Plants are pretty delicate things. They’re very sensitive, and they can even die from the smallest of injuries—like being cut or smashed in half. But what if you accidentally sever one of their stems while working on your garden? Will it be able to grow again? If so, how do you reattach the severed end back together? Here’s everything you need to know about fixing a broken plant stem.
The following article is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a gardening professional before taking any action based on this information. When dealing with plants, whether alive or dead, please take care not to squeeze them, crush them, apply excessive pressure (even by hand), or touch them with dirty hands as these actions may damage them beyond repair. We also recommend that you avoid touching plants with bare hands because many diseases and pests spread through skin-to-skin contact.
Can You Re-attach a Severed Plant Stem?
If you want to save your plant, there are several options available to you. First off, let’s talk about what happens when a plant stem gets severed. In general, we typically think of a stem as just a long piece of wood attached at both ends. However, a true stem actually has three distinct parts: an upper portion called the “shoot,” a lower part called the “root,” and the area between those two sections called the “internode.” A new shoot will sprout out of the root once the internodal tissue dies.
So when a plant stem splits into more than one piece, all bets are off; some shoots might survive, but others won’t. It really depends on where exactly along the length of the stem was damaged. Let’s say you broke the stem right down the middle. Then depending on which side got hit first, either the topmost or bottommost shoot could still have life left in it.
So if the shoot survives, then theoretically speaking it should be fine! Just make sure to carefully remove anything lodged inside the wound channel, such as dirt, twigs, etc., since these foreign objects could obstruct water flow and cause disease issues. Once that’s done, wash your hands thoroughly and use disinfectant soap to clean the entire injury site. Now comes the tricky part…
Splice Grafting Broken Plants
OK, now you’ve removed anything potentially harmful from the wound, washed up, and sanitized yourself. Great job! Unfortunately, if the original injured shoot isn’t alive anymore, then you’ll have no choice other than splicing it back onto the healthy portions of the remaining stem(s).
This process is known as grafting, and it involves using living material from another source to connect broken pieces of a plant together. For example, if you had multiple stems involved, like a main stalk, secondary branches, and tertiary ones, then each individual stem would require its own unique set of grafted connections.
There are numerous ways to perform this task, but most commonly people utilize something called a graft union. Basically, an ungual base made from softwood bark is used to anchor the connection point and provide a firm foundation for the newly joined stems.
The actual method you choose doesn’t matter too much as long as you don’t overwork it to the point where it starts breaking apart. To prevent that from happening though, always work slowly and cautiously. Plus, remember that different types of trees absorb nutrients differently, so try to find a commonality among the various tree species you intend to join together.
Once you’ve successfully reconnected the stems, wait until the next day to give them time to fully heal. Afterward, leave them alone for at least a week in order to allow proper healing to occur. During this period, keep them moist whenever possible by keeping the soil around them slightly moistened. Also, make sure to rotate the pots every couple of days to ensure that the roots get adequate air circulation.
Now here’s the million-dollar question: will the new plant survive after having been reunited with its former self?
Well, unfortunately, sometimes the answer is yes, but sometimes it’s not. Depending on how severe the breakage was, some plants may never recover enough to regain full health. Others may suffer lasting consequences due to the trauma caused by the incident. For instance, if the split occurs near a bud, it may stop growing altogether. Conversely, if the stem breaks directly under a leaf node, it may develop deformities or discoloration.
And lastly, if the shoot itself is completely destroyed and/or severely torn open, chances are slim that it will ever regrow properly again.
In situations like these, your best bet is to simply throw away the failed specimen and move on to rooting fresh seeds instead.
Otherwise, see if you can salvage the damaged shoot somehow. Maybe you can coax it back to life by soaking the stump overnight in warm water, adding fertilizer, and covering it loosely with plastic wrap. Or maybe you can treat the tip with a concentrated bleach solution to sterilize it.
Whatever works for you, just make sure that whatever you decide upon, you take extra precautionary measures to ensure that nothing else can harm the plant further. Remember, plants aren’t invincible, and there’s nothing worse than ruining a perfectly good plant.
What Happens Next?
After you’ve dealt with a botched transplantation attempt, what should you do next? Generally speaking, you shouldn’t rush straight home and start planting flowers immediately. Give the plant some space to rest for awhile before moving forward. Allow it to recuperate, and gradually increase the number of potted leaves you add per pot during subsequent replanting sessions. Over time, you should notice significant improvements in overall growth patterns. Eventually, you may even be able to transfer the whole thing outdoors without worrying about losing any additional shoots. Of course, if the plant shows signs of continued distress, consider calling a local nursery expert who specializes in helping customers like you restore damaged specimens back to a functional state.
And if you’d rather skip the above steps entirely, feel free to dig up your old friend and stick him or her in your backyard plot. With the right amount of attention, they’ll surely flourish just like they did previously. As for me, I’m going to stay far away from my rosebushes’ vicinity for fear of breaking them. Not worth the risk.
Happy gardening everyone!