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How To Tell if Mint Is Root Bound & How To Fix the Issue

How To Tell if Mint Is Root Bound & How To Fix the Issue

Regardless of your preference, mint is a hardy plant that thrives in both wet soil and humid environments.

Mint is also one of the few species where natural hybridization occurs if two or more subspecies grow in close proximity.

The herb tends to spread aggressively to every available space both above and below the surface, which can be a problem when you grow it in containers.

Can mint be root bound? Mint has a robust root system that tends to outgrow the pot every 2 to 3 years. Even though the root system is shallow, thanks to the runners the plant sends out continuously, the root ball doubles in size rather quickly. Regular repotting is necessary to provide room for the ever-expanding roots.

Rootbound mint tends to die at the center and will not grow new shoots and fragrant leaves at the same rate. Read on to find out more about root-bound mint and how to fix that problem.

Root Bound Mint

Most plants growing in containers don’t like to be root bound.

Mint is one of those plants that needs plenty of space for its shallow roots to grow and where it can send out runners that claim more area both above and below the ground.

Your herb will show signs of stress when it’s root bound, which is your cue to take action and find a bigger pot for it.

What Does Root Bound Mean?

Root bound is the term that refers to roots getting entangled and sometimes rotting due to a lack of space to grow.

A root-bound mint is a plant whose root system has spread under the surface and that literally has hit the walls of the container.

With nowhere else to go, the roots start to follow the walls of the pot and wrap around themselves. 

Does Mint Like To Be Root Bound?

Few plants enjoy being root bound, and mint is not one of them. For mint, having room is the key to growth.

In the wild, some mint species can grow uncontrollably, and they are designated as invasive plants.

So you can imagine how little the plant likes to be growing in limited space where the roots get entangled and struggle with the diminished nutrients near the surface of the soil.

Signs That Your Mint Is Root Bound

The roots of mint keep expanding horizontally under the surface of the soil in search of nutrients and moisture.

When it gets root bound, that means the plant will not get enough nutrients. As a result, the center of the plant starts to wilt and die.

New growth will only emerge around the edges where the rhizomes are still active and providing resources.

How To Tell When It’s Time To Repot Mint

If you notice that your mint has stopped growing and spreading at its usual rate, it might be a sign the roots have taken up every available space in the pot and have limited nutrients at their disposal.

Even though the herb has shallow roots, in extreme cases, the roots might go deep and come out of the drainage holes. These are all signs the mint needs repotting.

New shoots of mint growing in a pot.

Will Root Bound Plants Die?

Root-bound plants have little soil to get nutrients from. It’s the law of diminishing returns. The more the roots grow, the less soil they have to grow in.

At first, the plant will go into a self-preservation mood. It limits the moisture and nutrients to the most essential parts including the roots and stems.

Eventually, the plant runs out of resources and dies.

How To Repot Mint

Even with its shallow root system, mint still needs enough soil beneath it in the pot. When it’s time to repot your mint, follow these easy steps.

  1. Choose a pot that is one size bigger than the current one – that means 2 inches larger. It should be large enough for the root ball to sit comfortably with plenty of space both under and around it.
  2. Make sure the pot has drainage holes at the bottom. If the holes are larger than a half-inch in diameter, plug them with a small rock.
  3. Fill the new pot halfway with fresh soil.
  4. Ease the plant out of the pot gently, and examine the root ball. Trim off any damaged roots, and cut the entangled ones. 
  5. Center the mint in the new pot, and spread the roots out to fill the bottom of the pot.
  6. Backfill the soil, and firm it to remove air pockets and keep the herb standing upright.
  7. Water the soil immediately to prevent transplant shock.
  8. Trim any dead or damaged stems in the plant.

Mint Growing Tips

  • Choose a spot that gets full sun to partial shade.
  • Mint favors moist soil as long as it drains well.
  • In the garden, space the seedlings between 18 to 24 inches apart.
  • For potted mint, plant each seedling in its own pot.
  • Harvest the new leaves and shoots regularly to encourage new growth.
  • Pinch off flowers as they appear.

Related Questions: 

Why Are My Mint Leaves So Small?

Lack of enough nutrients is the main reason the leaves of mint get smaller over time. It’s a sign the plant is root bound or does not have the right soil pH.

Irregular irrigation can also cause the new leaves to stay small.

Does Mint Like Sun or Shade?

In the wild, mint tends to grow aggressively in different conditions including full sun and partial to full shade.

However, in the garden or as a potted plant, you should provide the plant with at least partial shade. Full shade can impact the growth and how aromatic the leaves are.

How Long Does It Take for Mint To Grow?

If you start mint from seeds, it will take about 90 days before it’s ready to harvest.


Mint has a fast-growing root system that tends to get root bound once every 2 to 3 years. When the center of the plant starts to die, it’s a good sign you need to repot it.