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How Long Can you Leave Plants in Nursery Pots

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Plants, when purchased from nurseries and plant shops, often come in plant pots, which are designated to hold the plants until they are sold. Oftentimes, when we reach home with our new treasures may have to sit in their original pots for some time before repotting.

You can leave plants in the nursery pots depending on the container, the potting mix, and the plant. Plants from the nursery can be left in the container for up to six (6) months as the nursery pot contains a soil mix that has maximum nutrients, drainage and aeration to support the plant as it grows.

Although most plants can remain in their original pot for a long period, the total length of time a plant can remain in its original pot depends on factors such as container size, soil nutrients, and the type of plant. 

We are going to discuss all these factors in further detail in this article as well as how to safely re-pot the plant when the time comes.

Plant Shop Turnover and the Time plants Spend in the potter.

Nursery Pots

The plants in a plant shop are there for a reason, and that is to be sold to a potential customer, like yourself. 

A plant shop like any other business has a turnover time for the products that are being sold. In this case, it’s the plants.

Some plants will have a higher turnover than others. Meaning that they will be sold much faster than others.

But what does this mean to you and what are the benefits? Well for one, when the plant arrives from the supplier to the plant shop it will come in a certain size and in a container or planter to match.

The plants are then put on the shelves and sold to customers. It now has some time to be sold before it gets too big and has to be repotted. 

If the plant remains on the shelf for too long it may run the risk of becoming rootbound which will affect the plant and its appearance making it less marketable or sellable to the potential buyer.

Even though plants will get bigger with time, and as we know, larger plants will fetch a higher price. The risk of becoming rootbound becomes an issue, and now the plant shop has to repot the plant to prevent it from dying.

If the plant has a higher turnover, it will be sold faster. This gives you the new plant owner some time to keep the plant in the original potter before it can be repotted into a larger one.

Usually plants stay in the plant shop between 2 weeks to 4 months depending on their popularity.

rootbound plants

Plants that like to be Rootbound (Allows for more time)

If you have purchased a plant from a nursery, you can consider if you can leave the plants in the container to become rootbound. This practice should only be considered if the plant itself likes to be in a rootbound state.

What does rootbound mean?

When a plant is rootbound the roots are formed into a dense, tangled mass that allows little or no space for further growth These plants have a natural tendency to become root-bound, with their roots growing in a spiraling mass.

Plant shops will not sell a plant if it is root bound unless you specifically ask for it.

What this means is that you will have some time when the plant is bought to have it in the nursery container for some time before repotting.

See our post: How long can you leave plants in the container it came in.

The average time it takes for a plant to become rootbound depends on the plant species.

How to know when the plant is rootbound?

The symptoms of a rootbound plant may coincide with the symptoms of an overwatered plant, which includes.

  • Yellow or brown leaves
  • Stunted growth
  • Container that is pushed out of shape or cracked by the pressure of the roots
  • Roots that are showing above the soil
  • Roots are coming out of the drainage holes

List of plants that like to be Rootbound

  • African Violet
  • Aloe
  • Peace Lily
  • Philodendron
  • Hoya
  • Succulents & cacti
  • Asparagus Fern
  • Spider Plant
  • Snake Plant
  • Boston Fern
  • Ficus
  • Jade Plant

When considering whether to leave the plant in the container for the next opportunity to repot, if you have one of the above listed plants, you will have some time in your hands before making that next step of repotting.

I use this Miracle-Gro Potting Mix from amazon, which has the perfect mix and ensures my plants stay healthy long after planting.

The Amount of Time Depends on the Planter the Plant comes in

In nurseries plants can come in various size pots depending on their size.

In most cases plants are sold in a planter that is meant to temporarily hold the plant until it is sold and the price is therefore only reflective of the plant in the pot and not the plant itself. 

Plastic Potters

These potters are usually made out of plastic. Some come in plastic bags and some come in soft plastic containers.

The reason plastics are used is because they are cheap and will last a period of time before they start to fall apart. It will also not add to the overall cost of the plant when purchased.

An advantage of purchasing plants in the temporary plastic container is that you can choose a planter of your liking when it’s time to repot the plant.

Terracotta and Concrete Plant Potters

If the plant is in a more robust potter like a terracotta pot or a concrete pot you may have to pay more. Therefore you will be paying for both the plant and the potter in this case.

As a result, this may be a more permanent solution as these potters will take into consideration the size of the plant which would give the plant enough time in the container before it actually has to be repotted.

Plants from the nursery can also come in planters such as –

  • Fiber Pots 
  • Paper Pots 
  • Poly Bags 
  • Root Trainers

Type of Soil in Nursery Planters

The soil in nursery containers are usually made of a specific mix that suits the needs of the plants within the plant pot.

The potting mix will have substrates which will give the soil good drainage, aeration and balanced nutrition for the plants.

A mixture of potting soil, peat, compost, vermiculite and perlite is usually used and will provide the plant with the right conditions to live within the planter for some time without further fertilization.

With that being said, there will be only a finite amount of nutrients in the soil for the plants and you will have to fertilize as the plant gets bigger and the nutrients get depleted.

If you don?t fertilize the plant after some time the plant will begin showing deficiencies.

Plant Care

Plant Care when Plants are in Nursery Pots

Caring for plants after they are bought from the nursery is no different than any other plant.

Plant care basics will include –

  • Watering 

    You will have to create a watering schedule to prevent under or overwatering. A lack of watering can lead to yellowing or browning of leaves and eventually the death of the plant.

    This is because the water breaks up the nutrients in the soil making it soluble and available for the plants to absorb.

