Taking root cuttings is a perennial propagation technique that is all too seldom used by home gardeners.
Generally speaking, it is fast and reliable and requires only a small amount of equipment.
Many perennial plants will send new shoots from nodes in their roots. Phlox paniculata (tall garden phlox) and Papaver oriental (oriental poppies) are two easy examples of plants that propagate easily using this technique.
See the lists at the bottom of this post for the easiest plants to root from cuttings.
How To Get Cuttings
In order to obtain chunks of root, it is necessary to dig up the plant or at least a part of it.
Use sections of root cuttings that are at least the diameter of a pencil and 4–6 inches long.
You can cut these off the plant with a sharp set of shears or knife.Do this in early spring (for best results) or late fall
What to Do Once You Have the Cutting
- Replant the mother plant. It will regrow with no problem.
- Fill a flat or large pot to within an inch of the rim with a good artificial soil.
- Lay the root cuttings onto this soil and slightly depress the outer section of the root. Another way of describing this is to point out that the furthest end of the root away from the mother plant should be slightly deeper than the closest end.
- Mimic the natural progression of root from shallower to deeper as the root progresses away from the mother plant.
- This is not a big difference, just a fraction of an inch — a slight pushing down — will do the trick. And this isn’t even strictly necessary (but we like to get all the help we can get and this makes a small difference) 🙂
Rooting the Root
- Cover the cut sections with a half to full inch of soil.
- Water with warm water. (Never water with cold water)
- Put on a heat mat to keep the soil at 70F. Root cuttings on cold soil will not root quickly and may rot.
- Within a few weeks, you should see young plants coming up through the soil.
- Once the shoots begin appearing, take the roots off the heat mat and move to 65F temperatures to keep the shoots compact.
- Once the plant has produced 4 leaves, carefully transplant the shoots into pots disturbing the roots as little as possible.
- Grow at 65F air temperatures and feed with half strength plant food for 4–6 weeks.
- At this point, the roots should be fully formed and almost filling the pot. Transplant into the garden.
Plants that Do Well By Root Cuttings
- Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia)
- Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)
- Figs (Ficus carica)
- Glory bowers (Clerodendrum)
- Hydrangeas (Hydrangea spp.)
- Japanese Aralia (Fatsia)
- Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris)
- Mock oranges (Philadelphus coronarius)
- Oregon grapehollies (Mahonia aquifolium)
- Popler (Populus)
- Pussy willow (Salix discolor)
- Raspberry and Blackberry (Rubus spp.)
- Red and yellow twig dogwoods (Cornus stolonifera)
- Rose of Sharons (Hibiscus syriacus)
- Roses, nongrafted types (Rosa spp.)
- Snowball bush (Viburnum)
- St.John’s-wort (Hypericum)
- Sumac (Rhus typhina)
- Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)
- Weeping willow (Salix babylonica)
- Anchusia Italica (Related to Forget-me-not)
- Barrenworts (Epimedium spp.)
- Bear’s breeches (Acanthus mollis)
- Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
- Blue stars (Amsonia spp.)
- Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)
- Colewort (Crambe cordifolia)
- Comfreys (Symphytum spp.)
- Cranesbill (Erodium)
- Epimediums (all do well)
- False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
- Garden phloxes (Phlox paniculata)
- Gernaium (Geranium spp.)
- Globe Thistle (Echniops)
- Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea)
- Horseradish (Brassicaceae)
- Japanese anemones (Anemone X hybrida)
- Japanese aster (Kalimeris pinnatifida)
- Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)
- Matilija poppy (Romneya)
- Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale)
- Pasque flowers (Pulsatilla spp.)
- Primrose (Primula)
- Sage (Salvia spp.)
- Sea hollies (Eryngium planum)
- Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)
- Statice (Limonium spp.)