How Long Can a Plant Survive Out of a Pot?


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Plants can survive out of a pot for a definitive period of time. Repotting and transporting are the main reasons for having a plant out of a pot and its survival depends on the length of time the roots spends totally bare.

Houseplants can survive up to 24 hours out of a plant pot with their roots exposed. Having the roots wrapped in moist paper or a ball of soil can increase the time the plant survives before it can be repotted. The survival time also depends on the maturity of the plant in relation to the size of its roots.

In this article we share some helpful tips to ensure your plants survive if it’s to be kept out of soil for whatever reason, as well as how soil and roots work together in providing the plant with the nutrients it needs to survive.

How Long Can a Plant Survive out of a Pot

Plant Survival Based on Root Type

There isn’t a fixed time duration as different plant species have different survival rates when it comes to staying out of the pot. 

The survival of the plant out of a pot primarily depends on the plant species and its root system. 

Plants with Thick Roots:

Plants with fleshy, thick roots can last longer out of the soil as opposed to plants with thin, fibrous roots (stringy roots). 

Plants that have thick roots can even survive bare root (that is – you don’t need to pack the roots with a ball of soil) in lightly moistened wood chips. 

Plants with thick roots can survive out of a pot for months if you keep them misted with water in wood chips. 

Plants with Rhizomes:

Plants with rhizomes (such as irises) can be stored in dry wood chips for several weeks or even months. 

Check regularly for mold (discard those) or rhizomes that look like they are starting to shrivel (mist those lightly with water or very lightly moisten wood chips).

Plants with Fibrous Roots:

Fibrous root plants are a little trickier. Without moisture or nutrients, they will not survive a long period because the resources to thrive are not present in their roots. 

You can store some in moist wood chips as above for a short time.

Generally, if the plants are being stored for cold weather then it is ideal to store them in a refrigerator or some cool place. 

Make sure that your lovely plant does not suffer from extreme freezing temperatures. It would be best to store the roots or rhizomes. 

However, if the storing duration is short as for the plants which are going to be transplanted in a short time, pack the roots with a ball of soil. 

Then wrap a plastic bag around it. Use moist soil for it. In this way, you can store the plant for at least a week.

How Do Roots and Soil Work Together in Feeding The Plant?

How long can a plant survive out of a pot

As we all know nutrients in the soil are the major food for plants. Without roots, plants cannot absorb essential minerals and nutrients from the soil. 

For the distribution and growth of plants, soil quality and climate play a pivotal role. 

As we all know, every plant needs water, minerals, nutrients, carbon dioxide, and sunlight for proper growth. 

Roots help the plant to make a direct trade relationship with the soil. The roots are distributed throughout the soil to provide the plant whatever nutrients and oxygen it needs to function. 

Oxygen is a major constituent of plant life and the spaces present between soil particles provide it to plants. 

The spaces contain air, through which oxygen is transferred to plants. Oxygen helps the plant to break the sugars to get the energy to thrive. 

Furthermore, soil helps the plant in temperature modification as well. Soil protects roots from any dramatic fluctuations in temperature. Which is really important during extreme cold and hot days.

How To Prevent Transplant Shock?

Transplant shock is a term that refers to the stresses a recently transplanted plant, shrub or tree can experience. It can also be caused by harm to the plant roots, during the transplanting process. The usual symptoms of transplant shock includes wilting leaves (especially on recent transplants), yellowing, and leaf rolling or curling.

If you transplant the plant when it is in its healthy state, the transplant shock will be minimal. If it is a houseplant, transplant when it is not flowering or vigorously putting on new growth. 

Be sure you don’t cause much damage to the roots. To prevent transplant shock, note down the following points:

  • Always use a slightly larger pot than the old one when transplanting the plant. The ideal size is 1/3rd of the old one.
  • Always have all the materials needed for transplanting on hand to minimize the time the plant spends out of the potting medium.
  • Before transplanting, give your plant a dose of fertilizer. 
  • After that, you can transplant it in the later evening or early morning. 
  • Make sure to transplant your plants when they are still healthy and young. 
  • Keep direct sunlight off the roots. 
  • Never ever transplant your plant between drastic temperature differences.
  • Slightly water your plant right after the transplanting.
  • Lastly, allow the plant to sit for 2 to 3 days before moving so that it can acclimatize to its new environment.

If you do things right and your plant is healthy to start with, transplant shock shouldn’t last more than a day or two, a week at most.

Transplant shock recovery time depends on how bad the shock is. Very bad shocks may never be recovered from.

How To Safely Transplant/Repot a Plant?

Is your plant battling with the rootbound issue? Well, it’s the perfect time to transfer your plant into another bigger pot. Now the question that people often ask us is how to repot a rootbound plant properly so that it can thrive further. 

  1. First, get a new pot about two inches bigger than your current pot (if your plant is in a 4” pot, get a 6” pot). 
  1. Second, buy some fresh potting soil mix that is appropriate for your plants, like well-drained soil for succulents and cacti, or you can probably use all-purpose soil. 
  1. Thirdly, add new soil to the new pot. Fill the bottom up to 2” to 3”.
  1. Then, lift your plant and, from the bottom, gently tear into the roots in a cross pattern up to a few inches, don’t cut up straight.
  1. Next, carefully place your plant on top of the new soil in the pot and fill in space on the sides (don’t tamp it down too much).
  1. Sprinkle some water to let the soil settle properly. You can add more later. 

Note: Newly potted plants should be watered lightly and allowed to rest for a day or two to minimize transplant shock. 

Plants That Can Survive Without Soil:

The plants growing in a hydroponic, aeroponic, or aquaponic situation can survive without soil. 

Plants that can survive without soil are usually food plants, such as leafy greens, vines, many root vegetables, herbs, a range of fruit and flower species. Interestingly, some species of trees are grown commercially in a “soilless” environment.

Nutrients required by a plant are provided through the water, so the plants are just as healthy as they would be if they were grown in the soil.

Growing plants without soil will not need more space. You can grow more plants in less space. In some places, soil quality does not support healthy plant growth, and growing plants hydroponically will solve this issue.

Growing plants hydroponically needs much attention because the number of nutrients received by plants can affect their growth. If something goes bad it can negatively affect the health of plants. Plants you can grow without soil are:

  1. Orchids
  2. Lettuce
  3. Lucky Bamboo
  4. Beans
  5. Spanish Moss 
  6. Strawberries
  7. Water hyacinth 
  8. Bell Peppers
  9. Air Plants 
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Cucumbers
  12. Paperwhites 
  13. NakedStem LivingVase (Aechmea nudicaulis)
  14. Thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana)
  15. Horsehead philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum)

The Takeaway:

The quantity of time a plant can survive out of a pot depends on the type of plant you are growing. Nutrition in the soil is crucial for plants proper growth. 

Without it, no plant can survive for any substantial amount of time. Soil acts as the best medium in which every nutrient is found necessary for the growth of plants. Water is also a good source of nutrients for some plants.

Plants are usually subjected to such extremes during repotting where the roots are totally exposed to the elements. 

However the longer the plant stays out of a soil or potting medium the small chance it will have to survive as it will have to overcome symptoms of transplant shock.

In order to prevent the symptoms of transplant shock you should have all the materials for transplanting ready so you can minimize the time the plants spends out of a potting medium.

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

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