Importance Of Healthy Roots – What Do Healthy Roots Look Like

Healthy Root System Of Potted Plant
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the most important parts of a plant is the part you can’t see. Roots are absolutely vital to a plant’s health, and if the roots are sick, the plant is sick. How can you tell if roots are healthy though? Keep reading to learn about identifying healthy roots and growing healthy roots.

Importance of Healthy Roots

The importance of healthy roots can’t be stressed enough. Roots hold plants in place. They also carry water and essential minerals to the rest of the plant. It’s how the plant eats and drinks.

It’s important to keep healthy roots in plants that are already established, of course, but it’s even more important to check for healthy roots in plants you buy in the store. If you buy a plant with a bad root system, at best, it will take it a long time to adjust to transplanting. At worst, it’ll die soon after you get it home.

How can you tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy roots though?

What Do Healthy Roots Look Like?

Identifying healthy roots in the store is easy, since the plants are all potted and the roots are easily visible. Tilt the plant on its side, cradle the stem just above the soil between two fingers, and gently slide it out of the pot.

What do healthy roots look like? Healthy roots should be white or tan, succulent, numerous, and long enough to hold the soil in the shape of the pot. If any root tips are visible, they should be white. If the roots are brown and crumbly, that means the plant is unhealthy. Don’t buy it. If the roots are very small and don’t hold the shape of the soil, they’re probably immature-- the plant is still healthy, but not ready for transplant. Only buy it if you can keep it in the pot for a while.

If the roots are wrapped around in circles in the pot and don’t leave much room for soil, the plant is root bound. You can buy it and transplant it, and it will probably be alright, but it will take some time to adjust and begin growing well. If you can find a plant that’s growing healthy roots, always buy that one.

Root Bound Plant

Root Bound Plant

(Image credit: Getty Images)
Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.