Root Bound: When Your Roots Threaten Your Life

May 20, 2019

My backyard is plain and dull, so I decided to embark on a gardening project.  I don’t know the first thing about gardening, but, thankfully, my Facebook friends do, and good ‘ol YouTube University always comes through.

Anyway, I am in the south where I can finally grow a citrus plant, so I decided to buy an orange tree.  A cara cara tree to be exact.  The cara cara oranges are sweeter and juicier than navel oranges.  I was all excited to plant my tree, when it dawned on me that I should probably do the whole “Call before you dig” thing to make sure I don’t hit a water line or something else, in my inexperience.

Well, one thing led to another, and several weeks had gone by before I realized I’d never planted the tree.  I remember the lady at the store telling me to plant it within the week, so it didn’t get “root bound”.

Later on, another friend mentioned that my tree might already be root bound,  because it may have sat a long time before I bought it.  I asked him what “root bound” meant, and he said: “It’s when the roots have no place to go, so they just curl around the pot and get entangled.”

So, back to the internet I went to search for how to plant a root bound tree.  And that is where God met me, in front of my computer googling “root bound.”

Per the web, a root bound plant is one whose roots have grown and adjusted to the confines and shape of the container it is in.  Its roots attempt to get out and down into soil, only to hit the container, so the roots go around and around and eventually create a dense ball of entangled roots in the shape of the container.  The tangled root web will eventually kill the plant.

To save a root bound plant, first you turn it upside down and remove the container.  Then you prune the roots.  Cut aggressively, but selectively, any roots going the wrong way.  Most roots will go in circles or aim upward. Then, prune the dead branches above the root.  It looks barbaric, but it is the only way to save the plant.  Many times, the plant was left looking bare and sickly.

Next, place the plant in soil and pack it in, giving it plenty of water and mulch to help it take root.  It may struggle for a bit, but the goal is to give it lots of room to grow.  If you plant a root bound tree in soil without pruning or, at the very least, cutting some of the roots, it will continue to grow in the same pattern of the pot without producing fruit or flowers and will eventually die.

I can honestly say, I have been root bound in my life.  As I look back over the years, I can clearly see when God flipped my world upside and took me out of the confines which surrounded me.  I can see times of aggressive but selective pruning of things which were not heading in the right direction.  Friends. Relationships. Career choices. Family. Church affiliations.  

It hurt. A lot.

Just when I thought God was done, I was turned right side up and pruned some more.  I remember feeling exposed, frail…lifeless.  

I think I may be in the replanting phase of my life.  I am not exactly drowning in resources; however, they are abundant at the moment.  My surroundings are new, and my old container feels like it was a lifetime ago.  My roots are regenerating and growing in all the right directions.

I still struggle from time to time, but I no longer resemble the cage in which I was raised.  I no longer fold in myself slowly choking my joy and spirit.  I can bear fruit and become all I was created to be!!! Hallelujah!

I just want to offer some encouragement for you today. If you are root bound;  if you are choked and stifled by the container in which you were put; hold tight. Help is coming.

If you find yourself turned upside down, your world spinning; if you discover that things you thought were lifelong ties and rooted traditions are being stripped and cut at random, you might be in the pruning process.

When you struggle to produce a little bit of growth despite your stifled roots and that keeps getting stripped, the Lord my just be pruning it back, so that when it’s time, you will produce in abundance.

And when you find yourself flat on your back, vulnerable, bare and fragile, it is time for the planting season.  That cool water and fresh earth is just on the horizon. Hang on. You are almost there.

It is a tough process, no doubt, but without it, you’d die. You know, and I know it.  We weren’t made to grow within the confines of what the world offers.  We are made for so much more.  You have so much fruit to bear.  So, press through this pruning process so that you can be all that you were designed to be!!!

John 15:2 (NIV) He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

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Questions to ponder:

1. Are you root bound? Do the environment, mindsets and/or beliefs you were taught restrict your growth.

2. What stage of replanting do you think you are in? Why?

3. The process of pruning is difficult. It can feel life-threatening, although it is really life-altering. What pruning has occurred in your life? How did it help?

4. If you are no longer root bound and bearing good fruit, how can you encourage someone else still going through the process?


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