Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

How to Take Root Cuttings

With plants, you can take cuttings of almost anything… even their roots! Many but not all plants are perfectly capable of sprouting from a piece of root… and if you didn’t know that, you’ve probably never dealt with quackgrass or horsetail or even dandelions, all plants perfectly willing to sprout from a small section of root left in the ground. When it comes to ornamental plants, a number of varieties, especially those that naturally produce offsets (suckers) a certain distance from the mother plant, will readily grow from root cuttings. Here’s how to do it:

Place root sections on medium and cover with soil.

Cut a rather fleshy root into sections of about 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) in length and place them on their side on top of a pot filled to 4/5ths of its height with soil. Now cover with about 1/2 to 1 inch (1 to 2 cm) of soil. Place in a moderately well lit spot, indoors or out, and keep the soil moist until sprouts appear, which can take from a few weeks to several months. Then plant out the babies in a nursery for the rest of the season.

Normally the plant will be big enough to hold its own in a flowerbed the following spring, at least in the case of perennials. For trees and shrubs, one or two additional years of cultivation in a nursery will probably be needed.

You can also do the same directly in the garden: just drop the root sections into a shallow hole (1/2 to 1 inch/1-2 cm deep), cover with soil and water.

It’s most logical to take root cuttings in the spring or autumn, when the plant is dormant, but if you have to move or divide a plant in summer, why not risk a try?

The Laidback Gardener Method

Just chop into the root zone and wait: soon plantlets will appear

Here is an even easier way to multiply plants by root cuttings. Just cut straight down into the ground at the foot of a likely plant with a shovel. This inevitably will cut at least a few roots and so, a few weeks or months later, plants will emerge from the soil at the foot of the mother plant. All you have to do then is to dig them up and move them to the desired location.

Plants to Multiply by Root Cuttings

The following plants are all easy to grow from root cuttings.

  1. Acanthus hungaricus (Hungarian acanthus) zone 4
  2. Achillea spp. (yarrow) zone 3
  3. Alcea spp. (hollyhock) zone 3
  4. Anchusa spp. (bugloss) zone 3
  5. Anemone (anemone, windflower) zone 4
  6. Aralia spp. (aralia) zones 5 to 7, depending on the species
  7. Armoracia rusticana (horseradish) zone 3
  8. Asclepias spp. (milkweed) zones 3 to 10, depending on species
  9. Astilbe spp. (astilbe) zone 4
  10. Aurinia spp., syn. Alyssum (basket of gold) zone 3
  11. Brunnera macrophylla (brunnera) zone 3
  12. Buddleia davidii (butterfly bush) zone 6
  13. Campanula spp. (bellflower) zones 2 to 6, depending on species
  14. Campsis radicans (trumpet vine) zone 6
  15. Catalpa spp. (catalpa) zone 6
  16. Cerastium spp. (snow-in-summer) zone 3
  17. Chrysanthemum spp. (chrysanthemum, mum) zones 2 to 7, depending on species
  18. Cordyline australis (cordyline, dracaena spike) zone 8
  19. Cornus sericea (red osier dogwood) zone 2
  20. Crambe cordifolia (crambe) zone 4
  21. Cynara cardunculus (cardoon) zone 6
  22. Dicentra spectabilis (bleeding heart) zone 3
  23. Echinacea spp. (echinacea, coneflower) zone 3
  24. Echinops ritro (globe thistle) zone 3
  25. Epimedium spp. (epimedium, barrenwort) zones 3 to 7, depending on species
  26. Eryngium spp. (sea holly) zones 3 to 8, depending on species
  27. Eupatorium spp. (Joe Pye weed) zones 3 to 5, depending on species
  28. Euphorbia spp. (euphorbia, spurge) zones 3 to 10, depending on species
  29. Filipendula spp. (meadowsweet, queen-of-the-meadow, queen-of-the-prairie) zone 3
  30. Gaillardia x grandiflora (gaillardia, blanketflower) zone 3
  31. Geranium spp. (hardy geranium) zone 4
  32. Gypsophila paniculata (baby’s breath) zone 4
  33. Heliopsis helianthoides (false sunflower) zone 4
  34. Hemerocallis spp. (daylily) zone 3
  35. Hibiscus syriacus (rose of Sharon) zone 6
  36. Hydrangea spp. (hydrangea, hortensia) zones 3 to 6, depending on species
  37. Hypericum spp. (St. John’s wort) zones 3 to 6, depending on species
  38. Kalimeris spp. (Mongolian aster) zone 3
  39. Limonium spp. (statice) zone 3
  40. Mahonia spp. (Oregon grape) zones 5 to 9, depending on species
  41. Malus spp. (crabapple) zones 2 to 6, depending on cultivar
  42. Mertensia spp. (bluebell) zone 3
  43. Monarde spp. (beebalm) zone 3
  44. Paeonia spp. (peony) zone 3
  45. Papaver orientale (Oriental poppy) zone 2
  46. Philadelphus spp. (mockorange) zones 3 to 6, depending on species
  47. Phlox paniculata (garden phlox) zone 3b
  48. Physostegia spp. (obedient plant) zone 3
  49. Platycodon grandiflorus (balloon flower) zone 3
  50. Populus spp. (poplar, aspen) zones 2 to 7, depending on species
  51. Pulsatilla spp. (pasque flower) zone 2
  52. Rheum x hybridum (rhubarb) zone 3
  53. Rhus typhina, R. glabra (staghorn sumac) zone 3
  54. Rubus spp. (blackberry, raspberry) zones 2 to 8, depending on species
  55. Rudbeckia spp. (rudbeckia, black-eyed Susan) zone 3
  56. Salix spp. (willow) zones 1 to 10
  57. Salvia spp. (perennial sage) zones 3 to 10, depending on species
  58. Saponaria spp. (soapwort) zone 3
  59. Sophora spp. (pagoda tree) zone 6
  60. Stokesia laevis (stokes daisy) zone 5
  61. Symphytum spp. (comfrey) zone 3
  62. Syringa spp. (lilac) zones 3 to 6, depending on species
  63. Tanacetum spp. (tansy, painted daisy, pyrethrum) zones 3 to 6, depending on species
  64. Tricyrtis spp. (toad lily) zones 4 to 6, depending on species
  65. Verbascum spp. (mullein) zones 3 to 6, depending on species
  66. Viburnum opulus (European cranberrybush) zone 3
  67. Yucca spp. (yucca) zones 3 to 10, depending on species

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