Roots are more than your plants’ anchor and stability. They absorb the oxygen and water from the soil that your plant needs to grow. It’s also how vital nutrients are carried to the rest of the plant. However, roots can be very delicate and damage easily, so naturally, it makes us question whether a plant has the ability to regrow them. Here is all you need to know.
So, can a plant regrow its roots? In most instances, plants can regrow their roots; so long as the plant has enough energy resources to direct to regrowth. However, plant roots cannot reattach, so any new growth will need to come from any existing root, even those that are damaged.
In this article, we will delve deep into whether your plants can survive damage to their roots and what you can do to help them along the way.
Can A Plant Survive With Broken Roots?
Most plants can survive with broken roots. As long as at least 50% of their roots are intact, many different types of plants will be able to regrow them.
Many plants experience transplant shock. This is when you replant a plant into a new environment, and it may wilt or, worst-case scenario, die from the shock.
Although transplant shock can happen even if you are careful with your plants’ roots.
Broken roots can exacerbate this issue.
Plant-like Tomatoes and Sunflowers are far more susceptible to transplant shock and dislike their roots being disturbed far more than many other plants, and so care must always be taken to keep disturbance and damage to a minimum.
The type of roots that are damaged can also affect whether they can survive any serious root damage.
If you have a good look at your plants, you may notice that many of their roots are very narrow.
These narrower roots are their feeder roots.
They grow both horizontally and vertically through the soil.
Really, they will grow in any direction that gives them adequate water, oxygen, and nutrition to thrive.
Tearing or breaking these feeder roots won’t kill your plant because they are constantly regenerating themselves as they search for energy sources.
As long as the plant still has a good few instant feeder roots, your plant will easily regenerate its root system.
You may, however, notice a slowing of growth as the plant redirects its energy toward its repair.
You won’t find obvious anchor roots on every plant, although they all have some form of a stable root system.
Larger plants have more visible anchor roots as they need far more help painting their stability.
These anchor roots are used not only to keep them upright but also as storage for nutrients and moisture.
Damage to anchor roots can significantly slow your plants.
Sometimes for years if they are a perennial plant.
However, if their stability isn’t affected, they will be able to regenerate very slowly.
If your plant experiences a lot of damage to their anchoring roots, you may find that they are unable to hold their own weight.
Unless you can stake them, you may find they topple over, causing more damage and unfortunately meaning they won’t be able to support their own life.
Can A Plant Survive Without Roots?
Most plants cannot survive for very long without any root system at all. Although, some plant types have adapted to life without a root system. Air plants and aquatic plants, such as seaweed, moss and, liverworts, have no roots at all.
In rootless plants, they have a unique ability to absorb all the oxygen, water, and nutrients they need through their leaves and stem.
Many houseplants, vegetables, and herbs can survive with a very small root system caused by damage for a few days and sometimes even weeks, as they grow back fresh root growth.
Your plants’ root system is its only way of obtaining essential nutrients and life-giving elements.
So if it has to go a prolonged time without roots, this can severely affect whether your plant will survive at all.
Most plants have an incredible stress response when their roots are damaged.
They will immediately direct all their energy levels towards new roots growth.
Not only regrowing roots from the base of the stems but even from their leaves if necessary.
This is why you are likely to notice the growth of your plant becoming stunted after significant root damage.
Some plants can regrow their roots from a freshly cut stem.
These are usually plants like Roses or Salvias, species that many gardeners use to grow ‘clone’ plants.
Stem cuttings usually come from a healthy, vibrant plant with a very healthy root system.
Can Plant Roots Reattach?
It’s very unlikely that your plants’ roots will reattach themselves. Once your plants’ roots have been damaged or torn from the main root system, they will die. Since they are no longer attached to the plant, there is no need for them to survive.
Most plants have a very quick damage/stress response and will immediately begin to regrow any damaged roots.
This means that they haven’t evolved the processes that would be required for any broken-off roots to reattach themselves.
However, if the roots are only damaged and still attached to the root system, the plant will make efforts to repair them.
The only example of roots reattaching we could give you would be the manmade process of grafting.
This is very common with trees where a tree is grafted onto a different rootstock to produce a desirable plant.
This is common with fruit trees where the fruit tree stem is grafted onto a ‘dwarf’ rootstock so that the resulting tree won’t grow as tall.
Usually 6-7 feet tall maximum.
However, we wouldn’t generally consider a grafting process to be a plant’s roots reattaching themselves.
How To Save A Plant With Broken Roots
Most plants will survive root damage as long as it’s no more than 50% of the overall root system.
There are also a few things you can do to encourage new root growth and give your plant every chance to survive.
Improve Their Environment
Plants that need to regrow their roots will need a lot more nutrients, water, and oxygen.
If you have torn your plants’ roots because you were transplanting them to a new pot or area.
Make sure that the soil your plant is going into is loose and fresh, that moisture levels are nicely balanced between too wet and too dry.
Overly wet soil could cause root rot in your plant’s already damaged roots, and too little water will mean your plant is unable to get enough energy to support its regrowth.
Once your plant has a very damaged roots system, it will need to direct all of its energy to any regrets.
This usually means that you can spot a visual change in your plant’s growing speed.
Cutting off some of the buds from your plant can help it free up more energy for damage control.
We don’t recommend cutting all of your plants’ bud if it has any, but it can give your plant a little added relief.
Root Growth Hormone
A root growing hormone is generally used during the process of growing plants from cuttings.
However, you could use it for a short while to encourage faster root growth for your damaged plant.
Rooting hormones are most commonly sold as powders, gels, and liquids.
They can easily be added to your plants’ regular watering cycle and can provide them with a great boost as they regrow their roots.
Ensuring your plant has access to enough nutrients is so important as it regrows its broken roots.
Plant fertilizers are commonly available in most gardening centers.
They also come with suggested amounts and schedules on their containers.
We recommend that you follow these suggestions if you choose to add fertilizer to your plant’s watering schedule.
It can be heartbreaking when you break the roots of one of your plants.
However, in most cases, it isn’t a massive cause for concern.
A few torn roots will be regrown very fast, and you will find your plant thrives as it has always done.