Superoots Air-Pot Air Pruning Garden Containers

Superoots Air-Pot Planter Containers
Product Review

I was first introduced to Air-Pots through an online video by world renowned permaculturalist, Geoff Lawton. He was at a massive permaculture site in Hong Kong. The facility is one of the most impressive demonstrations of permaculture in the world. And at this facility, they have their own nursery where they propagate native plant species. Geoff focused on how they utilize air pots for establishing healthier perennials.

The Air-Pot is a specialized growing system that trains and air prunes the roots of developing plants from small herbs to trees. It prevents the plants' roots from becoming root bound. Normally the roots spread outward to the container edge. Once they hit the edge, they begin to circle, following the profile of the pot. This results in a tightly bound ball of misshapen roots.

Root Circling in Potted Plant Misshapen Root Structure Causes Unhealthy Growth
Roots from conventionally potted plants circle around the pot. The unnatural root shape never corrects itself.

Superoots Air-Pot (Air Pruning Pots)
Review & Tutorial + Hack!

Air pruning containers: See the pros & cons of using a Superoots Air-Pot!

HOW HIGH TO PLACE THE BASE? It's worth noting that Superoots have a very specific set of instructions regarding how high to place the base in their Air-Pots. Superoots says to place the base "three rows of cones from the bottom." The idea is to ensure that there is adequate air circulation at the bottom to ensure proper air pruning. Certainly, you can follow those instructions, but do you really NEED to?

I've tested various sized Air-pots, placed on various surfaces. I typically put the base as low as possible along the sidewall. Even still, I've always seen 100% air pruning at the base. I prefer to do it this way because it increases the root capacity of each container. Conversely, if you don't need a deep root structure, you could always place the base at a higher level. This can give you a nice, wide root zone while conserving potting mix.

How Air-Pruning Works

Switching from conventional pots to Air-Pots results in a much more natural root structure. The plant roots grow outward but are funneled along the conical chambers making up the container wall. Each chamber has a hole cut into the end. As roots grow towards that hole they reach the edge which is comprised of bare, dry potting medium.

Once the root tips are exposed to dry air they terminate and do not grow any further. When the terminal tip of the developing root dies, the plant creates a branching network of fibrous roots, closer towards the plant's center. The overall root structure of plants grown in Air-Pots is much more natural. Once the plants are put into the ground they are poised to grow vigorously from all directions.

Healthy plant roots grown in Air-Pot Container
At the time of transplanting, this plant had a healthy root system with NO root circling!

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The Air-Pot Advantage

In my testing, I've found this to be exactly what happens. After a Summer of growing in Air-Pots, my nursery perennials had roots that were filling the entire pot. But there was not much, if any, root circling. The air pruning really works! And this includes not just the sides, but the bottom as well.

Air-Pots are available in a broad range of sizes. They can be collapsed and stored in a flat shape when not in use. But once you need one, you can easily select the appropriate side and bottom panel. Simply wrap the side into a cylinder around the base. Overlap the edges of the side and secure it in place with one or two reusable fasteners.

Unlike "air pruning" mesh fabric grow bags, air-pots hold up much better, even after repeated use. To achieve any sort of air pruning on the bottom of a mesh fabric grow bag, the bag must be lifted up off of the ground. But air-pots don't need elevated. They have an internal lip which keeps the bottom from touching the ground, ensuring a complete air prune. And removing the root ball from the pot is completely effortless. The sidewall simply unwraps and you're good to go!

Perennial Plant Grown in Air-Pot Perfect Air Pruning
This air-pruned perennial currant had dense root development allowing the ball to hold together before transplanting.

When to Use an Air-Pot

Air-Pots are a worthwhile investment that can be used again and again. I tested them on a couple annual vegetables, like tomatoes. Once transplanted into the garden, the tomatoes exhibited explosive growth! But these are most useful for perennials. Think about perennial herbs or flowers. And shrubs and trees are extremely good candidates. I just wish consumers were able to buy 20 gallon or larger sizes. See my Ultra Oxy Air Pruning Pot review if you need an extra large air pruning pot.

PERFECT FOR PERENNIALS: If you buy a small potted plant from a nursery, it might be a few weeks or even months before you have a spot prepared for it in the landscape or garden. Placing such plants in well sized Air-Pots allows them to keep developing even as they are waiting to be planted. Once you install them, they'll grow faster and establish more easily.

These are even good for over-wintering and establishing larger sized plants. Such plants look more full and mature when they are finally installed into the landscape. Edible landscapers and backyard orchardists should consider these to be an essential tool of the trade.

Air-Pot Limitations:

Although the Air-Pots are worth using, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

ASSEMBLY: Be sure to pay attention to the way you assemble them. Don't place the side wall up-side-down or in-side-out. Be sure to stuff potting mix in each and every pocket along the side wall. Otherwise, the roots cannot properly grow outwardly into the air pruning pockets.

WATERING: These containers tend to dry out quicker. So in a large-scale operation you may find drip irrigation to be worth the investment. Also, if your potting mix is mostly peat moss or coir, allowing the pots to dry out results in contraction of the mix. Once you try to rehydrate them, the water will run out through the gaps along the edges, spilling out through the side holes.

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