How to Start Root Cuttings From Shrubs


An affordable way to generate new plants for your yard is to start root cuttings from shrubs you already own. A few clippings taken from the host or parent plant will provide many lush healthy plants ready for introduction into the landscape in just a few months. Propagating plants this way helps save on your landscaping budget and allows you to add more vegetation to the yard without any hassles. There are two ways to start root cuttings from plants--planting cuttings directly into the soil or overwinter them until spring.

Step 1

Choose a healthy plant that is legal to propagate. (Many new varieties of plants have been patented and are not allowed to be propagated.) Find this information on the hang tag of the shrub when you buy it.

Step 2

Expose part of the root system attached to the main plant by digging along one side. The root system of many shrubs spread and become tangled with other plants growing in the area. You need to make certain the roots you are cutting are from the chosen shrub.

Step 3

Choose roots that are 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter, or as thin as a pencil and no thicker than your pinkie finger. The root section to be cut should be 4 to 6 inches long. Make the top cut at a 45-degree angle. Make another cut straight across further down the root. The angled end signifies the top and the straight cut is the bottom of the root cuttings from the shrubs you want to propagate.

Step 4

Pour two tbsp. of the rooting compound into a baggie or paper plate. Dip the straight end of the cutting into the compound. Tap the roots gently to shake off any excess rooting compound. Do not dip the root directly into the bottle of rooting compound; this risks spreading any disease the plant may be carrying.

Step 5

Choose whether you want to plant the cuttings directly into the soil or over winter them for planting next spring. To over winter the root cuttings, wrap them completely in burlap and bury the whole bundle in the ground. Mark the area so you can find them in the spring. Dig them up and plant each cutting by digging out a small trench, placing in the cuttings and backfilling the trench. When the cuttings generate new growth, they can be moved to a more suitable location.

Step 6

Plant any root cuttings from the shrubs directly into the soil where you want them to grow. Water them carefully so the soil is moist but not saturated. Over-watering will cause the cuttings to rot instead of root. Protect the new growth when the cold weather arrives by covering with mulch. The next growing season will produce hardy plants for the landscape.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears or sharp knife
  • Rooting compound
  • Disposable baggie or paper plate
  • Burlap or other sturdy cloth (optional)
  • Spade or hand shovel


  • Propagation by Cuttings
  • Propagating Woody Cuttings
  • Asexual Propagation
Keywords: root cuttings, propagate by cuttings, propagate shrubs

About this Author

Julie Richards is a freelance writer from Ohio. She has been writing poetry and short stories for over 30 years, and published a variety of e-books and articles on gardening, small business and farming. She is currently enrolled at Kent State University completing her bachelor's degree in English.