots intact, but on the long term there won't make any difference.
  2. A risk of infection occurs every time the plant is injured, no matter the organ. The larger the wounded area, the greater the risk.
  3. Plants need to be watered every time they are repotted for the roots to be in contact with the soil (without big pockets of air). Yes, water will promote the emergence of new roots.

The best approach in this situation is to water with less water than usual because the plant doesn't have all the roots to absorb it and unused water increases the risk of root rot, especially if the plant is wounded. If the soil dries out too fast, water more often, again with little quantity of water.

Edit: I have already killed a few spider plants at my boyfriend's father. The plants were overcrowded, so I decided to separate some of them and then repot. I broke most of the roots because the old soil was very dense. After repotting I have watered them as usual and the plants began to smell moldy and died after a few weeks (5 died, 2 lived).

  • Good points, Alina. Breaking off a few roots actually PROMOTES root growth thus the plant will put its energy into the roots and the vegetative above growth will slow. Transplanting in new soil I wouldn't depend on watering to get rid of large air pockets; popping the bottom of the pot on a solid surface and firm but not too heavy with fingers with layers of soil is necessary. I have probably planted...uncountable plants and I ALWAYS break roots sometimes even butterflying the root ball or even removing chunks of it when space dictates (mostly in pots and rockery situations). No problems! – stormy Feb 19 '17 at 16:18
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    It takes serious "talent" to kill 5 out of 7 spider plants! Actually they can survive with very little water. I once found one in a pot that had been forgotten about (in a room that was very rarely used) and left sitting on a sunny window sill for 9 months with no water at all. All the leaves were completely dead, but after a good soaking in water it started to grow again from the roots within a few days! – alephzero Feb 19 '17 at 17:32

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