One might think a pot is a pot is a pot. This is not true when it comes to planting larger plants in containers. We all recognize that plants do grow and eventually they will outsize the pot—and with an uninformed pot selection, removing the plant from the pot can become a challenge. For example, the Mexican lime tree shown in this picture above will be very difficult to remove from this pot.
Start big in selecting a pot: Go for a 28-to-32-inch interior diameter for all citrus trees except kumquats. This pot above is about 22 inches. By the size of the trunk, you can tell that the tree is getting big. The inward shape of the pot toward the top will make it almost impossible to remove the tree without breaking the pot or killing the tree.
Therefore, when you select a pot, size does matter—but so does shape. You want a pot with a vase-shape opening. But be careful: A tall plant in a pot like the one to the left can lead to a high tipping risk. As we all know, our desert homes have major wind storms and wind tunnels winding their way through our patios and balconies. A pot with a narrow base has a huge risk of falling over. For example, the citrus pot shown at the right may be a better choice.
A tree will tell you that it is becoming root-bound when leaves remain curled after watering. If you chose the right size pot, and the tree becomes root-bound (which it will in two to three years), you can remove the tree from the pot; trim back the roots by up to a third; and replant it into the same pot.
This can be done in mid to late February. Lay the pot on its side, and gently remove the entire root ball. You may have to run a saw around the soil/pot edge to free it.
Marylee is the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. Email her with comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.