How to Do Root Cuttings


One way to begin a new plant is to cut a section from an existing plant and plant that piece in the soil. This might be a section of stem, such as a softwood cutting, taken from new growth, or a hardwood cutting, taken when the plant is still dormant. Instead of cutting a section of stem, a new plant can planted from a section of root. However, root cuttings can damage the parent plant if done incorrectly.

Step 1

Schedule the cutting for winter or early spring, before the parent plant begins growing for the season.

Step 2

Sanitize the gardening knife by wiping the blades with rubbing alcohol. Cutting the roots with an un-sanitized instrument exposes the parent plant to disease.

Step 3

Expose a section of plant root by gently removing the soil from the area with the gardening spade without damaging the plant. Look for a piece of root that is about as thick as a wire coat hanger.

Step 4

Cut off a section of root, making a slanting cut and cutting close to the plant's crown. Cut the section into 2-inch pieces.

Step 5

Bundle the sections together and secure with a piece of twine.

Step 6

Line a box with sand or peat moss. Lay the bundle on the medium and cover the roots with the sand or peat moss. Store the box at 40 degrees F temperature for three weeks. When planting the root cutting, maintain the original direction of the root. The end of the root section, which was farthest from the parent plant, is the section to plant in the soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Before taking a root cutting from a specific plant, check with the gardening center or local master gardener to see if root cuttings are appropriate for that plant type.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden knife
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Gardening spade
  • Twine
  • Box
  • Sand or peat moss


  • University of Vermont Extension: Rooting Cuttings
  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service: Plant Propagation by Leaf, Cane, and Root Cuttings: Instructions for the Home Gardener
  • Washington State University: Gardening in Western Washington
Keywords: root cuttings, taking root cuttings, starting plants with root cuttings

About this Author

Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University of Fullerton.