While many people believe that nutrients are the main factor when it comes to their plants' health and bud density, that won’t matter much if a plant’s roots are not able to access or absorb the nutrients it needs to grow.
When the roots of your plant do not receive proper nutrients because they are too crowded or just don’t grow big enough rootzones, you can end up with small, unhealthy, airy yields.
So how are you supposed to make sure that happens even if you have the right lights and nutrition? By air pruning your plants.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look into air pruning: what it is, how it affects your plants, and how simple it is to air prune your plants for lots of roots. When you want to ensure your plants’ roots are well-developed and building your dream yield, air pruning will help you get the job done.
What Is Air Pruning?
Air pruning is a natural process that causes a plant’s root tips to dry and fall off (or “prune” themselves) when exposed to air. When they die off, your plant’s natural reaction is to begin growing more roots out of its main tap root. This, combined with a plant's ability to stretch and mine for nutrition as it grows, is how plants form their rootzone.
Now, you might be thinking, “Well, if it happens naturally, how can I control or enhance it?” There are two ways:
- By using more perlite in your mixture.
- By using prune pots to grow your plants.
What Do You Need to Air Prune Plants?
The good news about air pruning is that it is not a complicated process. In fact, all you have to do to help this process is to make sure there’s plenty of air available throughout your medium. You'll just need a few things to get started.
Fabric Prune Pots
The big advantage to fabric prune pots over other pots — even better than planting directly in the ground — are the tiny holes in the fabric. They may seem like simple pots, but fabric offers two big advantages:
- The holes allow air all around your plants’ rootzone, compared to the ground and solid pots that, for the most part, only allow air in from above. This means more of your rootzone can prune its roots, thus creating larger root zones and bigger plants.
- Roots do not round like in plastic pots or continue to stretch with minimal growth like they do in the ground. That means your plants have much higher success rates in building strong roots by taking in nutrients all around your medium.
Some of the best and most cost-effective fabric growing pots are Yield Lab fabric growing pots. These air pots are durable and easy to use, and they allow your roots to grow and drain without experiencing root rot or overcrowding.
Whether you choose to create your own air pruning pots, use a fabric air pot, or even invest in a thick, plastic air pot, it is vital that you use a product that allows the roots of your plant to receive air exposure.
Soil or Coco with Plenty of Perlite
In addition to making sure your plants have the right pots to encourage air pruning, it’s important to make sure the medium they use encourages it, too.
If you grow your plants with nutrient-rich soil or coco coir, air pruning is easy. All you have to do is make sure you have enough perlite mixed in to encourage airflow for root growth. For best results, it's best to mix your perlite using the following parameters:
- With 10 to 25 percent perlite to soil/coco, you’ll be able to retain lots of nutrients. That means there isn’t a ton of air, but still plenty of it to do the basics of air pruning.
- Using 30 to 50 percent perlite to soil/coco, you'll retain less water and nutrients, so there’s typically more air in there, which encourages more pruning.
- More than 55 percent perlite to soil/coco and your roots are going to be growing like crazy with all the air they get (provided you feed them enough to keep up, but we’ll save that conversation for another article).
Hydroponic plants sometimes encourage air pruning on their own. Most times a cell with a seedling or clone is placed in a medium — like coco coir and perlite mix, or in coco pebbles — and left to grow. In between drip intervals and/or flood times, roots are usually exposed to a lot of air before being introduced to water again. This helps air prune roots in the most direct way possible.
How to Air Prune Your Plants
There’s nothing more to air pruning your plants other than feeding them properly and keeping plenty of airflow throughout your grow pots.
Seriously, that’s it!
Of course, roots are sensitive, so without proper care, your plants can suffer. Avoid direct contact with mold and contaminants, over/under feeding, and improper drainage that can lead to root rot.
So as long as you make sure your plant’s rootzone is in the right environment, all you have to do is care for your plants in these fabric pots and watch your harvest size and quality increase.
Should You Air Prune Your Plants?
Of course you should!
Yes, it occurs naturally, but one of the most important reasons why you should consider air pruning your plants with prune pots is because air pruning helps plants grow.
When your plants grow in traditional pots, the root tips are constantly growing in search of nutrients. As the plant’s taproot continues to grow longer, it has a tendency to become strangled or twisted as it attempts to maneuver around the sides and bottom of its pot. This can cause root rot and will hinder the root from accessing the nutrients it desperately needs to grow.
When air pruning in prune pots, on the other hand, you prevent plants from relying on one single, tangled taproot and trying to soak up as many nutrients as possible. When the roots die off from the taproot, new tips begin growing, which then branch off to create more roots until they hit the air — then more roots begin growing from other roots, and the cycle continues.
With a large, healthy rootzone, plants can take in the optimum amount of nutrients they need to produce strong and plentiful foliage, flowers, and eventually fruits and buds.