You may have heard of the Root-Shoot Ratio but still not totally get the idea behind it, as I struggled to do for my first few years in the garden. In this post, I’ll demystify it so that you can be on your way to plant propagation excellence!
Plants always aim to maintain a balance between their roots below ground and their shoots above ground. While we don’t need to know the exact science behind it, keeping this principle in mind is super helpful for ensuring success when taking cuttings, root divisions, or air layering. So what does it mean in practice?
As a plant is pruned (such as when we mow the lawn, or through the grazing action of some animals), it will naturally shed some of its roots which in turn feed the soil. So an aboveground pruning results in an underground pruning. In plant propagation, it means that we can help the plant to adapt to leaves being cut off (such as in root division) but trimming back some of the roots. If the roots are not trimmed they would likely rot on their own, potentially creating the conditions for mold in the nursery. In other types of propagation in which no roots are present (i.e. air layering, cuttings) we help the plant to take successfully by cutting back some of the leaves. The more dramatic the root disruption, the fewer leaves you leave. As leaves require a lot of energy and nutrients, it is a struggle for a plant with a disrupted root system to provide for them, so we reduce the demand on the plant’s energy by cutting the leaves back.
I hope this helps to demystify the Root-Shoot Ratio. Now go forth and propagate!
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