Tap Roots: The Deeper The Better For Drought Tolerance

It is hard to transplant plants with taproots, so look for small new plants or offsets near an established plant and dig a deep circle around them.

taproot-butterfly weed-edit

Photo: by Jenn Forman Orth

Butterfly Weed is one example of a perennial plant with deep taproots.

Plants with tap roots that penetrate deep below the surface of the soil have an advantage over plants with shallow root systems when moisture is scarce during drought.

When there is extreme weather, gardeners develop more of an appreciation for the drought tolerance of the flowering native perennials such as baptisia, butterfly weed (commonly called milkweed), globe thistle and coneflower that do not wilt in drought partly because of their taproots.

The non-native Japanese anemone also has a tap root, but like most plants when it is getting established, it needs regular watering.

All newly divided perennials benefit from having their top growth cut back by about half when they are replanted, so that the roots have fewer leaves to support while the plant is becoming settled in a new location.

It is hard to transplant plants with taproots, so look for small new plants or offsets near an established plant and dig a deep circle around them to be sure you get the entire little tap root.

Division is a vegetative, asexual method of propagation, and the new plants will yield flowers that are the exact replicas of those of their parents. Division also results in plants that mature more quickly than those that are obtained through the sexual propagation technique of seed germination.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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