The Best Way to Take Root Cuttings From Shrubs


Whether you're a gardening beginner or a seasoned green thumb, taking root cuttings to propagate your shrubs is a simple way to save money while multiplying your favorite plants. Instead of taking a gamble on the health and quality of purchased seeds, hand-select your healthiest plants for root-cutting propagation. With some basic garden equipment, you can use the roots of your existing shrubs to start others throughout your garden.

Step 1

Uncover the roots of your mother shrub on one side of the plant. According to Fine Gardening Magazine, you should take root cuttings when the mother plant is dormant, usually between the first and last freeze in your growing zone.

Step 2

Find a root that is about as thick as a pencil and trace it back to the mother shrub, to ensure you cut from the correct plant. Cut portions of the root with a sharp knife or pruning shears. Cover the roots of your mother shrub and water the soil to help the plant resettle.

Step 3

Cut the roots into 3- to 6-inch sections. Cut thicker roots into 1- to 3-inch lengths. This will ensure that individual root cuttings have enough stored energy to produce a new plant.

Step 4

Fill a garden tray with 2 to 3 inches of equal parts compost and potting soil. Moisten the mixture and place your shrub cuttings in the tray. Cover with 1/2 inch of compost and potting soil mixture, and water.

Step 5

Fertilize your new shrubs as soon as you see new growth emerge from the soil. Apply a liquid fertilizer diluted with water to half strength.

Step 6

Transplant your shrubs into their own containers or to your garden when the temperature warms enough for the particular variety of shrub.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never cut more than one-third of a mother shrub root. Larger cuttings will rob your established shrubs of needed energy for spring growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Sharp knife or pruners
  • Watering can
  • Garden tray
  • Potting soil
  • Compost
  • Liquid fertilizer


  • Fine Gardening: Grow More Plants with Root Cuttings
  • BBC Gardening Guides: Propagating Plants by Root Cuttings
Keywords: taking root cuttings, root cutting propagation, shrub root cuttings

About this Author

Lydia Stephens began writing professionally in 2009. She has written online for Nile Guides, and various other Web sites and has been published in "Stringing Magazine" and "Xiamen Wave." Stephens played competitive soccer for 19 years, has been weight lifting since 2007 and enjoys running, biking and sailing. She has a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from the University of Texas.