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How to Make Root Cuttings

When you have a plant you love you may want to produce more of them to use in your own garden or pass on to friends. There are many ways to propagate plants but each kind of plant has its own requirements in this regard. Some popular garden perennials can be propagated by root cuttings. This type of propagation is not difficult and can result in many new plants that carry the same genetic material as the parents and so should show the same characteristics. Plants that can be propagated in this way usually have fleshy roots and include Japanese and grape leaf anemone (Anemone x hybrida and Anemon vitifolia), cone flower (Echinacea), Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla), heartleaf saxifrage (Bergenia), bleeding heart (Dicentra spp.), cranesbills (Geranium spp.) and garden phlos (Phlox paniculata).

Here are directions for taking root cuttings.


    Sharp knife
    Bleach solution (1 part bleach in 20 parts water)
    Soil made up of ½ sterile potting medium and ½ perlite in container for growing cuttings
    Heating pad, heating cable or other source of bottom heat.

1. Take root cuttings in fall or winter when the plants are dormant

2. Dig up the perennial you wish to propagate and wash the soil off the roots

3. Select a mature root for cutting. They are usually tan colored rather than white.

4. Sterilize the knife with alcohol (do this after every cut)

5. Cut the mature root selected into sections 1½ 2” long; in order to keep track of which end is up, cut the upper end on a slant and the lower end straight across. This means that you will usually have to make two cuts at each end of the segments. Knowing which end is up is important when you go to plant the roots.

6. Dip each root cutting in the bleach solution for about 1 minute.

7. Plant in soil mixture with the top side up, leaving about 1/8” of the root above the surface.

8. Water, and place in a cool greenhouse or unheated room on a bottom-heating source if possible.

9. Keep barely moist.

10. When well rooted, move to a nursery area where they can grow to blooming size.

The biggest problem with propagating by root cuttings is rot. Wet soil leads to rot so keep the soil on the dry side to control this problem.

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