Growing Roots

My family always had a greenhouse, it was a revered part of the garden, and if I was lucky I was allowed in while dad re-potted or sowed fresh seed trays.


The Greenhouse

No matter what time of year it was, the greenhouse was always lush and chock full of lusty growth.  The earthy smells, extra humidity, lime dustings on the glass in summer and kerosene heater aromas in winter all contributed to a unique and special place for a very junior apprentice gardener to spend time.

Setting roots

Setting roots

It was here that I learned the importance of roots, in fact the greenhouse is a temple to roots.  This is where they are teased out of twig cuttings, air layers or seeds.  It seems that roots are the start of everything (for humans and plants alike).
The Importance of Roots:
In the greenhouse I learned about soaking seeds, especially runner beans and other legumes, before planting.  Seeds also need a steady supply of warmth and moisture while they germinate – not too much of either, but always constant.  If roots dry out when forming, then they’ll just shrivel up and die very quickly.  Delicate things, roots, especially the very fine ones that grow in amongst the thicker ones.  These are the roots that can break off when you transplant, which is why it’s best to try to carry a tight rootball of soil with the young plant to its new position – this way the fine ones remain intact.
Transplanting seedlings:
Always prepare the hole first – just a bit bigger that the rootball you’re going to move.  Water your seedling first then insert the trowel or garden knife into the damp soil at an angle around the plant on all four sides.  Gently lift it out with a restraining hand on the other side, keeping the plug of soil around the roots intact as you insert it into its new home.  Backfill the hole with potting mix and firm down, followed by a gentle sprinkle of water.  Think of it as taking a sleeping baby from the car seat to its cot.
Transplanting seedlings

Transplanting seedlings

Softwood cuttings:

Hibiscus are perhaps the easiest shrub to propagate from cuttings.  I’ve often broken off a twig on a walk, then plopped it into a glass of water on the windowsill to grow roots.  There are half a dozen beauties in my garden as testament to the technique.   But the proper way to do it is to cut the sample cleanly with a sharp knife, trim off all but a couple of leaves, then place it in a water container that is as light proof as possible, allowing only the leaves to enjoy the sunshine.  This is because roots naturally grow in the dark and, having learned this trick only recently, I can attest that they grow much faster in the dark.
Hibiscus rooting

Hibiscus growing roots quicker in the dark

Author: Bob Saunders (

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s