    On the other hand where overwatering is involved, it can lead to leaching of nutrients from the soil and also fill the pores which stifles the plant as less oxygen will be available for the roots to absorb.
  • Fertilization

    Since plants in containers do not get additional fertilizer from their surrounding, they depend heavily on what is supplied to them in order for them to grow. 

    Providing a well round fertilizer once every two months will give the plants enough nutrients to survive.
  • Providing proper light

    Proper plant placement is crucial in having the plant grow healthy. Although there are plants that can tolerate low light conditions, sunlight will play a major role in the majority of plant’s development.

    Plants use light to make food through Photosynthesis and for this reason that you should have adequate light for the plant you have.
  • Providing the right temperature for the plant

    This is especially important when it comes to winter months and conditions are less than suitable for the plants to survive normally.

    This will include the following :-
    1. keeping your plants away from window sills
    2. Preventing draft from directly hitting the plant
    3. Keeping the plant away from doors
    4. Maintaining a temperature of above 20 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Providing the Right Humidity

    Humidity is important for the process of photosynthesis and with the right humidity the stomata will open to regulate the moisture in the plant and the absorption of carbon dioxide.

    When there is low humidity the stomata opens and allows water out to regulate the plant?s temperature. If a lot of moisture is released the plant will wilt as a result as the water in the soil dries up.

    When conditions are too humid, it may promote the growth of mold and bacteria that cause plants to die, as well as conditions like root rot. 

    Humid conditions also invite the presence of pests, such as fungus as the soil moisture becomes very high.

    With respect to photosynthesis, a high humidity will prevent the stomata in the leaves from opening hence preventing the process of photosynthesis.

Signs that the nursery plant needs Repotting

  1. Roots are growing through the drainage hole at the bottom of the planter

    The roots will grow out looking for additional nutrients as the available nutrients in the soil becomes less adequate to support the plant.

    As a result you will notice that the roots are coming out from the bottom of the potter into the plant saucer.
  1. Roots are showing at the top of the planter

    As the plant grows and the roots develop further this also happens in addition to the roots emerging from the drainage holes. 

    The roots will overwhelm the soil and become more compact. As a result the aeration decreases which causes the root to emerge at the top in search of that much needed oxygen.
  1. Roots are pushing the plant up, out of the planter

    This is more pronounced when there are stones placed at the bottom of the planter for drainage. 

    The roots will tend to pool up at the bottom of the container around the stones and as they grow larger the plant will begin to push upwards out of the planter.
  1. Stunted Growth

    As the plant gets bigger the nutrient requirement will increase. Potted plants depend heavily on the nutrients available in the limited area in which they live. For this reason, additional fertilizer is needed for growth.

    If fertilizer is not being supplied routinely the plant will stop growing because it will not be getting the necessary nutrients required for further growth.
  1. The plant looks very large compared to its container

    Another tell-tale sign is that the plant looks out of place compared to the size of the planter that it is in.
Repotting plants from Nursery Pots (1)

Repotting Plants from the Nursery

  1. Water the plant to loosen the soil

    By watering the plant, the soil will receive some lubrication from the water.
    This will help it to release from the sides of the plant potter.
  1. Remove the plant from current pot

    If the plant is in a soft plastic pot you can gently squeeze the sides of the pot to help loosen the soil and roots from the potter.

    In the case where the plant is root bound you can use a serrated knife and insert it between the soil and the potter to cut free any roots that have adhered to the side of the container.

    Gently remove the plant by shaking and pulling out. Don’t worry if any of the side roots gets broken in the process, there are many other roots that will fill its function.
  1. Loosen the roots

    If the plant was root bound, the roots would have been packed closely together. Loosening the roots would help with aeration and drainage when repotting into a new potter.

    Additionally, any excess, thinner roots should be removed from the bulk of the rooting system. This will not harm the plant but help with further root development.
  1. Remove old potting mix

    After the plant is removed from the pot, some of the old soil should be removed from the rooting system as well. This should be done as the old soil would be depleted with nutrients.

    This will also give you an opportunity to add more fresh nutrient rich soil for the benefit of the plant.
  1. Add new potting mix

    Before adding the potting mix into the new potter, cover the drainage holes with a coffee filter. The coffee filter prevents soil from being washed out of the pot when watered. 

    New potting mix with its soil amendments (Vermiculite and perlite) should be firstly added at the bottom of the potter so that the stem of the new plant would not be buried into the soil when potted.

    This creates a resting base for the new plant.
  1. Add the plant

    The plant should then be added to the new potter and centered.

    Apart from being centered, the plant should be suspended so that the roots do not become compacted if it were allowed to just sit in the new soil.

    Additional potting mix should now be added to the sides of the plant and roots which will fill the available spaces.

    Gently tap the sides and the bottom of the container for the soil to settle.

    Now you?re done potting your plant into its new container!
  1. Water the Newly Potted Plant
Do Bigger pot mean bigger plants

Do larger pots mean bigger plants? No, Here?s Why

Bigger pots does not mean bigger plants. The recommended pot size for transplanting is between 2 to 4 inches larger in diameter from the pot that the plant was planted in. 

This gives the roots enough space to spread and absorb more water and nutrients. Excessively larger Pots will have higher water retention and require more nutrients for plants to grow.

You can see our detailed article on this topic here.

Six tips to consider before buying nursery plants

  1. Do you have a plant pot to repot
  2. Choose the right potting soil for the plant
  3. Consider the amount of light the plant needs
  4. Think about the amount of space you have to put the plant
  5. Think about how much time you are willing to spend on the plant
  6. Do research before hand

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