Root cuttings versus root tubers

It isn’t often that a ‘good night out’ involves: a hand saw, seeds and plenty of bags. Last night the Dusthole pub in Shepton Mallet was turned into a productive potting shed.   

The evening kicked off with drinks, renewal of our year’s membership fees, and a free seed swap.  Seeds were mainly vegetable seeds and included organic heritage varieties, yellow pak choi, multi coloured beetroot, yellow carrots and giant pumpkins.  Then we turned to the serious business of root cuttings and root tubers.

Angela Morley brought in a freshly dug up Papaver ‘Perry’s White’ for root cuttings and stored dahlia tubers for root tuber divisions.

So what is the difference?

Root cuttings are roots which have the capacity to regenerate themselves, think ‘dandelion!’ or think of those garden plants you thought you had dug up and moved but the bits that stayed behind grew into new plants (e.g. Acanthus, Anenome japonica, Phlox, Echinops, suckering shrubs…).

Dig up your plant and remove up to a 1/3 of the thickest roots about 5cm long, you must remember which way up they go (if not lay them on their side), pot up with the top of the cutting just below the surface of the compost.  Water a bit, put in a heated  propagator if you have one.  Do not overwater, they will rot, start watering only once leaves appear.  Replant your parent plant (or you can split it and replant 2 ‘parent’ plants).

Root tubers do not have any buds on them so you must ensure you have a bit of the original (dead) stem attached to any tuber (or bunch of tubers) you split.  This is where the saw came in!  The clumps of tubers were washed but they were large, Lizzie volunteered to saw the clump in half, smaller clumps were more delicately divided with a knife.

All the new plants were potted up and members have taken them home to grow on for our plant sale at Collet Park on 13th June.   It is a competition to see who will grow on the best plant!

notes by Angela Morley www.wildgardens.co.uk