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How to Promote Root Growth

Hydroponically Grown Roots

Proper care for your plants is always the best method for root growth.  Water and fertilizer in the right amounts after a transplant will help a plant overcome transplant shock smoothly and are essential whether you use a root booster or not.  Most plants prefer to grow a strong root system before they put effort into growing above the crown roots (the thick roots just beneath the soil at the base of the stalk).  Roots support the plant, uptake nutrients and water, and keep the plant from falling over.  Sometimes you’ll end up with a plant that doesn’t have the root support it needs.  This can be deliberate, such as during a transplant when roots have been severed during unearthing, or it can happen as part of disease, like root-death due to rot.

We’ve seen that proper nutrients can promote normal plant growth, but sometimes a root boost is needed to get back what’s been lost.  Let’s take a look at the current options shall we?

Root Boosters: Auxins and Mycorrhizae

NAA Molecule

NAA Molecule

Auxins are useful for growing root cuttings or promoting new root growth in transplants, but not on seedlings since it stunts crown growth in favor of stimulating growth of deep and tap roots (the weaker hair-like roots that are furthest from the stem and break easily).  Auxins are naturally occurring plant hormones that control growth within the plant.  The first auxin discovered, Indoleacetic acid (IAA), is an organic hormone found in terminal buds, and is what makes a plant focus on stem growth to form a strong single stalk. Unfortunately, IAA is not water soluble, which makes it very hard to use in plants.  Instead, the synthetic auxins, indolebutyric acid (IBA) and napthalacetic acid (NAA), were created and have since been shown to be found naturally in plants.

Mycorrhizae Water Solution

Mycorrhizae Water Solution

You can also try to improve the nutrient uptake of the existing roots.  Since a transplanted plant or damaged root system will have fewer roots, improving the nutrients taken in by those roots is almost as good as boosting initial root growth.  An alternative is mycorrhizae, a fungus usually found in the soil around a plant’s roots that improves uptake of minor nutrients.  Usually mycorrhizae boosters are sold as a part of a growing medium or a powder for soil, but water soluble mixes have been made to get the same symbiotic relationship in the roots of hydroponically grown plants to help with smaller root systems. This is a great solution when you’d prefer to maintain a fully organic garden.

B1 Vitamins – Reason or Rhetoric?

GreenhouseThe benefits of Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine, have been disproven through multiple studies.  Thiamine is naturally produced within plants and is rarely a deficiency.  Typically, when a B1 nutrient is shown to boost root growth it isn’t the vitamin but the additives that are given along with the vitamin that help.  In fact, water and a very weak concentration of fertilizer are better for boosting root growth than vitamin B1 alone. The weak fertilizer is better since a higher concentration can spur heavy plant growth that can’t be supported by the smaller root system.

So why bring up B1 nutrients if they don’t help the plant?  Root growth boosters that have long been hailed as B1 Vitamin boosters, like the organic Rhizotonic, contain many other beneficial hormones like auxins or weak fertilizers that actually do boost root growth in transplants.  Checking a B1 Vitamin booster’s ingredient list is a simple way to find out if it contains other good root stimulating hormones, even if the B1 boost is a myth.  An added benefit is that many of these B1 boosters are organic supplements extracted from seaweed or kelp, giving a broader range of options in a mostly synthetic market.

Proper Procedures

Using all of the best boosts to promote root growth won’t help at all if you don’t take care of your plants when they’re sick or being moved.  Proper care and watering are actually the best way to keep your plants healthy during transplant shock or after removing root rot.  Of course, balancing a proper nutrient boost and following proper cutting, rooting, or transplant procedures will bring quicker and healthier growth overall.

Think I’ve put the auxin before the cart?  Tell me about it by commenting, on FacebookTwitterGoogle PlusLinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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Will Parsons

Will is a Copywriter for 1000Bulbs.com. He has a background in small-farm agricultural hydroponics and electrical engineering, with degrees in applied engineering and emerging media. Previously he has worked in renewable energy and green technology fields. His own interests are for creative writing and storytelling and he tends to be an early adopter of new technology. Enjoy new stories alternating between lighting and hydroponics each week.